I finally had a chance to try Steve's Paleo Goods Paleo snacks this week. I know, I must be living under a rock to be a Paleo nutrition educator and CrossFitter and not have tried them yet. #FAIL
As a nutritionist, it should be vividly clear to you all by now that I am never in favor of meal replacements when you are at home or within reasonable distance (time or space) of a decent, freshly prepared meal. Real, whole, fresh food is always king in terms of nutrient balance versus some isolated nutrient(s) here or there made into a bar, powder, or otherwise popular modern meal replacement form (better than the Jetsons' meal-in-a-pill idea I suppose). While I recognize that there may be a time and place for said replacements, in your everyday, regular life is not the place. I get pretty tired of hearing people say that they don't have time to prepare their food, or they just can't think of what to make.
You know that you're going to eat every day. It's no surprise that hours after one meal, you'll be hungry again. And unless you complete what I call “Super Human” activity, then you don't need “Super Human” food. You just need real, whole food. (More on my top picks for as-legit-as-possible protein powders later- but only because I know some of you will STILL use them that you force me to identify the best choices.)
At the intersection of real/whole and fast/easy/grab-and-go is where we find Steve's Paleo Goods Paleo Kits, Jerky, Paleo Krunch and other pre-packaged grain-free goodies.
This is the kind of food that I'd recommend people pack and keep on-hand for those times when:
- You know that you'll be away from fresh food for more time than you can keep something cold.
- You're traveling more than a couple of hours and, especially in the event of a delay or flight cancellation, will want something trustworthy on-hand that TSA will certainly not confiscate.
- You are in the military and MREs are just dreadful, but you can stash something else to chow.
All of the Steve's Paleo Goods items I tried (Grass-Fed Just Jerky, Grass-Fed Paleo Stix, Paleo Kit, Coconut Paleo Kit, Paleo Krunch Cereal, and Paleo Krunch Bar) were very tasty. I found myself grabbing a bite of Just Jerky or Paleo Stix with a bite of the Krunch Cereal to get that salty and sweet taste at once. While I'll very likely begin to keep a bunch of the Grass-Fed Jerky and Stix on-hand for situations as-listed above, for me, the Krunch Cereal & Bars are just plain TROUBLE. They're delicious, but if you have trouble controlling yourself around treats, I'd steer clear of the Krunch Cereal in the larger-serving container that hold 4 servings and around 1,000 calories (yes, I just said calories… oooh… someone call the Paleo Police!).
The thing is, I think a lot of you know that my biggest goat in going Paleo has been (and is) sugar. So… when I arrived home to NJ at 1am after an 8-hour cross-country trip, I completely cracked-out on the Paleo Krunch Cereal and finished the entire container between that evening and the next morning. So, for those of you who are unable to control yourselves around delicious treats like this, keep your purchases of them to the Bars only, so that you've just got single-serving portions and not multiple-servings in a free-for-all container.
While I'm personally a big fan of VERY simple ingredients and minimal flavorings in my jerky, the balance of the savory jerky with the dried fruit and nuts in the Paleo Kits was nice. If I had my druthers, the jerky would be less seasoned and, somehow, the whole kit would be a lot less moist overall.
While there are some conventional meat options in Paleo Kits, I'd recommend the Grass-Fed Jerky/Kits/Stix as a first choice. Beyond the meat itself, the ingredients are primarily spices and some Ascorbic Acid most likely added as a preservative – one of just a few drawbacks to buying vs making your own jerky. You'll RARELY find one without any added preservatives, especially not one that will last any length of time. I know currently of one such grass-fed jerky-maker (who I love), but you definitely can't keep these out of a fridge for very long periods of time. The only other ingredients that I am not thrilled about, but also appear in any other packaged jerky or trail-mixes, are the sunflower oil (you know how I feel about seed oils) and apple juice concentrate that are added to the dried fruit as preservatives and flavorings. As far as the options go for these, it seems those are the best-case-scenario choices, so I can understand why they're used. Again, this isn't how you'd do it in your own kitchen, but they're at least real ingredients and not chemicals for when you're using grab-and-go food as an option.
