Smart bars are a good choice for those looking for high-quality ingredients, a variety of great flavour options, and good macronutrients from a protein bar, as long as they are consumed in moderation (given all the fibre they contain). However, they may not be suitable for those with nut allergies or for those on a tight budget. It's important to keep this in mind when making your choice.
- Good macronutrient profile
- Great variety of flavours
- Good quality ingredients
- Aussie made
- Could improve their label transparency on secondary packaging and website
- Could include a daily intake suggestion
- Premium price point
For years, protein bars were referred to as the "candy bars" of bodybuilders, but are all bars created equal? Definitely not. Some are... smarter. In this review, we're putting Smart Diet Solutions Smart Bar under the microscope to determine if it truly lives up to its name. Will it be a genius or a dud?
Nutrition & Directions
*Ingredient profile based on the Vanilla Nougat flavour*.
First, we have a protein blend consisting of whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate. Given the sequence of ingredients listed, the product contains a larger percentage of Whey Protein Isolate than Milk protein isolate. Whey protein isolate is a highly-quality protein source that is easily & quickly digested and absorbed by the body. On the flip side, milk protein isolate is a blend of casein and whey protein. The ratio of casein to whey protein can vary depending on the product, but it usually contains around 80% casein and 20% whey protein. Milk protein isolate is notably slower digesting than whey protein isolate but is still a high-quality source of lean protein.
I'd like to point out that it's impressive to see a protein bar with a protein blend, primarily whey protein isolate. Furthermore, it's great to see that Smart Diet Solutions have refrained from using cheap sources of lower-quality proteins that contain additional allergens like soy protein isolate.
Next up, we've got natural prebiotic fibre (derived from corn). Without more information, it is unclear what this ingredient truly is. From my experience in the sports nutrition industry, when a prebiotic fiber derived from corn or tapioca is listed in an ingredient list, particularly in a protein bar, it typically refers to soluble corn fibre, like Fibersol, or an ingredient called isomaltooligosaccharides.
Both ingredients are a low-sugar, low carbohydrate and high-fibre substitute for sugar-based sweeteners and binding agents like sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This makes them a go-to ingredient for diabetics and health-conscious consumers like you and me who are looking for a healthier alternative. Both ingredients come in powder or syrup form, but the syrup form is more widely used in snack products like protein bars due to its binding-agent and humectant capabilities. With characteristics like high fibre content, lower glycemic index, and prebiotic properties, these ingredients both have a lot going for them. The only caveat of this ingredient is that overconsumption could lead to some gastrointestinal discomfort. So, as with all things in life, moderation is key.
The third ingredient listed is almonds. Ah, almonds. The humble yet mighty hero of the nutrition world. Almonds yield a ton of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, magnesium, and healthy fats. It's no wonder Smart Diet Solutions decided to include them in their formula. I suspect that Smart Diet Solutions also strategically added almonds to the recipe from a food functionality standpoint. Let me explain, dear reader.
The fat from the almonds provides moisture to the bar, which allows the ingredients to bind together well but also prevents the bar from becoming a dry, rancid mess. Because let's be real, who wants to chomp down on a dry, rancid protein bar? (it's like trying to chew on a math teacher's favourite tool, the eraser).
The sweetener of choice here appears to be stevia. If you've lived under a rock for the past ten years, here's the quick low down on stevia. Stevia is a zero-calorie, non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it does not affect blood sugar levels. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so only small amounts are needed to sweeten food - hence why you see it as one of the last ingredients in this product. I appreciate that Smart Diet Solutions has chosen a natural sweetener in its products. This decision caters to a wider range of consumers and shows a commitment to using natural ingredients. Nice work, Smart Diet Solutions.
And to reign it all in, we have natural flavour and sea salt. These are both common flavour enhancers used in sports nutrition products. The choice to use natural flavourings and sea salt, rather than artificial alternatives, is a testament to the commitment of Smart Diet Solutions to its branding and philosophy surrounding natural ingredients.
So far, everything is looking peachy with these Smart Bars. They're practically perfect in every way, right? But, alas, I must rain on Smart Diet Solutions parade and offer a small critique.
It seems that every single flavour of their protein bars contains nuts, which, as we all know, is a rather pesky but serious allergen.
Now, I know what you're thinking, if you're allergic to nuts, just don't eat these bars! And to that, I say, 'Amen, my friend!'.
However, I simply can't ignore that out of the 20+ Smart Bar flavours, not one is nut-free to accommodate those with nut allergies.
It's key to note that the macronutrients are going to vary from flavour to flavour. So, we're going to dissect the top-selling flavour:
Per serve (per 60g bar), we're looking at: Calories: 163, Protein: 20g, Carbohydrates: 1.5g, Sugar: 0.7g, Fibre: 18g, Fat: 5.2g.
Let's address the caloric content first. In my opinion, 163 calories are not only a reasonable amount for a snack, but it also boasts a high protein and fibre content. This combination makes it a great choice as it can curb hunger without leaving you feeling overly full for an extended period of time.
