Lunchbox-friendly snack bar review


Can nut-free cereal and muesli bars make healthy lunchbox snacks for school kids?

Which snack bars make the grade?


Cereal and muesli bars are a convenient snack to add to the school lunchbox, and tend to have a healthy image. But many are so loaded with saturated fat and sugar, they have more in common with the lollies and cakes most kids would rather eat. 

They're always going to be sweet, because the manufacturers use various kinds of sugars – but usually ordinary sugar (sucrose), glucose or glucose syrup – to make them stick together. But are any cereal or muesli bar products worthy of a place in your child's lunchbox?

In this article:

Lunchbox hits

Most schools have a nut-free policy, which means a lot of snack bars you can buy aren't suitable to pack in your child's lunchbox. In 2016 we sifted through more than 200 products and found 95 snack bars that don't include nuts in their ingredients list – see the table. We then compared these lunchbox-friendly options to find the healthiest. 

Want to know which snack bars are healthiest, nuts and all? See our review of 224 cereal bars, muesli bars, nut bars, raw bars and seed bars.

The following 14 nut-free products received a health star rating of 4 or more, and met our criteria for energy and wholegrains per serve:

  • Goodness Superfoods Better for U Cereal Bars Wild Berries & Yoghurt
  • Freedom Foods Apples and Cinnamon Crunchola Chewy
  • Freedom Foods Apricot, Coconut and Chia Crunchola Chewy
  • Freedom Foods Choc Chip Crunchola Chewy
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Apricot
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Choc Chip
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Forest Fruits
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy White Choc Chip & Raspberry
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy White Choc Chip
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Yoghurt Apricot
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Yoghurt Honeycomb
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Yoghurt Raspberry
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Yoghurt Strawberry
  • Uncle Toby's Chewy Yoghurt Mango Passionfruit

Bear in mind that many of these products are still relatively high in sugars – both added, and from dried fruit that can stick to teeth – and can contribute to tooth decay. Fresh fruit together with a serve of wholegrain crackers such as corn thins would make a healthier lunchbox snack.

Lunchbox misses

  • Kellogg's may promote their LCM bars as "a sure-fire lunchbox hit", but they're a miss when it comes to nutrition. Kellogg's LCMs Split Stix Yoghurty, for example, have a health star rating of just 0.5. And while they're only small (23g a bar), they're high in saturated fat, pack a sugar punch and are among the saltiest products reviewed. Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars (1 star) aren't much better.
  • Fontelle Oven Baked Mini Meal Choc Chip (1 star) is true to its name; a 120g bar provides 2412kJ – as much as a meal, and more than a quarter of the recommended daily energy intake for an adult. Not to mention the 8.5 teaspoons of sugar it crams in too.
  • Coconut and butter feature high up in the ingredients list of Carman's Oat Slice Belgian Chocolate Brownie, Carman's Oat Slice Cranberry & Blueberry and Carman's Oat Slice Golden Oat and Coconut (all 1 star) which may make them tasty but also bring saturated fat to the party. Carman's Oat Slice Golden Oat and Coconut tops the chart, with 19.7% saturated fat. The oat slices in our review were higher in saturated fat and contained more kilojoules per serve on average than other bars, so it's a category best avoided if you're after a healthy choice.

Gluten-free options

While they don't meet our wholegrains criteria, the following gluten-free bars also receive 4 or more stars and meet our energy criteria, so are worth considering for schoolkids who need gluten-free options:

  • Freedom Foods Crafted Blends with Superfoods Pepitas, Spinach & Chickpeas
  • Soma Bite Apple and Superseed
  • Food For Health Cranberry, Apple & Amaranth Bars
  • Freedom Foods Ancient Grains Muesli Bar Cranberries, Apple & Grains
  • Freedom Foods Crafted Blends with Superfoods Cranberries, Pomegranate & Goji Berries
  • Golden Days Seed Bar with Quinoa Apricot & Coconut
  • Golden Days Seed Bar with Quinoa Cranberry
  • Kez's Free & Naked Lamington Bars
  • Kez's Free & Naked Banana Cake Bars

All out of ideas for school lunch? Read our tips for building a healthy lunchbox.

