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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Simply Balanced Sea Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpea Snack

I'm not sure if it's ever come up before on this blog, but I LOVE CHICKPEAS.

Honestly, I've always had a huge affinity for the nutritious legumes. While my childhood friends would pile up croutons and dressing on top of their salads, I remember stacking my plate high with a bed of greens and a massive tower of garbanzo beans. I'll occasionally snack on nothing but chickpeas with a little salt and pepper. In short, I'm a fan.

And recently, these dried chickpea-based treats have been popping up in different flavors from quite a few different brands. This is the second such offering that I've tried.

And unfortunately, I think this product might have scored higher in my book had I not tried a similar offering from Trader Joe's just a couple weeks prior.

The Trader Joe's chickpeas were larger, they had a much better seasoning on them, and somehow they still flaunted more natural chickpea taste. These snacks were very gritty—almost sandy, and much harder to chew than the other chickpea snacks I've sampled. This Simply Balanced product was vaguely salty, but there was very little vinegar flavor, in my opinion.

On the plus side, there's still a good amount of fiber and protein here, and the resealable bag is uber-convenient, as always. Because of my love of the great garbanzo bean, I'd give another flavor a chance in the future.

But as for this particular chickpea snack, I can't go much higher than five out of 10 stars.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Simply Balanced Blueberry Fruit & Grain Bars

If you've ever had a blueberry Nutri-Grain bar, then you know exactly what you're getting here. Nutri-Grain and Simply Balanced look and taste extremely similar.

In fact, it amazes me how generic food products can imitate the original name brand, right down to the style and color of packaging, and not be violating some kind of copyright law.

In the art world, it's different: duplicate a song or a film with a certain level of similarity, and you're violating what someone has already claimed as their intellectual property.

But with food? Seems like anything goes. Lucky for store brands like Market Pantry, Archer Farms, and Simply Balanced.

This Simply Balanced version flaunts organic ingredients, and strangely, 10 more calories per bar, but other than that and the packaging, the two products are virtually indistinguishable. Both this product and the traditional Nutri-Grain offering are soft, sweet, and individually wrapped for breakfast on the go.

They were $2.99 at the Target I found them at, which is pretty close to what you'd normally pay for the name brand at full price. One unique, original thing about the packaging: that one-eyed blue guy on the cover art. I guess he's a blueberry person. He looks like he belongs in Monsters, Inc.

If you're interested in the nutrition info, here's a link for calories, fat, etc.

I give this product exactly the same score I'd give to blueberry Nutri-Grain bars: 8 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Simply Balanced Gluten Free Blueberry Nut & Fruit Clusters

I think this is the first gluten-free product we've reviewed here on WGAAF—at least, it's the first product being marketed as a gluten-free snack option. I guess there's not a whole lot of wheat gluten in products like habanero salsa or sparkling grapefruit juice, but these clusters are snacks that might be assumed glutenful unless otherwise noted on the packaging.

So I guess this is the part of the blog post where I tell you that I'm "gluten-sensitive." It's true. Not gluten-intolerant personally, although I've known a few folks with celiac disease and Crohn's disease throughout the years, and I know vicariously that both of those conditions can be highly difficult, life-altering, and even debilitating. My sympathies if you or someone close to you suffers from either of those maladies.

"Gluten sensitive" means if I eat gluten, I feel it in my digestive system. It can be uncomfortable and make me sluggish, but it won't cause any major complications. My wife is the same way. We avoid gluten when it's practical to do so, but as you can see by the many pizza reviews on this blog, for example, we often throw caution to the wind and "bite the gluten bullet," so to speak.

All that to say that I'm no stranger to the world of gluten-free foods. Just check out our other blog. I know it can be extremely difficult to find gluten-free options, and I know that when they are there, they tend to come at a premium. Be prepared to shell out more cash if you want to go gluten-free.

This product is no different. Three dollars for three ounces of food is a bit steep. But Target knows that if you're gluten-free out of necessity, you'll go ahead and pay whatever you have to. Celiac sufferers gotta live, too. But are they worth it for the rest of us?

Their texture is surprisingly hard. The nuts are firm and somewhat crunchy, but there's also a tackiness to them that makes them just slightly difficult to chew. They're slightly sweet and there is, in fact, a detectable blueberry essence about them. They're also salty and nutty—in fact, I'd say the dominant flavor is that of almonds and cashews. They do fall apart and crumble if you attempt to bite them in half, although I was pretty pleased with the truly bite-sized squares—significantly smaller than other products labeled "bite-sized."

The flavor grew on me by the end of the bag. They're convenient and if they can just find a way to bring the price down by a buck or so...

I give these clusters 7 out of 10 stars.

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