As a former career-graphic designer, the labels on the packages of Steve's Paleo Goods products are a sight for sore eyes. The graphics, type and colors are spot-on while presenting an image of an ideal situation for which the kits are created: hiking. A couple of downsides to the packaging that I found, however, are that:
- Since the labels are so large, there has to be extra, non-product filled plastic to allow space for them which seems wasteful to me considering the likely non-recylclable/non-compostable nature of the plastic. This plastic is probably ideal for more extreme travel and military-use durability, but possibly more durable than is necessary for the everyday consumer.
- I found the plastic VERY difficult to open. In the most common situation when I'll be eating these, I won't likely have scissors on-hand. I didn't find the tear-notch to be useful at all. (Note: Strong as they are, my canines were also not that useful in opening these kits.)
- I mentioned this before in the taste section, but I am not the biggest fan of how moist everything in the pack becomes when vacuum-sealed together. I don't know if this can be helped, but it seems as though everything could be even drier to start and this might not be as messy. But I may also be the only one who is so picky about this.
The bigger picture
In the words of Steve's Club founder Steve Liberati,
Steve’s Paleo Goods is the funding source for my true calling: Steve’s Club. I'm trying to change the lives of local inner-city kids with fitness training and peer mentoring. My not-for-profit club is for kids from Camden, NJ—touted as the most dangerous crime-infested city in the country. Many of these kids were drugging and ganging before they were hanging out with me. They just needed an alternative.
Four years ago, I started my first group of kids on a Crossfit exercise regimen and a paleo diet. Many needed to gain strength, some needed to lose weight but all needed real food they could pack for school. My wife Kristen and I got creative in the kitchen, and Paleokits were born!
Overall, between the great taste, clean ingredients and fantastic mission, I'd say Steve's Paleo Goods are an on-the-go snack you can feel good about purchasing in more ways than one.
Visit www.StevesPaleoGoods.com to make a purchase today and save 10% on your entire order using code “balancedbites” at checkout now through November 21, 2011.
FYI- Steve gave me the following feedback regarding some of the points I made above, check out his open, honest, and transparent information on all counts- what a great guy!
Diane, Thanks for the honest review. Just a few notes:
The amount of sunflower oil we use to keep the berries fresh and from over sticking is miniscule. It's less than enough that is not required to list it in the ingredient deck but we do anyway. Most companies don't list it since it is so small but we like to be up front and transparent in everything we do.
Absorbic Acid is simply Vit C as you know and comes from the small amount of apple and pineapple juice concentrate that we use to soften the jerky so it doesn't turn into a piece of dried out rawhide. We use such little amount of apple and pineapple juice that it doesn't affect the carb count of the jerky.
The 5 mil bags we use are necessary to ensure the food safety of the product. Anything less and the bags are at risk of breaking (moisture in the bag is very bad since causes pathogens and bacteria to grow). The 5 mil bags also allows for extended shelf life and same day freshness when opened months later. Shelf life on the kits and jerky is at least 7 months and likely we'll last much longer if kept in ideal storage conditions.
The food safety standards for a shelf stable ready to meal is of the utmost importance and we we'll rather accept some complaints with the difficulty of opening the bags rather than someone getting sick from e-coli, botulism, listeria, salmonella or other pathogens that pose a risk to a meat product.
We discovered that our customers prefer our jerky to be a little moist and fairly easy to chew rather than dried out shoe leather that traditional jerky is known for. With the assistance of the local university, we also figured out the right moisture protein level's for the jerky whereby it didn't affect the protein content of the meat. When jerky is dried out too long or chopped and formed, the protein content gets compromised. Here is an article we wrote a while back talking about whole muscle vs chopped and formed.
We offer Just Jerky and Meat Sticks as an alternative for customers that find the PaleoKit too messy. We also recommend eating the kit but pushing it out like toothepaste, avoiding the ingredients getting on your fingers.
Again, appreciate your honest review of our products and thank you for presenting it to your readers.
Yours in Health and Fitness,