Your Next Bodega Breakfast Meal Bar

Photo May 19, 3 37 48 PM
Photo May 19, 3 37 56 PM
Photo May 19, 3 37 48 PM
Photo May 19, 3 37 56 PM
Photo May 19, 3 37 48 PM
Photo May 19, 3 37 56 PM

I have something wrong with my internal clock. Let's say, for instance, that I want to really hit the ground running and show up for work at 8 am. The sun will be softly coming through our eastern-facing windows, the thermostat is mine for the fiddling, and I'll have at least an hour before the next person is likely to arrive. Peaceful solitude—the only environment in which to write a good mascara review, really. So I set my alarm for 6:30, my brain all like, “Ab-so-lutely! An hour to get ready and half-an-hour to commute.” Then, at 6:30, with the “Chimes' tone on mind-numbing repeat, it's like, “Hold on, Steve Aoki just pulled up to your penthouse apartment and he brought Prosecco and your 3rd-grade sticker collection. Now's not the time for this...'waking up' thing.” Even if I do make it out of bed, a voice/urge inside directs me to try a time-intensive eyeliner look, or to deep-condition in the shower—anything to delay me from getting to the office at the intended hour.

From pillow to stoop, the ordeal is exhausting—I'll need a snack, even if I am running late, which I will be. I pass five breakfasting options on my two-block commute to the train, and only one of them meets all of my needs: perfectly yellow bananas, iced coffee, no credit card minimums (well, it did have a $10 minimum, which I met with a sweet, Texan-accented naiveté and a wide-eyed smile), and a large selection of meal bars. I've done this dance for over a year now, and have tried every meal bar known to Mann—the guy who places all the orders at the bodega (I talked him into carrying the entire Ben & Jerry's Cores line; he's great). And time and time again, I come back to the Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie—stats described below apply to the “Original' flavor.

I don't ask for much from my meal bars, but I have a few requirements:

-They have to be under 300 calories. If you're familiar with the “calories in = calories out' weight management philosophy, you'll understand that, as someone who sits in a squishy chair all day and works out only thrice weekly on a squishy twin-bed contraption, I calculate that, in order to maintain my current weight, I should be consuming approximately 64 calories a day—as much as I probably burn walking up the subway steps, typing, and sleeping. I give myself wiggle room of about 1200 to 2000 calories, but I try to keep this all in check. For breakfast, 300 just feels right. The Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie clocks in at 271.

-They should be low in sugar. You can't even freely consume most juices anymore because somebody, at some point, realized that a lot of them are full of sugar. The MSBC has four grams.

-They need to be high in protein—that's what keeps me full until my next eating opportunity arises! The MSBC has 12 g's.

-I need to recognize and be able to pronounce everything in the ingredient list. The only thing I'm curious about on the MSBC's 13-ingredient list is sunflower lecithin, but I like sunflowers so I'll let it slide.

-'Wholes' are a plus. Whole grain, whole wheat... MSBC has both.

-Fiber! Fiber is good for you. They make entire commercials about how much fiber stuff has in it. The MSBC has 34% of your daily recommended intake.

-They should be edible. Contrary to popular belief, all meal-replacement bars are not actually meant for human consumption. Many are meant as door stops and hard modeling clay. My favorite MSBC flavors are the Original, the Peanut Butter Berry (pictured), and the gluten-free Apple Quinoa. They're moist, crumbly, and suspiciously sweeter than the four grams of sugar implies.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Photos by Elizabeth Brockway.