Not sure? What if I told you that crickets are a (hopping) mad source of protein packed with all the essential amino acids, high in micronutrients such as calcium, B-vitamins and have more iron than beef? Plus, they’re low in saturated fats and sugars.
Still not going to bite? Well, eating bugs has tons of environmental benefits too. Compared to livestock, crickets produce virtually no methane, requires minimal water, feed and space.
At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “Blah blah blah blogger lady, that’s all really fascinating, but how does that sh*t taste?” Well, dear reader, as your human guinea pig, I tried it out first so you don’t have to.
Note: I may be an overgrown tomboy, but when it comes to spiders (So. Many. Legs) and insects in general (just say nope to larvae, pupae, legs, antennae and winged bits), I can get about as hysterical as the next girly girl. I’m not a fan of protein bars, in general, because most of them are just candy bars in disguise with NONE of the yumminess. Still, they’re so convenient when you’re on the go all day and trying to choke down that post-workout protein within the recommended time window. Despite my track record of partially eaten protein bars, I’ve remained hopeful that someday I’d find Mr. Good Bar – a protein bar that’s actually good for you AND doesn’t taste like disappointment.
I was intrigued when I first heard about the Exo bar from the awesome Nom Nom Paleo blog. Maybe it was the exotic novelty of cricket flour, but I just had to try it. Co-CEO, Gabi Lewis, graciously sent me a box of samples to try in response to my email.
BUG MUNCHING RULES
I received three flavors: Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cacao Nut and Cashew Nut. To my complete and utter shock, they were the most delicious bars I’ve ever had. Each flavor had a moist, pleasantly chewy texture and tasted like real food. No weird metallic, Flintstone’s Vitamin taste or rock-hard, filling-extracting texture (yes, I lost a filling eating a Power Bar once). The all-around-favorite of the taste testers was the Peanut Butter and Jelly, which had the perfect balance of crunchy peanut butter and the tart, tanginess of jelly. My personal favorite was the Cacao Nut since I’m a chocolate fiend and that bar had a dark chocolate smokiness without being too sweet and tasted like a brownie. Apparently, the bar recipes were developed by a 3 Michelin Star Chef with serious gourmet street cred, so I guess that explains the yummy factor.
All of the bars contain approximately 40 crickets, 270-300 calories, 10 grams of protein, 14-20 grams of fat, 13-18 grams of sugar and 5-7 grams of fiber. The cricket flour is made from farm-raised crickets reared on a Certified Organic grain-based diet. They’re slow roasted before being ground into a very fine flour, so you won’t find any errant legs or other bug parts in the bar. Believe me, I checked.
In addition, the bars contain almond butter, raw cacao, dates, coconut, honey, vanilla and sea salt. Everything is completely natural, and the bars are gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free and dairy-free.
RAISING THE BAR
Fun fact – apparently 80% of the world eats insects as part of their diet. Americans – not so much. Just because all the cool, global kids are doing it, it remains to be seen if a gateway bug bar will make insects palatable to Western palates. But Lewis is hopeful: “Americans got over their squeamishness around sushi, kombucha, lobster, organ meats, etc. There’s a long list of foods that were once viewed as disgusting or weird and are now viewed as normal or delicacies. And there’s a fairly traceable pattern as to how foods undergo such a transition. You firstly need a top-down movement, which already we’re seeing coming from the fine dining world (such as Noma in Copenhagen), international agencies (UN and EU) advocating for the consumption of insects, and some experts from the nutrition world extolling the virtues of insect protein. The second thing you need is some kind of vehicle to introduce the food to the mainstream. For sushi, it was the California Roll in the late 60’s, which hid the raw fish inside rice and seaweed and replaced fatty tuna with avocado. For insects, we believe it will be protein bars made with insect flour.”
WHERE TO BUY
Currently, just on their website: http://www.exo.co
A box of 12 bars is $36 with free shipping or save 10% with a monthly subscription. I just bought a box of Peanut Butter & Jelly for my family. I’ve never bought an entire box of protein bars before and I certainly never imagined that the first time would be cricket bars.
If Soylent Green is made out of people, then protein bars made out of crickets is no biggie. Sadly, it’s not science fiction that we’re living in a polluted world with increasingly depleted resources. So it makes sense that the next evolution of protein bars would involve insects, and that doesn’t bug me one bit.
Photos courtesy of Exo.
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Minsun Park is a blogger, writer and a black belt in taekwondo who gets her ass handed to her daily by her two sons. She’s written for iVillage, SheKnows, ePregnancy and is featured in “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” by Jessica Denay. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter: @MinsunPark