Between my work, V’s work, attending events, vacations and most of the 11 nieces and nephews we have between us living up in the Bay Area, we tend to go on a lot of road trips. While finding healthy, veg meals on the road isn’t impossible, it can sometimes be a challenge. And once we get to the birthday party, graduation or some all-day event, vegan options are often scarce or nonexistent, which is why I always keep a snack bar or two on hand in case of hunger emergencies.
Even at home, I often find it a bit of a challenge to find the time to prepare healthy meals when I’m up against article deadlines or have lots of errands to run, so I’m always interested in finding healthier options for the snack foods I keep on hand to grab in between client calls or while on the go.
So I was pretty excited to have the chance to try raw, organic, gluten-free, vegan bars and let y’all know what I think of them.
Now let’s talk CORE bars!
This company focuses on two primary products: Defender Meals and Warrior Meals. The Warrior Meal bars are not suitable for vegans, so I didn’t try those and won’t be reviewing them here.
CORE offers three flavors in their vegan Defender bars: raw almond raisin, raw walnut banana and raw cashew cacao. All of the ingredients in these raw bars are organic, and the bars are certified gluten free. One of the things I immediately dug about these bars is their short ingredients lists – two of the bars have six all-natural ingredients, and one of them has just five.
So let’s have a quick look at those ingredients…
Raw Walnut Banana: (all organic) Whole oats, walnuts, banana, raisins, flax, ground spices
Raw Almond Raisin: (all organic) Whole oats, almonds, raisins, flax, ground spices
The packaging recommends that you eat one bar with plenty of water and that this is equivalent to a full bowl of oatmeal. Since the main ingredient in any of the flavors is whole oats, and these bars are a bit bigger than most raw or vegan bars I’ve tried, it makes sense that a bowl of oatmeal is a good comparison.
These bars are marketed as a “full meal to go,” and with a calorie count ranging from 350 to 400, 10 to 11 grams of protein, and between 19 and 24 grams of fat, it’s easy to see how these handy, easily transportable bars could be a great way to refuel when you don’t have the opportunity to sit down for a full meal.
I mean, you wouldn’t want to replace all of your meals with these, since a varied diet that meets your energy needs is important, but I seriously doubt CORE wants you to forgo all other food in favor of their bars. In fact, they have all sorts of info on their site about healthy eating, including recipes and a raw shopping list.
So now that we have that settled, let’s move on to what I think about these bars.
Let’s start with what I loved about them right away…
Certified Gluten Free
No Added Sugar or Sweeteners
Sounds pretty good so far – right?
You know what else I like about them? They go bad. I know that it might sound funny that I like the fact that they don’t have an extended shelf life, but real food goes bad – and I like real food.
These bars last six months when frozen, two months when kept in the fridge and one week when on the go. I love that.
This means I can stock up in my freezer, move them to the fridge as needed and not have to worry about refrigeration when I head out on a week-long road trip and want to bring some wholesome goodness with me.
I decided to eat one meal bar per day for breakfast over a three-day period before writing this CORE Defender Meal Bar product review. As a chocolate fan, I was pretty sure I would like the raw cashew cacao best, so I saved that one for last.
My first Defender meal was the raw almond raisin. For lack of a better comparison, I’m going to say this one tasted a bit like fruitcake. Hold on, though! I don’t mean the rock-hard fruitcake that has little flavor and is pretty much a holiday joke. I mean the good, homemade fruitcake that our grandmothers made when we were little– just vegan and not as sweet.
My next raw meal bar was the raw walnut banana. Holy banana bread goodness! With a delish blend of sweetness and spices, this one was like eating dessert for breakfast, but way healthier. Upon my first bite, it immediately reminded me of homemade banana bread, and I am pretty sure I even swooned a little in my office chair. While I liked the raw almond raisin just fine, I loved this one.
Next up was the raw cashew cacao, which I was sure was a shoo-in as my fave. I did like it okay, but it had a little bit of an odd aftertaste, and it wasn’t what I expected. This one was actually my least favorite, which may partly be due to my high expectations. I would say try this one, because your taste buds might be different than mine, but I think I will likely only buy this one when the raw walnut banana bars are sold out.
I highly recommend trying the banana-walnut option – so good!
These bars do not have added sweeteners like many of the veg bars out there, so they are not as sweet as you might be expecting. If you are used to eating healthy, raw foods that are naturally sweetened, these bars should reach your desired level of sweetness just fine. If you are more accustomed to eating more processed snack bars with added sugar, you might wish they were a little sweeter. If this is the case, I would recommend going with the walnut banana or almond raisin, since these have a sweeter taste.
What about the company?
CORE Foods is a not-for-profit company dedicated to providing whole, real food while also making the planet a better place. You can see their carbon offset certificates, company reports and other transparent goodness on their site.
The company’s founder, Corey Rennell, lived with 12 tribes around the world to learn more about healthy, whole, simple nutrition and has trained with top athletes. He brought this experience, as well as a dedication to community values, to the table when establishing this brand. The CORE Foods team is filled with people who have dedicated their lives to helping the environment, making pure foods accessible, promoting sustainable eating and expanding the community’s knowledge about sound nutrition.
How to Get Your Own CORE Meal Replacement Goodness
You can purchase these raw, vegan meal replacement bars at Whole Foods Market or online at the CORE foods website. You can also check out their store locator to see if other retailers near you sell them.
Each bar (at the time of this post) is $3.99. Now I know that is more than you are used to paying for bars you grab to eat on the go; however, keep in mind that these are not your typical snack bars. These bars are meant to replace a meal, and finding a healthy, gluten-free, raw, organic, veg meal on the go for four bucks isn’t such a bad deal.
If you plan on purchasing them at Whole Foods, don't forget to print out this money-saving coupon for 10% off one CORE meal bar!
If purchasing them online, I would suggest that you head over to Facebook first. Like the CORE Foods page to get a coupon code for $5.00 off, plus you can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a free case (a $40 value)!
If you give these organic meal bars a try, let us know what you think of them in the comments below.
For our friends at the FTC: CORE Foods contacted me and provided me with three of their bars for the purpose of this vegan product review. I did not receive compensation for this post, and receiving these samples did not influence my CORE Defender Meal Bar review.