Treacherous for teeth

Eating sugary snacks can be harmful to teeth. The bacteria in our mouths use these sugars to make acid, and if teeth are exposed to this acid long enough it can cause decay. Snack bars, especially the stickier ones, are bad news because the sugar sticks to your teeth. The Australian Dental Association suggests we help stop decay by limiting our intake of these types of snack foods.

How we assessed

We bought all the snack bars we could find in one large Coles, Woolworths and Aldi supermarket in Sydney in March and April 2016, separated those with no nuts on their ingredient list, and evaluated the ingredients and nutrition information on the labels. When choosing bars to recommend, we took into account the following criteria:

  • Health star rating (HSR). The HSR is based on an algorithm which takes into consideration kilojoules and ‘negative’ nutrients (sugars, saturated fat and sodium) associated with increasing the risk factors for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and balances them against the 'positive' aspects of a food – its fruit, vegetable, nuts or legumes content (all valuable sources of a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), as well as protein and dietary fibre content. The data used is per 100g of food. The higher the HSR, the healthier the product.
  • Energy per serve. A healthy snack should fill a hole without giving you too many extra fattening kilojoules. Nutritionists recommend that we limit our energy intake from snacks to 600kJ.
  • Wholegrains per serve. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we choose wholegrain foods most of the time because they contain a range of protective components, such as phytonutrients, which are thought to play an important role in the prevention of disease. The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council says foods must contain a minimum of 8g of wholegrain per serve in order to make a claim about its wholegrain content. (This criteria wasn't used in the assessment of nut bars, raw bars and seed bars.)

Lunchbox-friendly snack bars compared

We compared 95 lunchbox-friendly snack bars in 2016. We've listed them below in order of health star rating (highest to lowest). To order by another criteria, simply click on the column headings.

