Don't go for a quick and easy on-the-go snack believing it's 'healthy'... Learn the secrets about cereal bars and choose a healthier alternative!
As we return to a new school term, traffic builds up again and our schedules become more loaded, it’s easy to just grab breakfast on the go or even skip it altogether and reach for a mid-morning snack to beat the slump.
Although convenient and tasty, cereal bars have grown in popularity over the years with supermarkets stocking a large range of bars that easily fit in a lunch box or pocket and claim to be nutritious and healthy. However, a recent in-depth survey by the consumer magazine Which?, has pointed the finger at many of these bars and their health claims, highlighting the high levels of sugar and fat they hide and which consumers may not be aware of.
Sugary biscuit bars: Many bars contain dried fruit and therefore natural sugars which will add calories but not empty ones as they provide vitamins, minerals and fibre. The main concern is the added sugar that is often listed cryptically on the food label: anything with ‘syrup’ or that ends with ‘ose’ (like dextrose and lactose) are usually in the sugar family. Worryingly, some bars contain even more sugar than two chocolate chip cookies and therefore need to be treated as biscuits in your daily diet.
Fatty bars: Many bars contain nuts that are naturally high in fat but of the type that promotes healthy cholesterol levels: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However, other fats are added in the manufacturing process which may increase levels of the less heart-healthy saturated fats and, even worse, hydrogenated fats that raise LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels while decreasing levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.
Snacking has a place in a heart-healthy diet as long as healthy, low-fat and low-sugar options are chosen. So, if you’re feeling peckish, make sure you include some anti-oxidant rich fruit, a low-fat and low-sugar yoghurt or a small wholemeal sandwich with a protein filling. An occasional bar is fine, just check the label and go for green as often is possible:
Green is good’ = less than 3g fat per 100g and less than 5g sugar per 100g
Red is bad’ = more than 20g fat per 100g and more than 12.5g sugar per 100g.
Keep an eye on those cereal bars, some of them are just like eating biscuits.