If you have too much self-respect to snap into a Slim Jim, yet bemoan how tough it is to toss a burger into your gym bag, the free market has heard your cry. A slew of new bars that use animal protein — mainly beef and bison — are your new meat outlet. A cut above their jerky brethren, these options from the heartland are typically organic, gluten-free, and contain no added sugar, giving them a solid Paleo/CrossFit following. Nutrition-wise, they’re a good travel snack or a stopgap between meals, says Heidi Skolnik,nutritionist for the New York Giants, Knicks, and Mets. “Some of the appeal is a sweet vs. savory thing,” she points out. “It can be part of your post-strength training recovery as long as you’re getting enoughcarbohydrates.” Depending on the workout, your body composition, and how meaty your meat bar is, this might mean having an apple and some cashews, too.
Related: The 10 Best Post-Workout Foods
So what is out there? We did some serious investigating to find out.
Using 100 percent grass-fed beef raised by local ranchers combined with organic vegetables, this Northern Colorado-based company offers three flavors: Spicy Cayenne Apricot, BBQ Hickory Tomato and Cheesy Parmesan Basil. They have the consistency of a flattened meatball, but in a good way (promise). Wild Zora’s rolling out a Mediterranean Lamb with rosemary and spinach, plus Teriyaki Turkey with sesame and ginger if you’re not into the whole red meat thing. And in addition to grain, gluten and soy-free, they’re made in a nut-free facility, for the allergic among you. [$40 for 12; wildzora.com]
Related: The 7 Best All-Natural Energy Bars
These bars have a totally unique backstory. They largely predate the Paleo craze, and were instead invented on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to accomplish three main goals: provide a healthy option to a Native American population with huge nutritional gaps, offer a new revenue stream to the economically stagnant 2.9m acre reservation, and shed light on the diminishing wild buffalo population. The meat and fruit bars follow ancient tradition, but have a loyal following among contemporary folks (they’re a staple at the Seattle Seahawks training camp). There are two offerings, the Tanka bar in three flavors that has 70-calories, as well as a 140-calorie Tanka Onnit Warrior Bar version. Not only will they make your body feel good, but your conscience: a portion of the profits go to the Tanka Fund that helps better the lives of the Lakota Indians. [$29 for 12; tankabar.com]
Husband and wife cattle ranchers partnered up with a professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Montana to create a bar that suits all of the outdoor activities a Montanan might do. The bars have their biggest following among ultra endurance athletes (and even sponsor two of them: Mike Foote and Rory Bosio). They’re savory, certainly, but since they’re only 35 percent beef, there’s lot of notes that shine through, such as almond butter and sweet potato. For now, there are four flavors — mango curry, chipotle barbecue, cranberry rosemary, and roasted peanuts — but makers promise more on the horizon. [$39 for 12; omnibars.com]
Related: The 10 Healthiest Nuts to Eat
Unlike most other bars in this category, Epic offers a variety of different animal meats (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, bison, lamb), for more varied flavors and nutritional profiles. The meat-fruit-nut bars are savory, slightly smoky, as if tender jerky met summer sausage. And for the breakfast anytime-types, Epic just launched a Beef Apple Bacon variety, as well as chicken sriracha, chicken sesame BBQ, pulled pork bars and beef liver sea salt. [$30 for 12; epicbar.com]
Related: How to Make Your Own Energy Bars
Hailing from Brooklyn, the name of these bars play off their CrossFitting founder and her surfer husband. They keep things simple at Bricks, offering two varieties — grass-fed beef and uncured bacon, or turkey and sweet potato — and focusing on sourcing high-quality ingredients that are humane and environmentally conscious. Then they add a few spices and let the flavors shine. [$42 for 12; bricksbars.com]
If you’ve ever tucked into a steak and thought, “this is good, but what it could really use is some açaí berry, Kratos is the bar for you. We kid. In fact, all four flavors — original, zesty pepper, ginger and wasabi, and the aforementioned berry — are all savory, containing notes of medicinal herbs such as fenugreek and turmeric. Like all the bars, they steer clear (get it?) of bad beef. Their fans tend to be runners, either as a recovery bar or in the last third of a marathon — particularly those who react poorly to sugary or gel-based energy products. [$36 for 12 ; kratosfoods.com]
By Marjorie Korn