Product name Health star
rating
Price
per bar ($)*
Bar size
(g)
Energy
per serve (kJ)
Wholegrains
per serve (g)
Protein
(g/100g)
Sat Fat
(g/100g)
Sugars
(g/100g)
Fibre
(g/100g)
Sodium
(mg/100g)
Gluten-free claim
on pack
Country of origin statement
247 White Chocolate and Raspberry Truffle 3 np 40 567 na 25.6 7.3 5.1 12.4 219 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
All Natural Bakery Banana Oat Slice 2 2.69 100 1770 30.0 7.04 11.4 20.12 7.7 179 no Made in Australia
All Natural Bakery Yoghurt Peach and Mango Oat Slice 1.5 2.69 100 1819 30.0 7.66 13.54 23.11 7.1 177 no Made in Australia
Aribar Wholegrain Rice Crispy Bars Vanilla Blast 2.5 1.26 22 380 8.1 3.1 3.5 22 5.1 96 yes Made in Canada
Aribar Wholegrain, Fruit & Veggie Bars Apple, Raisin & Oats 4 1.30 22 360 7.7 6.4 1.7 32.2 7.8 19 no Made in Canada
Aribar Wholegrain, Fruit & Veggie Bars Raspberry, Apple & Oats 4 1.30 22 359 7.7 6.4 1.7 31.7 7.8 19 no Made in Canada
Carman's Oat Slice Belgian Chocolate Brownie 1 0.93 35 680 10.5 7.9 16.5 29.4 6.0 155 no Proudly made in Australia using imported and local ingredients
Carman's Oat Slice Cranberry & Blueberry 1 0.90 35 678 10.2 6.3 19 26 6.2 175 no Proudly made in Australia using the finest local ingredients (when possible) and quality imported ingredients (when not)
Carman's Oat Slice Golden Oat and Coconut 1 0.93 35 684 10.5 6 19.7 23.6 6.5 175 no Proudly made in Australia using the finest local ingredients (when possible) and quality imported ingredients (when not)
Coles Yoghurt Topped Bars Apricot 2.5 0.35 31 561 na 6.1 5.6 26.2 4.8 66 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Coles Yoghurt Topped Bars Strawberry 2 0.35 31 555 na 5.8 7.3 25.2 4.8 90 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Fontelle Oven Baked Mini Meal Choc Chip 1 1.79 120 2412 na 7.2 18.8 28.7 6.2 156 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Food For Health Cranberry Apple & Amaranth Bars 4 1.17 35 507 na 6.5 1.6 15.6 4.3 12.5 yes Australian owned and made
Freedom Foods Ancient Grains Muesli Bar Cranberries, Apple & Grains 4 0.42 29 471 na 5 2.4 21.6 8.9 40 yes Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Freedom Foods Apples and Cinnamon Crunchola Chewy 4 0.83 35 530 15.8 5.7 1.9 15.7 9.4 30 no Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Freedom Foods Apricot, Coconut and Chia Crunchola Chewy 4 0.83 35 530 15.8 6 2.1 14.3 9.7 30 no Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Freedom Foods Choc Chip Crunchola Chewy 4 np 35 580 17.2 6.8 4.4 12.4 9.3 30 no Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Freedom Foods Cocoa Crunch Bar 3.5 0.42 24 396 na 4.7 3.8 20.1 9.1 80 yes Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Freedom Foods Crafted Blends with Superfoods- Cranberries, Pomegranate & Goji Berries 4 2.50 28 466 na 6.5 2.8 21.3 8.3 51 yes Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Freedom Foods Crafted Blends with Superfoods- Pepitas, Spinach & Chickpeas 4.5 2.50 25 411 na 9.7 1.5 15.7 10 164 yes Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Freedom Foods Nut Free Muesli Bar 3.5 0.42 33 552 na 6.3 3.2 20.5 8.6 41 yes Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Freedom Foods Vanilla Shake Crunch Bar 3.5 0.42 24 396 na 4.3 3.6 20.5 8.6 80 yes Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Go Natural Popcorn Snack Bars Apricot Banana 3 np 30 405 na 3.7 0.2 40 4.3 79 yes Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients
Golden Days Seed Bar with Quinoa Apricot & Coconut 4 1.99 30 576 na 12.3 4.9 12.3 8.2 16 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Golden Days Seed Bar with Quinoa Cranberry 4 1.99 30 567 na 11.5 3.3 14.7 7.9 13 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Golden Days Seed Bar with Quinoa Original 4.5 1.99 30 594 na 15 3.5 11.2 7.6 17 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Golden Days Sesame Snaps Dark Chocolate 2 1.04 40 289 na 11.4 8.2 35.3 5.8 63 yes Made in Poland from local and imported ingredients
Golden Days Sesame Snaps Original 2.5 0.77 40 213 na 13.9 4.4 31.1 6.7 85 yes Made in Poland from local and imported ingredients
