Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clif Bar Mania

It was probably about 12 years ago that I tasted my first Clif bar. I'm not sure who introduced them to me. I may have just seen the big box at Costco. I probably took a sample of the Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif bar from a little lady with a white net on her hair. I do know that I bought a whole case of them and didn't have much money at the time. I didn't just chow down on them like I'd do now if they were in the house. It was always fun to read the little story about Clif on the back of the wrapper. The usual assumption was the bar was made for climbing cliffs (and they just spelled it wrong). Not so!

At the time, I was just starting out with exercising in the morning. I'd finally gotten in the habit of working out to exercise videos and started out doing it in the evenings after the kids went to bed. But I read Oprah's book that she wrote with her trainer, Bob Greene and he assured me that if I exercised in the morning, I'd raise my metabolism and would burn more calories all day long (as opposed to raising it in the evening and then letting it slow down soon after when I went to bed). Anyway, the morning workout habit was born and I found myself not able to work out on an empty stomach, yet not able to eat much without getting cramps in my sides. So I bought a case of Clif bars and would eat 1/2 half while getting dressed in my workout gear and it would give me enough energy to plug away through my beloved Denise Austin video . Since money was tight, I didn't allow myself to eat the other 1/2 until the next day. I kept them in my top dresser drawer and I was so diciplined about not eating them too fast. (I eventually grew past the need to eat before my workouts. Now I just drink a big glass of water and I'm good to go).

Flash forward a few years. I learned about a few other fun flavors (Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, Cool Mint Chocolate) and found them on sale from time to time at WinCo for 88 cents a piece. Of course, I'd buy so many that I was spending more than just the case price at Costco, but I was enjoying having them on hand. One day I was in my husband's work place and his friend, Tim saw me eating a Clif Bar. He asked me if I'd heard about the new Luna Bar made just for women. "Just for women?" I thought. "What wonders could it behold?" He let me sample his and it was pretty tasty. I believe it was Chocolate Pecan Pie. It tasted like a Rice Krispie treat with chocolate on top. (I used to be the queen of making super soft Rice Krispie treats). It was a little strong, but fun to eat.

When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter in 1999, a friend who owns an outdoor store told me there were several new Luna flavors. He brought me samples and I ordered 2 cases from him of Peppermint Peppermint Stick and Cookies & Cream Delight (oh dear, my affinity for sugar is so obvious here). It was kind of funny because for a few days in a row I ate several of these Luna bars. As common in many pregnancies, I hit my limit and knew I could never eat another one again. Those cases sat in my pantry for months (so unusual for any Clif product in my house). I've since had the Nuts Over Chocolate on occasion, but never any flavor that has the white chocolate on top like those two I got sick of while pregnant. Blech!

This same friend brought home some cases of Clif Builder Bars to his children. I was there one day and was intrigued. I found some at the store and ate one while driving home. (I know Dr. Phil says not to eat in the car -- *sigh*). I actually verbally oooohed and ahhhhhed while eating it. It reminded me of that Reese's peanut butter candy bar (that I hadn't eaten in years). I've tried a few more flavors and the Mint Chocolate is by far my favorite.

And now they make a Clif bar for kids -- Z Bars. Z Bars are actually the only bar made by all food manufacturers (including granola bars) that meets the nutrition standards for schools in California. These yummy Chocolate Brownie bars are as good as those giant chocolate Costco muffins (but much smaller and with whole grains/no dairy). It's nice that they take care in their ingredients and for the most part, are vegan. Here's their statement about that: "All CLIF Bar products are made from ingredients that do not come from animals except Mojo (contains organic honey and traces of dairy), CLIF SHOT Recovery Drink contains whey), and LUNA Tea Cakes (contain traces of dairy)."

However, I must say that as nice as it is that Clif makes so many tasty products that provide chocolate delight and some nutrients without refined sugar, dairy or wheat, they are not whole foods. They are not health foods. I tend to get sucked into the idea that anything I buy at the health food store is excellent nutrition for my body. That's simply not the case. These might be nice treats to have occasionally, but I'm learning to not stock them in my pantry, and to not buy them in bulk. I used to buy them weeks before Easter or Christmas to put in Easter baskets of stockings. I'd find that I'd eat them all and would have to buy them all over again. I also found that I had digestion problems when I ate too many Clif bars or Luna bars because my body couldn't handle all that soy. Soy protein isolate is a refined food. It's not as good as eating the soybean itself (or any bowl of beans for that matter -- I'm not sure why so many people think that soybeans are the most nutritious -- perhaps since so many non-dairy products are made with soy).

So be cautious with your consumption if you enjoy Clif bars like I do. They're convenient and yummy, but still don't compare nutritionally to the almighty fruit and vegetable. I try to just buy them for special occasions (like holidays) or when I travel. I have to avoid the Clif aisle at Target these days and get my brain out of the mindset that if they're at the health food store, they must be calling my name.


  1. This was really fun to read and I learned about clif bars at the same time. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Thanks Melissa! I hope I don't get you hooked on them. They're a great option for healthy eaters, but the whole food is always supreme. I didn't even mention the Clif Twist (fruit snacks). They are really tart and are so good. The apple one is just like a Jolly Rancher.