Still surrounded by the aftermath of trick-or-treating, I am trying not to spoil my children’s fun. But the large pile of Halloween candy feels like it is staring me down to see who will win. As much as I advocate for and try to stick to a real foods diet myself, there is room for exceptions. I had a great teacher several years ago who reminded us that 51% of the time, is already “most of the time.” So, there are times for a little processed food, but even to the Halloween candy extreme? Fortunately, there is a growing middle ground, a quickly expanding selection of “health food” candy and treats. Surveyed with a real foods lens, I would still dismiss them as candy, but on occasion, when looking for something special, a convenient treat, a more commonly accepted snack, a sweet bite in a pinch, there are some decent options.
One of several manufacturers, the Kashi company (owned by Kellogg’s) is making some of these products. They recently sent me a bag of TLC Layered Peanutty Granola Bars as an example. I tried them with my family and with a group of parents I meet with monthly. For the most part, both children and adults liked them. The bars are appropriately sized (not too big for children) and the packaging is minimal. Kashi has clearly put some effort into making as close to a real foods bar as possible while also giving it a candy bar appearance, an undeniably sweet chocolately taste, a decent shelf-life and convenient portability. I like the use of numerous grains, the added protein and fiber to lessen the blood sugar rush, and the lack of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors. For a full list of ingredients and nutrition information, click here.
At the same time, I would prefer something fresher. I felt the bars I tried were somewhat dried out, saved only by the thick layer of chocolate on top. I also found the bars too sweet. As much as I appreciate the recent research on the health benefits of dark chocolate, what sometimes gets lost is that it really should be eaten un- or just barely sweetened to capture these benefits.
But my main concern is with the use of what I am going to assume are genetically modified ingredients. Soy and corn derivatives, when not from certified organic crops, are almost certainly made from genetically modified raw materials. In addition to the chemical pesticide and herbicide residues on these crops, the fact that they have been genetically altered brings with it a whole new wave of potential health problems which researchers are only just beginning to explore. As an incidental exception, I will jump into the lab, as it were, and participate in the ongoing public experiment of feeding ourselves genetically modified foods, but as a general rule, I stay clear of the most common GM products, which include soy, corn and increasingly other grains as well. Even though I found Kashi listed as a member of the Non-GMO project, I was not able to find any indication on this product that it is free of genetically modified ingredients. I would prefer a “new and improved” version, when it contains organic, or at least non-GMO ingredients.