Hi, I'm Brooke, and I'm a snackaholic. My perfect dinner? Carrots and hummus one minute, a handful of pretzels dipped in peanut butter the next, followed by some cheese and crackers—all consumed while standing up in the kitchen. While my at-home eating habits have improved (thanks to my husband, who realized upon moving in that we would both starve if he didn't break me of them), I never leave my apartment without a supply in my purse. See, you can take the snacker out of the kitchen—but the snacker will just bring the kitchen with her.
Granola bars are easy to stash, and I decided to start by tackling Nature Valley, which first rolled out this snack nearly 40 years ago. Today, there are seven varieties (Crunchy, Sweet and Salty Nut, Protein, Granola Thins, Chewy Trail Mix, Roasted Nut Crunch, and Yogurt), with 28 different flavors between them.
Before opening the boxes, I had a feeling that Sweet & Salty Nut—which comes in five flavors—were more candy bar than granola bar. Despite having the word "Nature" in the name, ingredients include high maltose corn syrup and other things I can't pronounce, and there are 13 grams of sugar and two grams of saturated fat in each bar.
Here's what I found:
The top layer had a nice sheen, like oil had been applied to it with a brush. When I pulled a peanut off, it had a caramel-y glue reminiscent of a Snickers. And it wasn't far off. Despite the healthy number of peanuts on top (the highest nut-to-granola ratio of the bunch), I didn't get even a hint of salt. The coating on the bottom tasted nothing like peanut butter, as the box claimed it would; it was more Reese's Peanut Butter Cup filling than anything else.
While there were less almonds on top, this bar had the best crunch—no surprise since almonds are the hardest nut here. Despite being a tad lighter in color, the almond butter coating wasn't really discernible in flavor from the peanut. And while there was the faintest touch of salt, sweet still dominated.
Only half a cashew was visible on the top layer (on closer inspection, I did find one more little piece). I get that cashews are the most expensive nut among the group, but come on. Luckily there were some—but not a lot—mixed in, giving the bar an overall cashew-y flavor. While this one was the saltiest, it lacked the crunch of the others; no surprise, since cashews are on the soft side.
Mixed Roasted Nut
There was an even split between peanuts and almonds on top, but, again, cashews were missing in action. The packaging calls the coating on this one "mixed nut," but the pale coloring was most similar to the cashew, and, frankly it just tasted sugary. This variety had the most nuts overall, and the best crunch.
Dark Chocolate, Peanut, and Almond
There were plenty of peanuts on top, but not an almond in sight. I didn't miss them though, thanks to the abundance of chocolate chunks and the chocolate coating. If I had to sum it up in one word: Snickers.
The verdict: These bars are too sweet for this snackaholic, especially when eaten between breakfast and lunch, as I did. But if dessert is what you're after, go with the dark chocolate--it'll satisfy that craving, and without the guilt that may come with eating an actual candy bar.
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