Golden Days Sesame Snaps Yoghurt 1.5 1.03 40 290 na 11.4 10.5 35.3 3.1 61 yes Made in Poland from local and imported ingredients
Goodness Superfoods Better for U Cereal Bars Wild Berries & Yoghurt 4.5 0.65 35 524 16.1 7.9 2.9 18.9 20.5 32 no This product is made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Hillcrest (Aldi) Bubble Bars Choc Rainbow 3 0.33 20 308 na 2.4 5 27.1 11.3 160 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Bubble Bars Vanilla 3 0.33 20 302 na 1.7 4.8 22.6 12.3 170 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Bubble Bars Vanilla with Chocolate Squiggle 2.5 0.33 20 322 na 2.4 8.3 29.1 10.6 180 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Chewy Muesli Bars Apricot & Yoghurt 1 0.23 31 564 5.9 5.6 10.2 31.3 ns 129 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Chewy Muesli Bars Strawberry & Yoghurt 1 0.23 31 570 9.3 6 11.7 28.1 ns 74 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Chewy Muesli Bars Tropical & Yoghurt 1 0.23 31 577 9.6 6.2 11.7 28.3 ns 80 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Fruity Filled Bars Apple & Cinnamon 3 0.37 37.5 510 na - 0.4 33.6 - 190 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Fruity Filled Bars Apricot 3.5 0.37 37.5 506 na 4.9 0.4 30.6 8.4 190 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Fruity Filled Bars Mixed Berry 3 0.37 37.5 521 na 5.3 0.7 33 8.1 200 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Mrs Millers Oat Bars Apricot & Dark Chocolate 1.5 0.50 40 720 6.4 6.5 11.4 33.7 6.1 210 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Mrs Millers Oat Bars Chocolate Chip 1.5 0.50 40 752 7.6 6.6 12.9 35.5 7 230 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Hillcrest (Aldi) Mrs Millers Oat Bars White Choc & Raspberry 1.5 0.50 40 732 8.8 7.1 12.4 34.3 5 210 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Kellogg's K-Time Twists Raspberry & Apple Flavour 2.5 0.40 37 540 na 3.9 1.1 36.9 5.7 140 no Made in Malaysia
Kellogg's K-Time Twists Strawberry & Blueberry flavour 2.5 0.40 37 544 na 4.2 1.2 35.9 6 150 no Made in Malaysia
Kellogg's K-Time Twists Strawberry & Yoghurt Flavour 2.5 0.40 37 544 na 4.1 1.2 35.1 6 175 no Made in Malaysia
Kellogg's LCM's Golden Joys 1.5 0.53 23 391 na 3.7 5.9 29.2 1.6 275 no Made in Thailand
Kellogg's LCM's Kaleidos 1.5 0.67 22 376 na 4.6 4.3 34.5 1.3 230 no Made in Thailand
Kellogg's LCM's Split Stix Chocolatey 1.5 0.67 23 407 na 3.9 9.4 32.6 1.1 200 no Made in Thailand
Kellogg's LCM's Split Stix Yoghurty 0.5 0.67 23 420 na 3.7 12 34.2 0.4 225 no Made in Thailand
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars 1 0.67 24 420 na 9.9 7.6 36.6 1.8 255 no Made in Thailand
Kellogg's Special K Chocolatey Bars Caramel Flavour 1.5 0.80 21.5 372 na 9.8 6 30.8 2.5 200 no Made in Thailand
Kez's Free & Naked Banana Cake Bars 4 1.20 25 400 na 7.8 1.3 52.8 8.3 14 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients
Kez's Free & Naked Lamington Bars 4 1.20 25 395 na 7.4 5.9 48.2 12.6 6 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices Apple Crumble 1.5 0.67 40 692 12.4 6.5 9.2 28.8 6.3 222 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices Chocolate Chip 2 0.67 40 736 10.8 7.1 11 30.9 6.6 176 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices Chocolate Orange 1.5 0.67 40 740 12.4 7.2 12.1 28.4 7.3 177 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices Golden Oats 2 0.67 40 772 18.8 7.6 15.5 22.4 7.5 169 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices Raspberry & White Chocolate 2 0.67 40 732 11.6 7.6 12.3 26.9 6.7 140 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Nature Valley Crunchy Apple Crisp 2.5 0.94 42 788 22.3 8.1 1.7 28.9 6.1 354 no Made in Spain
Nature Valley Crunchy Dark Chocolate 2.5 0.96 42 818 21.4 8.3 3.4 21.8 7.1 280 no Made in Spain
Nature Valley Crunchy Maple Crunch 2.5 0.96 42 807 23.5 8.9 1.9 27.8 4.7 333 no Made in Spain
Nature Valley Crunchy Oats and Honey 2.5 0.94 42 799 23.5 8 1.7 27.8 5 350 no Made in Spain
