Friday, 9 May 2014

Food Review: Snack Bars

Snack bars, cereal bars, breakfast bars, energy bars, what ever you like to call them, they are taking over our supermarket shelves. We are always short on time, and looking for new ways to eat on the go when we don’t have time to sit down and have a meal or snack or just need a quick energy fix when we are going about our day. We all know those days. One of the quickest way to have chosen to have our energy fix is by having a cereal bar, it has become a convenience food. However, not all of them are as good as they seem. In this blog I am going to review just some the bars I found on the supermarket shelves.



The sales of cereal bars (energy bars or snack bars) have risen in the last 5 years. There shelf space for them has increased with so many different brands, types and flavours to choose from now, we often get confused as to which to choose. So I decided it was time to compile a list of some of the cereal bars, there are many more out there, and sort out which were good, bad and ok.


I decided to look at saturated fat as well as sugar in this research, as eating a diet high in saturated fat can cause the level of cholesterol in your blood to build up over time. Raised cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Over half of adults in the UK have high cholesterol (BNF). This is a high statistic and it can be easily prevented and lowered by simply following a healthy balanced diet and regular physical activity. 




It is recommended that added sugars should make up no more than 10% of our total energy (calorie) intake per day. This is now being reduced to 5% by the World Health Organisation, which just goes to show how much we are having and how much we should actually be having.

Remember the cut-off points for sugar for adults (will be even lower for children), when reading food labels. Anything at and below 5g per 100g is a considered as low amount of sugar where as anything at above 22.5g per 100g is considered as a high amount of sugar. Therefore anything between 6-22g of sugar per 100g is moderate.

 Sugar and saturated fat cut-off points
Scale
Sugar (g/100g)
Saturated Fat (g/100g)
Low
5
1.5
Moderate
6-22
1.6-4.9
High
22.5
5

I have compiled a table below of what I found from the snack bars I looked at. It is also important to look at the ingredients list to see where the sugar and fat is coming from. Remember, it is not all about the calorie content but about what the bulk of the food product is made from and the first three ingredients will give you an idea of what the bar mostly contains, as it has to be listed from highest to lowest in terms of weight. 

Nutritional Comparison on Snack Bars

Name
Calories (kcal)
Sugar (g)
Saturated Fat (g)
First 3 ingredients
Cost
(per bar)

Per Bar
Per Bar
Per 100g
Per 100g


9 Bar
Pumpkin
(40g bar)
204
9.4
23.5
6.6
Mixed seeds 48%, pumpkin seeds, honey.
50p
Alpen Light
Apple & Sultana (21g bar)
59
4.3
20.6
1.4
Cereals 39%, prebiotic oligofructose, sultana’s.
40p
Cadbury Brunch Bar
Raisin
(32g bar)
150
14.9
42.5
8.1
Milk chocolate 22%, oat flakes, invert sugar syrup.
16p
Eat Natural
Almond and Apricot (35g bar)
162
6.0
17.2
16.9
Yoghurt flavour coating, dried apricots, almonds.
50p
Mc Vitie’s Go Ahead!
Fruit Raspberry
 (35g bar)
130
12.0
34.4
2.0
Raspberry flavoured fruit filling 50%, humectant glycerine, dried glucose syrup.
38p
Mc Vitie’s Medley
Raisin and Milk Choc (30g bar)
127
9.8
31.6
4.4
Rolled oats 22%, glucose syrup, milk chocolate.
31p
Nakd
Banana bread
 (30g bar)
92
10.0
35.0
1.0
Dates 37%, bananas, oats.
60p
Nature Valley
Oats & Honey
 (42g bar)
192
11.9
28.3
2.4
Whole grain rolled oats (52%), sugar, sunflower oil.
23p
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain
Strawberry (37g bar)
133
12.0
32.5
2.7
Cereals 32%, glucose-fructose syrup, sugars.
36p
Kellogg’s Special K
Cereal Bar Red Berry (23g Bar)
89
8.0
36.0
3.0
Cereals, glucose syrup, cranberry fruit pieces.
20p
Tracker
Chocolate Chip
(26g bar)
126
8.0
30.6
10.2
Glucose syrup, whole oat flakes, peanuts.
33p


 
 
  
From this you can see that cereal bars are not the healthiest food in general. All of them except for two are considered to have a high amount of sugar

Look at it this way, 
4g of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon, 
with that in mind the Cadbury brunch bar 
which has about 15g of sugar in just one 32g bar, 
that’s about 4 teaspoons of sugar in a few bites. 

This will definitely make you look at the snack bars and other sugary foods differently. Just like how one can of fizzy drink contains 39g of sugar that’s about 10 teaspoons of sugar in one 330ml can. It just makes me think of all the sugar in the mouth causing tooth decay and in the body turning into fat. 

So, here's my verdict on top 3 on the (kinda) healthiest snack bars from the ones I looked at:
  1. Alpen – low in fat and sugar only 59kcals. The prebiotic oligofructose is an insoluble fibre required for a healthy digestive system,
  2. Nakd – low in fat, natural ingredients and only 92kcals.
  3. 9 bar Although its 204kcals contains all natural ingredients, also contains raw sugar and vegetable oil.

I like to look at the ingredients; I know most people will be looking at the calorie content and sometimes you should but you have to look at the bigger picture too. I’m looking for natural healthy ingredients, none of that syrupy and sugary stuff.

Although, you could easily make your own snacks bars in bulk, wrap them up and store them for your own convenience. It’s really not that hard, I will definitely get on the case and get you a healthy nutritious recipe which is quick and easy to make.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask by commenting below and I will try my best to answer your question and get back to you. 


Be Happy! Be Healthy!



DISCLAIMER: A H Nutritionist haven’t been asked to promote or endorse any of the products mentioned in this blog. Thank you. 

By Ayshabibi H.
A H Nutritionist
9th May 2013