Cubicle Cuisine Test: Mini Babybel® Cheeses
This week, our Cubicle Cuisine reviewers sampled a 100% natural product made without additives, colors or flavorings: Mini Babybel® cheeses! The testers tried Mini Babybel® Original and Light, both Edam cheeses, made with whole and part-skim milk. Mini Babybels are available in other varieties, including Gouda, Cheddar and Bonbel (Swiss Emmental).
Before we look at nutrition and taste, let’s get to the best part – the packaging. Each Mini Babybel is an adorable 3/4-ounce cheese round encased in a colorful protective wax jacket and packaged in counts of 6 or 12 in a white plastic mesh. The wax, which is non-toxic made with dyes of plant origin, is removed by pulling a center tab to split the casing in two. That little action appeals to the kid in everyone, and then, even better, the wax makes an amusing plaything to roll around and mold.
Nutrition-wise, cheese is a mixed bag. It is a nutrient dense food that provides a high concentration of nutrients relative to its calorie count. Cheese supplies lots of protein, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, Vitamin A, and other essential nutrients. But it also furnishes fat and saturated fat depending on whether the milk-base is whole, reduced fat or nonfat. The sodium content is almost always high because of the salts added during cheese-making.
Mini Babybels contain these ingredients: milk, salt, milk ferments, vegetarian rennet, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Mini Babybel Light received an A- grade due to a relatively low saturated fat and sodium content. Original and other non-light varieties earned a C+ grade because each serving has 4 grams of saturated fat - one quarter of the daily limit on a 1600 calorie diet. Mini Babybels are suitable for lacto-vegetarians.
But our reviewers focused on the taste and convenience, and this is what they said about Mini Babybel® Original and Light Cheese:
(1) Describe the taste
Mini Babybels are very mild cheeses – along the lines of string cheese or Monterey jack. Some reviewers preferred the Light because it was less salty, others preferred the Original because it was more salty, and still others found no difference between the two cheeses at all.
(2) Describe the texture
All reviewers said the Original was creamy, but only half said the same about the Light. One called the Light “stringy”. All reviewers longed for a cracker with their cheese.
(3) What did you like about it?
The calories are low and there is no temptation to eat more than one.
It satisfied hunger for several hours and salt cravings too. These babies were fun to pop into the mouth whole.
(4) What didn’t you like about it?
The wax casing and tab could be annoying and it left a cheesy residue on the fingers. The need for refrigeration is inconvenient. (Note: The producer says it is fine to take Mini Babybels to school and work in a lunchbox, or to take them on a picnic provided they are kept in a cool environment that is not in direct sunlight.)
(5) Did it satisfy your snack craving?
Yes, but they still wanted crackers.
(6) Would you recommend this snack to your friends?
All reviewers would recommend the Original, but only some recommended the Light.
(7) How does this food compare to similar and competing products?
Babybels have more heft than The Laughing Cow wedges. Kids might prefer to eat cheese in this form.
As a dietitian, I make room in my diet for cheese. It is a meat-substitute, and so I eat it instead of - not in addition to - meat sometimes. Because I normally eat lots of plant foods, I am usually under my saturated fat and sodium daily goals. But, I liked the Light version and so I would buy it for lunch and snacks. I would save my "splurge cheese calories" for a fine French Brie with my friends on Saturday night. When my daughter was little, I would pack Mini Babybels in her lunchbox for a "Meat Group" food. I don't think the cost is prohibitive because there is no waste and you're paying for high quality protein.
Question for you:
Do you go for Mini Babybels?
Since we wrote this article, we’ve determined there were a few factual errors we want to correct. Mini Babybel® are semi-soft cheeses, packaged in counts of 6, 22 or 28. The mesh is not white on all of the flavors, and the wax is not edible (the article mentioned that it’s non-toxic but we don’t want to create the impression that it can be eaten). The ingredients in Mini Babybel® Original and Light are pasteurized cultured milk, salt, and enzymes. Finally, we wrote that Mini Babybel® should be kept in a cool environment, but we should be more specific and mention that these products should be refrigerated.