03.What we found
Thirteen bars met all our nutrition criteria (see the table for details).
- The NESTLÉ Ski D’Lite range has the least energy, saturated fat and sugar. But they’re smaller bars than most (24g compared with an average size of about 32g) so you probably won’t find one as filling.
HOME BRAND Apricot Muesli Bars are the cheapest of the healthier bars. But an apple (included in the table for comparison) is only slightly more expensive and is a much healthier snack than any of them — with only about 320kJ it would give you plenty of fibre plus less sugar than any of these bars, and no fat.
Some of these cereal bars would be more accurately called fat and sugar bars.
We found 14 that only meet one of our nutrition criteria, and even one — NICE & NATURAL Yoghurt Natural Nut Bars — that meets none of them. Most of these are loaded with saturated fat and all of them have far too much sugar (see the table for details).
SUNIBRITE Muesli Slices have as much saturated fat as a good fry-up of two bacon rashers, two fried eggs and a fried tomato — and that’s on top of any trans fat the manufacturers don’t have to tell you about.
- Some of these products should simply be in the confectionery aisle. KELLOGG’S K-time Muffin Bars give you more than three teaspoons (15g) of sugar and CADBURY BrunchBars are 20% chocolate, which pushes them over the limit for energy and saturated fat.
- We included a MARS Bar for comparison and found some cereal bars that give you more kilojoules.
The packaging might show luscious-looking strawberries or cherries but the pieces of ‘fruit’ you find in some of these bars owe more to chemistry than agriculture.
- The “strawberry flavoured pieces” in NESTLÉ Ski D’Lite Apple and Strawberry are made from “strawberry puree 2.3%, apple paste, pear paste, plum paste, invert sugar, sugar, humectant (422), wheat fibre, gelling agent (pectin), food acid (malic acid), flavour (elderberry concentrate)”.
- And the “red cherry fruit pieces” in UNCLE TOBYS Chewy Forest Fruits contain “fruit (red cherry purée (2%), apple paste, pear paste), invert sugar, sugar, humectant (422), wheat fibre, vegetable fat [emulsifier (soy lecithin)], vegetable gum (pectin), food acid (lactic), flavour”.
- The label on UNCLE TOBYS Fruit Roll-Ups Cereal & Fruit Bars (which didn’t make it into our best or worst list) is even more fanciful. It proclaims in big print that they’re “Topped with real fruit”. But hidden in the small print of the ingredients list you’ll find that the “fruit layer” is made from “maltodextrin, glucose, apple purée concentrate (3.8%, which is equivalent to 12% fresh apple), fructose, humectant (glycerol), vegetable fat, modified maize starch, flavours, colours (122, 123, 129, 133), vegetable gum (pectin), food acid (citric acid), firming agent (calcium lactate), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin)”.
UNCLE TOBYS told us it’s changing its packaging and instead of “Topped with real fruit” the label on its Fruit Roll-Ups Cereal & Fruit Bars will say “Contains real fruit”.
But with “apple purée concentrate (3.8%)” the only ingredient that even remotely resembles real fruit, we think ‘cereal and chemical bars’ would be a more realistic description.