But before you go chowing down on an entire box, let me remind you that these bars pack a whopping 18g of fibre per bar - that's 60% of your recommended daily intake for an adult male. So, while fibre is great for you, too much too soon can lead to stomach discomfort. My advice? Limit yourself to one bar per day.
Now, for all you carb-conscious folks out there, this bar is right down your alley. With only 1.5g of carbs per bar, and only 0.7g of that coming from sugar, you can snack on these bad boys with peace of mind. And, with a moderately low-fat content of 5.2g per bar, it's a well-rounded choice for anyone looking to cut down on their carb intake.
Given the Smart Bars' relatively low caloric and high fibre content, it's not going to be an ideal choice for someone whose goals are to gain weight rather aggressively (i.e. people trying to put on size). Rather, I'd recommend this as a snack to people whose goals are centred more around general fitness or weight-loss.
Okay, so this product deserves a 10/10 for macronutrients right? As much as it pains me to do so, I must unleash my inner critic.
In my perfect world, these protein bars would yield 13-14 grams of fibre per bar. I can see the confusion etched on your face, "But wait, didn't you just hype up these bars' macronutrient profile?"
Yes, somewhat. Allow me to clear things up, my dear reader.
In my eyes, the typical consumer of these bars is likely someone who's into fitness or has weight loss goals, and they're probably already getting some fibre from whole foods. So my question is, do they really need to get 60% of their daily fibre intake from a protein bar snack? In my humble opinion, a more balanced approach would be to have a protein bar contribute around 40% of the daily fibre intake. So, in my utopia, I'd love to see these bars with a fibre content of around 13-14 grams.
One positive aspect of Smart Diet Solutions is that they refrain from making any extraordinary claims like many other companies in the protein bar industry, such as claiming that their bars can burn fat or serve as a complete meal replacement.
However, it's worth noting that they do make some claims, namely on their website and secondary packaging. I'll elaborate:
Natural: This claim raises some mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, the bar includes natural ingredients such as flavour, sweetener, and sea salt as a flavour enhancer. On the other hand, I question how "natural" a commercialised protein bar can truly be. I am pretty neutral on this point.
No artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives: I agree with this statement. There is factually no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives.
No added sugar: This claim is somewhat tricky. Some flavours like banana bread or mango cream have additional fruit pieces in the recipe. These would undoubtedly add sugar, in the form of fructose, to the base recipe. In my opinion, this would be considered "added sugar" as these ingredients are added deliberately rather than being a by-product of any of the main ingredients.
Gluten Free: From what I can see, non of the flavours contain gluten so that I would agree with this statement.
Soy Free: I agree with this statement, so long as the whey protein isolate they use does not contain soy lecithin, which they would need to claim on the label, anyway.
No sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are a carbohydrate used as a sugar substitute in food and beverages. They are similar to sugar in taste and texture but have fewer calories and a lower glycemic index than sugar. Some examples of sugar alcohols include xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, and isomalt. This statement would be correct if we assume that the natural prebiotic fibre ingredient is a soluble corn fibre, like Fibersol.
Low fat: You may not be aware of this, but the organisation that oversees food products in Australia and New Zealand, FSANZ, has established guidelines for nutrient content claims, such as "low fat" or "low carb", that can be displayed on food labels. Allow me to elaborate further.
According to FSANZ, low-fat food is categorised if:
The food contains no more fat than:
(a) 1.5 g/100 mL for liquid food; or
(b) 3 g/100 g for solid food
The smart bar contains 8.7g of fat per 100g of bar. By the definition of FSANZ, the product is not low-fat.
Low Carb: FSANZ has not established any laws or guidelines regarding what constitutes "low carb". With the bar containing such a minimal amount of carbohydrates (2.5g per 100g of bar), it is fair to say that it falls within that category.
It's worth noting that the ingredients list does not indicate the proportion (%) on all of the key ingredients, which can be somewhat disappointing as it leaves room for uncertainty about the relative amounts of the ingredients. However, it's worth mentioning that the nutritional information panel is prominently displayed, providing most consumers with sufficient details to make an informed decision about their consumption.
Directions & Servings
It's somewhat amusing to see that the directions advise to "chew with care" but do not provide any guidance on the maximum daily consumption, especially given the high fibre content in the product.
Other than that, there's not too much to remark on when it comes to this criteria.
Taste & Texture
Smart Bars rank uber high in the flavour options category, with more than 20 flavours to choose from.
I, dear reader, am a protein bar connoisseur of the highest order. As previously mentioned, Smart Diet Solutions offers an impressive array of over 20 flavours. While I could delve into the nuances of each flavour, I respect your time and will limit myself to reviewing only 8 of them, including both classic flavours such as vanilla nougat and chocolate chip cookie dough, as well as more unique options like rose and pistachio.
