‘Health bars’ not so healthy after all

Dieters looking for a healthy snack to stem their sweet cravings may be disappointed to learn that health bars/cereal bars marketed as healthy alternatives to chocolate and biscuits, are in fact packed with sugar and saturated fat.

The revelation comes from a survey by consumer group Which?, which compared the sugar and fat content of 30 popular bars to establish just how healthy they really were.

All of the ‘health’ snacks were found to be very high in sugar, with over half containing more than 30%. Here are some of Which?’s findings:

  • The Nutri-Grain Elevenses was found to contain more sugar than a small can of cola (18g), coming in at 20% of the daily recommended allowance.
  • The Tracker Roasted Nut bar turned out to be one third fat, which, although partly from the nutritious hazelnuts and peanuts, consisted mostly of vegetable and harmful hydrogenated fats.
  • More disturbing was that one cereal bar aimed at children – ‘Monster Puffs’, advertised as ‘great for your lunchbox’ – contained 43.5% sugar.
  • Six out of seven of the bars aimed at children were high in saturated fat as well as sugar.
  • Which? used the traffic-light code system to compare the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in all 30 of the bars to identify the healthiest. They found that the only bar to have three green traffic lights for fat, saturated fat and salt was the Alpen Light Apple and Sultana.

The Naked Apple Pie was the only bar to contain no added sugar, and the best option for children was the Weetabix Strawberry Crusher bar, with green salt (low) and orange fat and saturated fat (medium).

Which? is now urging health bar manufacturers to reduce the sugar and fat content of their products and to introduce stricter controls on how they market them.

The group’s executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “People often choose cereal bars in the belief they are healthier than chocolate or biscuits but our research shows this can be a myth.”

The best way to ensure your snacks really are as healthy as they say on the packet is to either read the nutritional information, or choose raw ingredients to snack on, such as a handful of dried fruit and nuts, or a portion of fruit.

For information on how to keep a healthy, balanced diet, please visit our Balanced Diet page.

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Written by Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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