I do enjoy cereal bars. They are a quick to eat, nicely packaged, portable breakfast or snack food. They don’t need to be kept cold, they have healthy ingredients, and easily slip into a pocket or handbag. But am I fooling myself that these products are healthy? Some instinct tells me that despite the cereals and fruit included they may be no better than a chocolate bar. So I going to do some anecdotal tests … I shall choose my four favourite cereal bars, and then four chocolate bars, and compare them all to a set of healthy criteria and see how they measure up. Obviously, anecdotal evidence isn’t really that scientific, but maybe it will give me an idea as to whether cereal bars should be a regular part of my diet, or an occasional treat.
These are the criteria that the supermarkets use to determine whether a food is high, medium or low in fat and sugar.
High: more than 20g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 15g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 6g per 100g
“Source” of fibre: more than 3g per 100g
Double Decker – Milk chocolate with a soft, chewy nougat top and crunchy cereal bottom
Total calories per bar – 275
Calories – 460
Sugar – 54.9g - HIGH
Fat - 18.5g - MEDIUM
Fibre – 1.4g - LOW
First five ingredients listed: Nougat (36%), Milk chocolate, Sugar, Crispy cereal (6%), Vegetable fat
Comments: this bar has the lowest fat content of the four I reviewed.
Picnic – Milk chocolate with caramel, peanut, crispy cereal and raisin centre
Total calories per bar – 230
Calories – 475
Sugar – 47.4g – HIGH
Fat – 22.6g - HIGH
Fibre – 2.1g – LOW
First five ingredients listed: Milk chocolate, Caramel (32%), Peanuts (12%), Crispy cereal (10%), Sugar
Comments: this is probably the healthiest chocolate bar of the four due to the nuts and cereal content.
Toffee Crisp – Toffee and crisped cereal filled milk chocolate
Total calories per bar – 229
Calories – 520
Sugar – information not provided
Fat – 27.7g – HIGH
Fibre – information not provided
First five ingredients listed: Milk chocolate, Vegetable fat, Crisped cereal, sugar, Glucose syrup
Comments: this chocolate bar includes some vitamins and minerals as part of the crisped cereal.
Kitkat – Four crispy wafer fingers covered with dark chocolate
Total calories per bar – 243
Calories - 535
Sugar - information not provided
Fat – 33.5g - HIGH
Fibre – information not provided
First five ingredients listed: Dark chocolate (66%), Wheat flour, Sugar, Vegetable fat, Cocoa mass
Comments: the unhealthiest chocolate bar of the four.
Jordans Frusli – Wholegrain oat cereal bars with sultanas, dried apple slices and apple and cinnamon puree pieces
Total calories per bar – 111
Calories – 369
Sugar – 36.1g – HIGH
Fat - 7.8g - MEDIUM
Fibre – 4.6g – MEDIUM
First five ingredients listed: Wholegrain oat flakes (29%), Dried fruit (29%), Glucose syrup, Raw cane sugar, Wholegrain oat flour
Comments: some very good quality ingredients, but high sugar content despite being marketed as “wholesome energy”, joint lowest in fat of the cereal bars.
Kelloggs Nutrigrain – A soft golden baked crust made with wheat, wholegrain oats and a strawberry filing
Total calories per bar – 133
Calories – 359
Sugar – 33g – HIGH
Fat – 8g - MEDIUM
Fibre – 3.5g – MEDIUM
First five ingredients listed: Cereals (32%), Glucose-fructose syrup, Sugar, Fructose, Strawberry puree from concentrate (7.5%)
Comments: contains some vitamins, joint lowest in fat of the cereal bars.
Alpen Raspberry and Yogurt – Mixed cereal bar with apple and raspberry, dipped and drizzled with a yogurt flavour coating
Total calories per bar – 120
Calories – 414
Sugar – 37.3g – HIGH
Fat – 10.2g - MEDIUM
Fibre – 2.1g – MEDIUM
First five ingredients listed: Cereals (34%), Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Fruit Juice Concentrate
Comments: as an aside, the raspberry flavour in this tasted quite artificial.
Kelloggs Fibre Plus – Dark chocolate and almond cereal bars
Total calories per bar - 116
Calories – 415
Sugar – 18g – HIGH
Fat – 17g - MEDIUM
Fibre - 18g – HIGH
First five ingredients listed: Cereals, Chocolate (21%), Oligofructose, Glucose Syrup, Almonds (5%)
Comments: best for fibre – which is what this product is marketed for anyway, lowest in sugar of the cereal bars.
- Cereal bars are better for you than chocolate bars, but only in a relative sense
- A cereal bar has fewer calories than a chocolate bar mainly because it weighs a lot less (about half normally)
- The sugar content of cereal bars, a product marketed as a healthy breakfast, is shocking
- I suspect the same is true of many commercial cereals, especially the children’s ones
- Some cereal bars do contain good quality ingredients
I conclude therefore that I should probably not eat cereal bars on a daily basis, but once or twice a week if I’m in a rush is probably okay. I definitely shouldn’t eat chocolate bars every day, but then I knew that anyway! My cereal bar of choice tends to be the Fibre Plus bar, mainly because of the fibre and the nice chocolaty taste. Apart from the fibre issue, if I have to have cereal bars, probably the Frusli bar is the best choice because even though it has high sugar content, it does at least have good quality organic ingredients.