Monday, October 8, 2012

Luna Bar Research

Remember when you were a kid and you did those science fair projects? As a non-sciency person, I would generally do something simple and fairly cheesy. I remember doing one where I tested people's ability to taste salty/sour/sweet flavors. Why? Who knows. I guess I thought I was being creative? As an adult not in a field where I need to conduct experiments like those, there's really no need for them. Or so one of my best friends, Megan, and I thought!

We also like mimosas!
In an effort to have a somewhat more healthy snack, as well as one that is more filling, and have something with protein for a post-workout snack, Megan and I started looking into different protein bars. When I was in high school and working at Planet Smoothie, I would often get a Luna bar to eat while I was there since we sold them in the store. I had become addicted to the Nutz Over Chocolate, so I decided to revisit my Luna bar obsession. After expressing my love of the Nutz Over Chocolate to Megan, she decided to start trying them too. We both started trying different flavors, and thus began our scientific research on which Luna bar is the best.

According to Luna's website, there are 15 different flavors. They also have minis, gluten-free, and fiber bars, but we focused our research on the classic bar. This may not be the most scientific way of going about it, but we immediately ruled out the ones we thought sounded gross: Chocolate Dipped Coconut, LemonZest, and Toasted Nuts 'n Cranberry. Also, the research is not fully complete because we are missing Blueberry Bliss and Peanut Honey Pretzel, but we're going to ignore that little fact and say our research is basically complete. A 10 bar sample is pretty darn good if you ask me.

We divided up the flavors and had a few different categories: level of sweetness (rated 1-10, 1 being low sweetness), texture, and overall thoughts. Here are our findings:

Caramel Nut Brownie
Reviewer: Carolyn
Sweetness: 7
Texture: Crispy and oaty, but brownie like
Would you have it again: Sure. Not my first choice, but not bad.
Thoughts: Overall, I liked it. The caramel frosting was on top and the bar part was kind of like an oaty brownie. It was a little too sweet for me for a post-workout/breakfast protein bar, but I think it's good for a lunch time dessert, or mid-afternoon sweet pick-me-up that's a little healthier than a cookie.

Chocolate Chunk

Reviewer: Megan
Sweetness: 6
Texture: chunky like granola
Would you have it again: Yep.
Thoughts: Overall, this one was pretty good. It was the most savory bar I have tried, mostly because the chocolate "chunks" are pretty sparse. In fact, I think calling them chunks is a bit of an exaggeration. The nutty oat and granola-like taste along with the chocolate make for a good snack or breakfast bar.

Chocolate Peppermint Stick

Reviewer: Carolyn
Sweetness: 8
Texture: A little rough because of a lot of oats, chewy and soft
Would you have it again: More than likely
Thoughts: This tasted like an oaty version of a Thin Mint. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that because you'll just eat one bar instead of a whole sleeve of cookies, and get some vitamins with it. Like with the Caramel Nut Brownie, this is definitely more of a "dessert" protein bar.

Chocolate Raspberry

Reviewer: Carolyn
Sweetness: 8
Texture: Chewy, brownie like
Would you have it again: Definitely.
Thoughts: I've always liked the chocolate raspberry flavor combination. This is no exception. It's not a super fruity flavor, which is preferable, and it has the icing on top. It's definitely satisfying, but also more like a dessert.

Iced Oatmeal Raisin

Reviewer: Megan
Sweetness: 9
Texture: soft and a bit chewy because of the raisins

Would you have it again: Yes!
Thoughts: I really liked this one!  I love oatmeal raisin cookies, so it wasn't that surprising and this one didn't disappoint.  There wasn't a fake sweet taste either, the icing on top was light but delicious. I like the texture that the raisins added.  This one is a good dessert bar, a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, if you will.

Nutz Over Chocolate

Reviewer: Carolyn and Megan
Sweetness: Carolyn: 3; Megan: 6
Texture: Carolyn: Solid, chewy in a good way, slightly crispy; Megan: perfection
Would you have it again: Carolyn: YOU BET. Megan: YES!
Carolyn: Old favorite, still my favorite. There is just something so perfect about this bar. It's not uber sweet, it's incredibly satisfying, and I could eat it any time, especially post-workout.
Megan: This is my absolute favorite one, the timeless classic as far as Luna bars go. :)  I think it's probably the most popular one because it's in every store that carries these bars by the box. You'll find a sweeter bar, but this one is the perfect balance between something savory with a lot of protein and sweet so you enjoy eating it.  It's a treat that I love to have after a workout, yet I could see it being an afternoon snack to solve your (tame) sweet tooth. And isn't chocolate and peanuts the perfection combination, anyways?

Peanut Butter Cookie

Reviewer: Megan
Sweetness: 4
Texture: The top part was really thick and gooey, bleh

Would you have it again: No.
Thoughts: Having "cookie" in the title of this one was misleading!  You might think that you'll be in for a sweet treat, but do not be fooled!  This was just tons of thick peanut butter on top of peanuts.  It was too overwhelming and monocromatic of a taste for me, especially not to have any of the "dessert" factor.  


Reviewer: Carolyn and Megan
Sweetness: Carolyn: 10; Megan: 7
Texture: Carolyn: Solid, chewy, slightly crispy, a lot like Nutz Over Chocolate; Megan: the marshmallow was a little bit gooey, and lots of chunky things happening on top
Would you have it again: Carolyn: only because I have a box to finish and I don't want to waste them. After that, nope. Megan: Nah.
Carolyn: I'm a lover of all things s'more...except this bar. The marshmallow taste was too strong and too fake and not as balanced as it should be with the graham and chocolate flavors. I'll eat them if I have to (and so I can finish off the box) but I'm not really planning on buying them again.
Megan: The marshmallow taste in this one was just weird---it tasted artificially sweetened, like it was made with Splenda or something similar, although I checked the ingredients and it wasn't!  It overpowered the entire taste of the bar and just made it not pleasant.

Vanilla Almond
Reviewer: Carolyn
Sweetness: 3
Texture: Solid, chewy in a good way.
Would you have it again: Yes!
Thoughts: This was by far the closest to the Nutz Over Chocolate...basically the vanilla version of it! Not too sweet, but not too bland. The perfect alternative when you're not in a chocolate mood.

White Chocolate Macadamia 
Reviewer: Carolyn
Sweetness: 5
Texture: Chewy, slightly crispy, oaty
Would you have it again: More than likely.
Thoughts: This is probably the next closest in flavor power to the Nutz Over Chocolate and Vanilla Almond, which is important in my book. White chocolate is a pretty mild flavor with just that hint of sweetness, and it really does taste kind of like a white chocolate macadamia cookie! I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate, but I would eat this again.

Our decision at the end? It's still all about the Nutz Over Chocolate. DUH.

Have you had any Luna bars? Any that we haven't tried? Different opinions? Sound off!

(And yes, this blog post did  just happen)

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