Cereal bars – can they really be healthy?

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.

Total fat
High: more than 20g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Sugars
High: more than 15g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

Fibre
High: more than 6g per 100g
“Source” of fibre: more than 3g per 100g

Chocolate bars

Double DeckerMilk chocolate with a soft, chewy nougat top and crunchy cereal bottom

Total calories per bar – 275

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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.

Cereal bars

Jordans Frusli – Wholegrain oat cereal bars with sultanas, dried apple slices and apple and cinnamon puree pieces

Total calories per bar – 111

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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

Per 100g:
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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

 

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  1. Helen Says:

    Hi have you tried the Ludlow Nut Companies Cereal bars they are only got 14.4g of sugar per bar which is 28.8g per 100g and only a total of 388kcal for 100g, there sugar
    are pure organic date syrup.
    Although i dont eat them every day i eat them at work and they are fabulous.
    I can manage on a bowl of soup and a natural cereal bar and that will keep me going till tea.
    Have a look at their products on
    http://www.ludlownutco.co.uk/snacks/all-natural-cereal-bar.html
    and see what you think

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