In my opinion, Pop Tarts are pretty much the perfect food for a training ride. They are cheap, they taste decent, they are easy to eat, they are high in calories, they have some salt, and the package fits into the back pocket of your jersey so perfectly that it’s like it was meant to go there.
Sure, it’s junk food. Sure, it’s highly processed. Sure, there are ingredients in them that I struggle pronounce. I still love them anyway.
I usually go with the Unfrosted Strawberry. The Unfrosted varieties are the only ones that are vegan (the frosting has gelatin). Each tart has 210 calories, which is approximately equivalent to two gels (depending on the brand of gels).
I wouldn’t bother with Pop Tarts in a crit. I just do TriFuel in my bottles, and maybe a gel if it’s an extra long crit. If you are properly fueled before a crit, you shouldn’t need more than a calorie bottle and gel. Pop Tarts work well for me in road races, and definitely on training rides.
I tried some of the Alan Lim Feedzone Portables. They are tasty, but it takes some prep work. I love the rice cakes, but they aren’t as easy to eat as Pop Tarts during a race. Overall, the Pop Tarts are more convenient; and between working full time, spending time with Sarah, doing all my extra activities I do, and riding 250+ miles per week, convenience is really important to me.
Pro tip: If you are wearing big gloves, it could be difficult to open the package as you are riding. To get around this, I take them out of the package before I ride and wrap each tart in aluminum foil. It makes them even easier to eat.