Nestle Milo Snack Bar Original 4 0.67 21 334 4.6 5.9 1.5 21.8 10 110 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Nestle Milo Snack Bar with Milk 3 0.67 27 456 5.1 6.3 4.8 24.2 9 100 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Nice & Natural Superfruits Muesli Bar Cranberry & Blueberry 3 0.50 30 456 na 6.9 2.8 29.5 5 57 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Nice & Natural Superfruits Muesli Bar Raspberry & Pomegranate 3 0.50 30 480 na 6.7 2.8 28.9 5.3 60 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Nice & Natural Supergrains Muesli Bar with Apple, Cinnamon, Spelt & Sunflower Seeds 3 0.50 30 486 6.3 6.3 1.3 25.4 5.1 133 no Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients.
Soma Bite Apple and Superseed 4.5 2.99 32 510 na 14.1 4.6 25.6 11 79 yes Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Tasti Muffin Bakes Choc Caramel 2 0.37 40 600 na 4.6 4.3 29.6 ns 96 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Thankyou Superseed & Fruit Bar with Chia and Flaxseed 4 np 45 752 na 9.9 2 19.5 7.8 57 no Proudly made in Australia using local and imported ingredients
Uncle Toby's Chewy Apricot 4 0.67 31.3 490 15.5 7.1 1.9 15.6 11.5 15 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Chewy Choc Chip 4 0.67 31.3 510 15.5 6.9 4.2 17.2 10.9 40 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Crunchy Choc Chip Wholegrain Lunchbox Bars 3 0.67 20 370 9.8 8.3 5.7 19.5 10.2 200 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Farmer's Pick Fig & Apricot 4 1.10 32 450 13.4 9.2 1.3 20.7 10.8 21 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Chewy Forest Fruits 4 0.67 31.3 490 15.5 6.8 2.0 17.1 11.4 12 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Oat Slice Apple & Cinnamon Soft Baked Lunchbox Bars 2.5 0.67 35 595 9.8 6 7.7 19.4 6.6 200 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Oat Slice Choc Chip Soft Baked Lunchbox Bars 3 0.67 35 592 9.5 6.2 8.1 22.1 6.2 170 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Chewy White Choc Chip & Raspberry 4 0.67 31.3 520 15.5 6.6 4.5 19 10.5 15 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Chewy White Choc Chip 4 0.67 31.3 520 15.5 6.6 4.5 17.7 10.9 15 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Apricot 4 0.67 31.3 510 15.5 7.1 4.3 17.9 10.7 20 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Honeycomb 4 0.67 31.3 520 15.5 6.8 4.7 16.5 11 18 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Raspberry 4 0.67 31.3 510 15.5 7.0 4.3 18.4 10.5 20 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Strawberry 4 0.67 31.3 510 15.5 7.0 4.3 18.5 10.5 20 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Uncle Toby's Yoghurt Mango Passionfruit  4 0.67 31.3 510 15.5 7.0 4.3 18.1 10.4 22 no Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
Weight Watchers Caramel Shortcake Baked Bar 1.5 0.57 22 363 na 4.3 7.4 29.2 2.8 326 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Weight Watchers Choc Delight Indulgent Bar 1.5 0.80 21 361 na 4.8 9.7 36.4 7.4 219 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Weight Watchers Coconut Delight Indulgent Bar 1.5 0.80 21 374 2.1 4.3 12.5 37 7.7 212 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Weight Watchers Raspberry & White Chocolate 2 0.57 22 354 na 4.2 6.5 33.1 4.7 157 no Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Woolworths Homebrand Oven Baked Fruit Bars Apple 3 0.36 37.5 525 na 4.5 <1.0 33.9 4.2 140 no Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Woolworths Homebrand Oven Baked Fruit Bars Apple & Blueberry 2.5 0.36 37.5 529 na 4.3 <1.0 40.7 3 140 no Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Woolworths Homebrand Strawberry Yoghurt Muesli Bars 2 0.24 25 432 11.5 5.2 7.2 19.1 4.6 23 no Made in Australia
Woolworths Select Muesli Bar Chewy Choc Chip 3 0.40 30 489 12.0 7 5 23 7 40 no Made in Australia
Woolworths Select Muesli Bar Choc Honeycomb 3 0.40 30 504 12.0 7 5 17 5 46 no Made in Australia
Woolworths Select Muesli Bar Yoghurt Apricot 3 0.40 30 495 11.7 6 5 21 6 40 no Made in Australia
Woolworths Select Muesli Bar Yoghurt Strawberry 3 0.40 30 501 11.7 6 5 22 5 45 no Made in Australia

TABLE NOTES

  • *Price is per bar, based on price paid per bar/pack in Sydney supermarkets in March/April 2016. 
  • na information not available or not applicable
  • ns not stated 
  • np not purchased


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