Personal chef and entrepreneur Krista Babar presents us with an entirely unique and locally made product; k-bars offer a nutritious “fuel” food that is also delicious and filling. Now, whether it’s for a road trip, trail ride or handy nourishment on the run, k-bars deliver a generous amount of roasted nuts, peanut butter, cocoa, coconut, oats, and the not-so-secret sweetener—date paste—among its 16 ingredients.
Krista launched k-bar a year ago after painfully recognizing her own symptoms of type 2 diabetes. A real brush with danger came one day after consuming a large amount of chocolate, which caused her body shut down. While her baby daughter played nearby, she was able to call out to her husband before falling into a four-hour paralysis. “After that I looked in the mirror,” Krista remembers, “and I had all this shame and said, ‘Enough, enough, enough! You have everything you need in life to make it, so take it by the horns.’” Afraid, but motivated, Krista began researching her options. What she found was a new way of eating the right foods and a plan for gradually increasing her physical activity to balance her blood sugar safely and effectively.
For those with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough of the hormone called insulin or, for some reason, the insulin can’t reach the cells. Insulin is essential in order to usher glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells to create energy. Where there is not enough insulin, glucose can build up in the blood instead of entering the cells, leading to diabetes and other complications.
Managing a busy work life, two young daughters and a regular regimen of road-cycling, Krista says at some point she found it hard to grab something to eat on the run because, she says, “I’m pro-food and anti-starving.” Other protein bars she tried were made with large amounts of synthetic (artificial) sweeteners, corn or rice syrup and posed a big challenge to glucose levels. In a quest to satisfy her own search for a convenient way to fuel her body and her new lifestyle, Krista needed to get creative in the kitchen and develop a special recipe. She began by focusing on whole grains, monounsaturated fats and proteins, and refrained from using any type of preservatives. Whole grains, which provide complex carbohydrates, release a steady, slower stream of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream, delivering a more controlled and even dosage. After experimenting with the recipe and testing her creations on herself and friends, she eventually found a combination that made her feel good and she could feel good about.
“I use ingredients that most bars can’t because its not meant to sit on a shelf for a year. When I first started playing around with this, I thought about an organic bar, but the quality was kind of iffy, and most of the organic stuff that I was getting that I could afford was from China and just substandard. So I said, ‘No, we’re not gonna go organic,’ and I went domestic. With the exception of the chocolate, everything in the bars is grown in the United States.” Initially, Krista made the bars for herself and for her cycling friends. She says, however, she would get panicky when running low on the high energy snack, so she decided to try making larger batches and selling them to friends and a few retail locations.
Before being allowed to sell the bars, the recipe had to be analyzed for nutritional labeling. The results came back and reported nine grams of fat in each bar, due to the large amount of nuts and seeds in them. Krista explained that the monounsaturated fats provided by the nuts and seeds are entirely intentional and, “The truth of the matter is everybody is meant to eat fat,” she says. “You have to have calories. Even if you are on a calorie reduction diet, it will keep you safe from feeling hungry and keep you from binging. Even when you’re craving a treat, these are better than a pan of brownies because there’s enough of the healthy fats that you really feel satisfied. It’s not like just a nut bar.” With 10 grams of whey protein in each bar, Krista explains, “it’s for muscle recovery after a good workout because the protein sustains what you’ve built up.”
In order to produce the bars for commercial sale, Krista needed an official commercial kitchen. She began renting space from a bakery in her hometown of Elkhorn, Wisconsin and now makes a fresh batch from scratch two times a week. Producing 400 handmade bars at a time, she also packages, labels, delivers and provides her own marketing for the new company. “k-bars are a complete labor of love,” Krista says, “and I believe in this product with every fiber of my being.”
k-bars are, by no means, meant to exclusively feed athletes or diabetics. However, because they’re such an efficient fuel food and because k-bars never freeze hard, they are ideal for winter sports. A typical protein or snack bar would get rock-hard in your backpack, but k-bars freeze soft (because of the nut and seed oil) while you’re on the trail. The bars can also be kept at room temperature for up to a week and in a refrigerator for up to three months. If you store k-bars in the freezer, they’ll keep indefinitely.
If you’re looking for k-bars at Willy Street Co-op, they’re easy to miss in the Health and Wellness cooler at Willy East and in the Deli on the Grab n’ Go island at Willy West. k-bars are currently only available in one flavor, although Krista reports she is working on a vegan version.
For more information about k-bars, please see their website at: www.k-bars.com.