If you’re going to claim facts…

…it helps to know what you’re talking about.

I know, I know, that’s so old fashioned, I’m such a Luddite…

I just finished reading Candyfreak by Steve Almond. Nonfiction, a fast read, amusing, sometimes a little outrageous, mostly having to do with this admitted candyfreak’s tour of a few of the remaining independent candy factories that make regional candy bars (now that most big-name candy bars have been swallowed up by Hershey, Mars or Nestle).

And I hit a passage on p. 135, where he’s noting that one of these small companies survives by devoting most production days to candy bars and other items sold under other companies’ names. At which point, Almond lets go with this:

…it bears mentioning that this product is but one in a tsunami of pseudo-candy bars, variously called PowerBars, Granola bars, Energy Bars, Clif Bars, Breakfast Bars, Snack Bars, Wellness Bars, and so on, all of which contain roughly the same sugar and fat as an actual candy bar–with perhaps a dash of protein sawdust thrown in–but only half the guilt, and stand as a monument both to shameless marketing and the American capacity for self-delusion…

That’s only a part of the lengthy sentence, but it includes the part that struck me.

To wit, I thought to myself, “bushwah.” (Not the term I used, but the “bu” and the “sh” are right.)

So, apparently unlike Almond, I did a little research–very little, since it doesn’t take much. I happened to have Clif Bars, Zone Bars, Nature Valley Granola Bars, Odwalla Bars, and Quaker True Delights on hand, and it didn’t take long to look up a selection of Hershey and Mars and Nestle bars online. (Mars and Nestle make it varying difficult to get to nutritional information, so most of what I got is from Hershey.)

Candybar calories, fat and sugar

Here are a selection of calories, fat, and sugar content for candy bars (typically the regular-size bar):

  • Almond Joy: 220 calories, 13g fat, 20g sugar
  • Hershey: 210 calories, 13g fat, 24g sugar
  • 5th Avenue: 260 calories, 12g fat, 29g sugar
  • KitKat: 210 calories, 11g fat, 22g sugar
  • Mounds: 230 calories, 13g fat, 21g sugar
  • Mr. Goodbar: 250 calories, 17g fat, 23g sugar
  • Payday: 240 calories, 13g fat, 21g sugar
  • Reese’s: 210 calories, 13g fat, 21g sugar
  • Snickers: 280 calories, 14g fat, 30g sugar (apparently the best-selling candy bar, and notably the one with the most calories, most sugar and, other than Mr. Goodbar, most fat)
  • Butterfinger: 270 calories, 11g fat, 29g sugar

“Roughly the same”?

  • Clif (Oatmeal Raisin Walnut; others are similar): 240 calories, 5g fat, 20g sugar.
  • Zone Fruitified: 200 calories, 6g fat, 15g sugar
  • Nature Valley Apple Crisp Granola: 160 calories, 6g fat, 11g sugar
  • Odwalla Berries GoMega: 210 calories, 6g fat, 16g sugar
  • Quaker TrueDelights: 140 calories, 3.5g fat, 10g sugar (or, another variety, 4.5g fat, 8g sugar)

Notice something here? None of these bars has even half the fat of a Snickers or Almond Joy, and none has significantly more than half the fat of the lowest-fat of this group.

As for sugar–well, yes, the Clif bar has as much or about as much sugar as Almond Joy or Mounds or a couple of others. (But that sugar doesn’t come from high-fructose corn syrup, and there’s roughly one-third the fat.)

Sure, Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bar has 280 calories and 19g fat (but only 13g sugar)–but nobody would mistake it for anything but a high-fat candy bar!

Self-delusion? Maybe Almond is protesting too much… Nothing wrong with a good candy bar now and then, but the better energy bars and food bars really are different products.

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