As far as snack appeal goes, you could say chocolate-flavoured muesli bars have it covered. There’s the obvious drawcard of the chocolate – a delicious pick-me-up for the mid-morning or mid-arvo slump at work and a hit with kids for the lunchbox. And of course muesli bars are healthy, right?
We sampled 11 snack bars from Aldi, Be Natural, Carman’s, Nature Valley and more – all oat-based muesli bars, granola bars or oat slices of the chocolate variety – to see which ones raise the bar for taste and nutrition.
Members of the public took part in a blind tasting to vote for their favourite muesli bar. See how we test, below, for more details. Our overall CHOICE scores reflect both taste (70%) and nutrition (30%).
The table below shows how the 11 bars we tested ranked.
Uncle Tobys Chewy Choc Chip
Woolworths Chewy Muesli Bars Choc Drizzle
Coles Choc Chip Muesli Bars
When choosing a lunchbox-friendly snack bar, there are a few things to think about:
- Nutrition. A muesli bar with chocolate is always going to be appealing, so if it's nutritious as well, it's a win-win. See the healthiest bars below.
- Energy per serve. A healthy snack should fill a hole without giving you too many unnecessary kilojoules. Nutritionists recommend that we limit our energy intake from snacks to 600kJ.
- Nut-free. Many schools have a nut-free policy, so you need to avoid bars with nuts in the ingredients list (which rules out Aldi's Hillcrest Chewy Choc Squiggle Muesli Bars, as they contain almonds).
Of the 11 products we tested, these three muesli bars scored highest for nutrition (70% and above) and tick the boxes for being less than 600kJ per serve and nut-free:
3 healthiest nut-free muesli bars
- Uncle Tobys Chewy Choc Chip (CHOICE score 73%)
- Woolworths Chewy Muesli Bars Choc Drizzle (72%)
- Coles Choc Chip Muesli Bars (71% – also one of the three cheapest products in the test)
McVitie's Hobnob Snack Bar Milk Chocolate and Coconut
Be Natural Crunchy Granola Bars Choc Chip Chia
If you put delicious before nutritious, these two bars were voted tastiest (with taste scores of 80% and above) by members of the public.
2 tastiest muesli bars
- Be Natural Crunchy Granola Bars Choc Chip Chia (overall score 71%)
- McVitie's Hobnob Snack Bar Milk Chocolate and Coconut (71%)
Packs of muesli bars – even the chocolate ones – are littered with claims promoting their 'goodness': 'Source of fibre', 'No artificial colours & flavours', 'Plant power', 'Source of whole grains' to name just a few.
Word for word, these claims are true. The 11 bars we sampled all have predominantly plant-based ingredients and contain few or no animal products, they're free from artificial colours and flavours, and they all meet the requirements for claiming to be a source of fibre (at least 2 grams of fibre per serve) and whole grains (a minimum 8 grams of whole grain per serve).
But while these claims help create a healthy image, the truth is that many snack bars – muesli, granola bars, oat slices or otherwise – are anything but good for you. Many contain high amounts of saturated fat. And they're always going to be sweet because the manufacturers use various kinds of sugars to make them stick together. Among the ingredients of the 11 products we tested, we found sugar, glucose, invert sugar, honey, raw sugar, glucose syrup, grape-juice concentrate, invert syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, partially inverted sugar syrup, molasses, brown sugar and caramelised sugar.
You can choose one of the healthier options (compare Health Star Ratings if they're shown on pack and choose the highest) or you can limit how much you eat (a serve that gives you 600kJ at most). But it's best to consider them as an occasional treat rather than an everyday snack.
CHOICE staff running our blind tasting
We included muesli bars, granola bars and oat slices – essentially all snack bars with oats listed as the first ingredient – that are sold in multipacks in the snack aisle of major supermarkets nationally. To make the sample size manageable for our taste test, we focused on products with a chocolate flavour – the choc chip variety where available, otherwise choc drizzle or coating. Price is based on price in stores (not on special) in June 2019. We tested 11 snack bars in total.
We set up a blind tasting in a shopping centre in Campbelltown, NSW, and invited members of the public to participate. Each product was given a code and its brand concealed. For each sample tasted, people decided if they disliked, liked or loved it. Participants tasted and voted on a total of 578 samples across all 11 snack bars. A minimum of 43 taste tests were completed per product.
The overall score is made up of taste 70% and nutrition 30% (based on its Health Star Rating, which we calculated from the details in the nutrition information panel and converted to a percentage). We calculated the taste score as an average of all responses, where 'dislike' is scaled at 25, 'like' at 70 and 'love' at 100.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.