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Climbing Food Review: Clif ZBars

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Today’s guest post is from Ryan Wanger, a climber who writes at The Reluctant Eater.

Picture 5.pngClif. The name is synonymous with climbing (perhaps it’s the logo?). If you’re like me, then you’ve always enjoyed Clif Bars, but rarely buy them because frankly, you’re a cheapskate. Nutritious? Yep. All natural? Absolutely. Tasty? You betcha! In fact, it’s amazing that anyone can successfully sell any product to a bunch of jobless, dirtbag climbers like ourselves, right? We’d rather just eat the dust of last weeks trail mix!

In recent years, Clif has been on a tear to diversify and expand their product line, releasing 9 new food products since 2004. However, since I’m rather oblivious to that sort of thing, and haven’t spent much time in climbing gyms recently (traditional Clif strongholds), I failed to notice…well…ALL of them. A recent sample of Clif Shot Bloks at an ultimate frisbee tournament piqued my curiosity, inspiring a flurry of research (read: tasting).

Today, we discuss: Clif Kid Organic ZBar.

My first thought? Clif has a line of kids products? Well, they do now, having released a second item, Clif Kid Twisted Fruit, last year.

I eat local, organic, non-processed food almost exclusively, so I’m always a bit skeptical of anything in a package, and generally that means foods with as few ingredients as possible (especially those ingredients that sound like they came from a laboratory: monogluxysodiobenzoate?). However, it’s hard to argue with the ingredients of the Peanut Butter ZBar:

Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Peanuts, Salt), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Fig Paste, Organic Peanuts, Organic Oat Flour, Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Organic Chocolate (Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin), Salt, Baking Soda.

Let’s just call it: a bunch of whole food ingredients pressed together.

What do they taste like? Basically ZBars are smaller, less dense (more bread-like) versions of Clif Bars, with a little drizzle of frosting on top. And tasty! Yes, I’m an adult, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying food aimed at children. Right?

My thoughts on the 6 different flavors, listed in order of preference:

  • Peanut Butter – My favorite! I don’t like peanut butter cookies, but love any peanut butter & chocolate combo. This tastes more like the latter.
  • Chocolate Chip – Reminiscent of Quaker Oats Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. Or even the S’more flavor. That’s a good thing! Think about the joy you could bring with cookies for valentine’s day delivery if you’re in the mood to share a delightful treat.
  • Blueberry – Tastes like a dense, chewy blueberry muffin.
  • Apple Cinnamon – Surprisingly good considering I generally don’t enjoy this flavor.
  • Chocolate Brownie – Still decent, basically a chocolate-chocolate chip taste. Though somehow less chocolaty than the Chocolate Chip?
  • Honey Graham – My least favorite, and the “least strong” in terms of flavoring. It also happens to have the least amount of sugar.

Again, I try to eat local, organic food whenever possible and usually make my own goodies from scratch, but I realize that isn’t always possible. Clif has similar beliefs, expressed right there on the packaging: “In raising our family, we always wish to find organic snacks to nourish our kids as they compete in sports, study or just play with friends. We prefer to make them food from scratch, but life gets busy, so it’s not always possible. That’s why we created Clif Kid Organic ZBar – a baked energy bar made with whole oats..”. You get the picture. They do a great job with consistent, healthy, authentic products.

(Photo missing. Next time I’ll remember to take a picture BEFORE eating!)

Although I was a little saddened that the bars are frosted (just a snaking drizzle across the top), they still serve as a huge step up from most food products aimed at children in terms of healthfulness (no high fructose corn syrup!), organicness, and environmental responsible…ness. The real selling point is that they retail for roughly half the cost of a Clif Bar. So grab one for yourself…er, I mean your kid.

Thanks to Ryan for the guest post. If you enjoyed this, please check out his other posts at The Reluctant Eater, where he writes about eating local, organic food, and promoting a healthier relationship with food. Ryan also has a best of The Reluctant Eater collection.

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  1. Clif products, especially the bars, really seem to be in a class of their own. I wouldn’t want to have to live on them long but there will always be a few bars (and shot bloks) in my pack.

  2. Hmmm, of the first 6 ingredients in that list, 4 are basically sugar with fancy names. It’s just a marketing ploy to make parents think they’re giving their kids a health snack when it’s really just a candy bar. “Organic” means nada when it comes to syrup. And the difference between cane syrup or rice syrup versus white sugar is minimal.

  3. Good point Rocky. For reference, a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar weighing 68 grams has 18 grams of sugar. The Peanut Butter ZBar is 36 grams, with 11 grams of sugar. So if you do the math, the ZBars have roughly 15-20% more sugar.

    I’m no expert on what exactly should be in an energy bar, but certainly we can agree with Tom that, if nothing else, they’re up there in terms of taste.

    I can still vividly remember my first Powerbar…it was Malt-Nut, and I almost threw up shortly thereafter.

    Thinking about this makes me wonder…should we even be making “energy bars” for kids? Don’t they generally have too much energy as it is?

  4. With regards to energy bars made for kids, I would think if you can shift them away from candy bars to something like this then it would be a better alternative.

  5. The peanut flavors just got recalled as part of the larger peanut butter/salmonella problem brewing. Since they’re sourcing the same crappy peanut butter as everyone else, who even knows where their stuff really comes from anymore. Really disappointing.

  6. wow these things are good, 10 grams of sugar though , still trying to find something that doesnt have a lot of sugar in it but guess this has the fiber to make up for it

  7. My niece is a sugar fiend, always wants desserts and such. I am always trying to get her to go for fruit but when she can’t be persuaded she’ll eat the Zbar. I feel much better giving her one of these bars in lieu of chocolate or other candy.

    I also like them for a quick snack when a traditional Clif bar is too much:)

  8. I love Clif bars and Clif Kid! I eat the Clif bars as a meal replacement and the Clif Kid as a snack. These ARE healthy, and taste great! seriously? 10 grams of sugar is not a lot, so stop complaining everything has sugar in it! I love these and they are great for kids!