Vanilla Nougat: The flavour profile of vanilla nougat is sweet and creamy, with a subtle vanilla flavour. The texture is mostly soft and chewy but has some small pieces of crunchy almonds, which complements the flavour experience. In my opinion, this flavour is the most authentic and true-to-taste of all the flavours. I would give it a perfect score of 10/10.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
The taste of chocolate chip cookie dough is sweet, buttery, and cocoa-y (Yes, I made up that word). The chocolate chips add a richer chocolate flavour and offer an exciting element to the bar. You can taste the sea salt ever so slightly towards the end of chewing the bar, which counteracts the sweetness, making the whole flavour experience enjoyable and well-balanced. The texture is soft and slightly chewy, which lends itself well to the 'cookie dough' component of the bar. Overall, it's a delicious sweet and rich taste with a perfect texture to match the flavour name. This get's a 10/10.
Cookies and cream:
Cookies and cream is a sweet buttery flavour with a prominent vanilla taste. While I was surprised to find chunks of semi-dark chocolate instead of cookie pieces, it adds a rich, chocolatey element to the bar. However, I think it would be more accurate to the name if chocolate cookie pieces were included or added to the existing chocolate chunks. An enjoyable aspect of the bar is the taste of cocoa butter that coats the mouth while chewing, which gives the sensation of eating a high-quality dessert or chocolate product. This flavour gets a 9/10.
The flavour profile of banana bread is sweet and rich, with a distinct banana flavour. The bananas provide a natural sweetness, and adding banana pieces provides a moist texture to the bar. The bar has a subtle cinnamon flavour and aroma, which compliments the nuttiness and saltiness of the almonds and sea salt. Overall, it's a comforting flavour that closely resembles real banana bread. Drool. It's a 10/10 for this flavour.
The flavour profile of coconut nougat is sweet and creamy, with a distinct coconut flavour. The texture is soft and chewy, with a slightly sticky consistency, and bits of desiccated coconut throughout the bar give it a nice texture and a coconut aroma. The overall taste of coconut nougat is a delicate balance of sweetness, creaminess, and coconut aroma. If you're a coconut fan like I am, this will not disappoint. 10/10.
The mango cream flavour provides a natural sweetness and a fruity aroma. The texture is smooth, soft and slightly chewy. The addition of small mango pieces provides a slight tangy element. Overall, it's a refreshing and delicious flavour with a perfect balance of fruity and creamy notes. 9/10.
Rose and Pistachio:
The rose and pistachio flavour is unique and distinct, with a stronger emphasis on the rosewater flavour rather than the pistachio. The taste is sweet, light, and floral, and has a similar aroma to Turkish delight. The overall taste is pleasant if you are accustomed to the taste of rosewater. However, it would be more satisfying for me if the pistachio flavour was more prominent. Overall, I would rate it 5/10.
Peanut Butter and Jelly:
I found that the peanut butter and jelly flavour was not particularly strong. It has a hint of peanut, but not enough to clearly identify the flavour if you were to eat it blindfolded, per se. The texture is soft and chewy, and the almonds and peanuts add a small crunch that adds excitement to the bar. Overall, I would give it a 6/10
To save time, I will provide you with an overall unbiased score for all the flavours I have tried (which is all of them). I feel that smart bars deserve an average flavour score rating of 8/10.
Excellent work, Smart Diet Solutions.
Solubility & Texture
Smart bars are generally soft, chewy and moderately dense. They often contain chunks of almonds, chocolate or fruits, which add a pleasant crunchy texture. I've also never found them to be dry or rancid like many protein bars are. If you enjoy a soft-baked or cookie dough-like protein bar, you will likely enjoy the texture of these bars.
Smart Diet Solutions are an Aussie company known for its brick-and-mortar retail footprint, as opposed to its e-commerce presence. It's worth noting that they are increasing in popularity, but at this current time, they rate a 1/5.
Value for Money
Each bar comes individually wrapped in a plastic/foil wrapper. Being a single serve, this is as one would expect and ideal for convenience. There is also a cardboard box for each lot of 12.
I weighed two bars with different batch numbers on my trusty kitchen scale. They both came out exactly to 60g, which is spot on with the serving size.
Smart Bars are priced at $48.90 for a box of 12 bars, which is roughly $4 per bar, which is slightly higher than the average price of similar protein bars.
I believe there are a few reasons behind the higher price point.
Firstly, Smart Diet Solutions is a smaller Australian company compared to larger competitors like Quest. This puts Smart Bars at a disadvantage regarding economies of scale and pricing (i.e., they can't manufacture as efficiently and cheaply as a juggernaut like Quest can).
The other factor to consider is that Smart Bars use high-quality ingredients, like whey protein isolate and natural sweeteners and flavours, instead of cheaper and artificial alternatives.
I wouldn't mind paying the slightly higher price point knowing that I'm supporting an Australian brand and getting good quality ingredients. However, if you're on a strict budget, you may want to explore other options or consider making your own protein bars.
Smart bars are a good option for those looking for high-quality ingredients, a variety of great flavour options, and good macronutrients from a protein bar (so long as you don't overconsume them).
However, smart bars may not be the best option for those with nut allergies or those on a tight budget.