Some Muesli Bars Have No Benefit

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Cereal or muesli bars are promoted as healthy, natural and light snacks and they are often found in the health food section of your supermarket. Choice's Indira Naidoo said the magazine's latest investigation shows, while some are okay, the majority are far from nutritious."They are only small but you can pack a lot of sugar and fat into very small packages," she said.

"Consumers just go by the packaging if it has oats and grains in it they think it must be a nutritious snack."The report reveals the healthiest bars and the unhealthiest ones that are packed with bad fats, sugar and fake fruit. "They more appropriately should be called fat, sugar and chemical bars because that is really what you are consuming," Indira said.

Choice tested 150 supermarket cereal bars and measured the amount of kilojoules, sugar, saturated fat, whole grains and dietary fibre. Acceptable bars had to have less than 600kj, no more than 1.5g of saturated fat per bar, no more than 10g of sugar and at least 1.8g of dietary fibre per bar. Indira said most of them tended to be loaded with fat and some of them were up to 20 per cent sugar. "When you looked at the nutritional label at the back they had as much saturated fat as a fry-up breakfast."

The worst of 150 bars
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bar, Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Choc Malt, Cadbury BrunchBar Raisin, Cadbury BrunchBar Cranberry and Orange, Coles Savings Choc Coated Muesli bars with Honeycomb and Nut, Tasti Muffin Bakes Blueberry Delight and Kellogg's K-Time Muffin Bars Sultana and Apple Bake.

Even worse and with more kilojoules than a Mars Bar were Nice & Natural Yogurt Natural Nut Bars, Kellogg's K-Time with Strawberry and Vanilla, Kellogg's K-Time Muffin Bars with Apple, Kellogg's K-Time Muffin Bars with Blueberry, Be Natural Almond and Apricot Bars and with almost 900kj, Sunibrite Muesli Slices and Sunibrite Apricot & Muesli Slices.

Nice and Natural Yogurt Nut bars did not meet one of Choice's nutritional criteria and the Sunibrite Muesli Slice has as much saturated fat as a fried breakfast of two eggs, two rashes of bacon and a fried tomato.

Indira said if you have one or two of these bars a day, that is a meal."That is a lunch or a dinner because an average woman's kilojoule intake should not exceed 10,000kj per day," she said."You are needing to put aside a meal, just to have these."

Choice found in a lot of bars, the so-called fruit, more likely comes from a laboratory than an orchard.The ingredients list discloses a multitude of chemicals."In terms of real fruit, most of these bars, other than a very little bit of apple concentrated puree, didn't have any real fruit in them," Indira said.

The best of 150 cereal bars
Nestle Ski D'lite Apple and Pear, Nestle Ski D'lite Apple and Cinnamon, Nestle Ski D'lite Apple and Strawberry, Fit and Active Grains Delight, Coles Farmland Chewy Muesli Bars Choc Chip, Nice & Natural Apricot Muesli Bars, Uncle Toby's Chewy Muesli Bars Apricot, Uncle Toby's Chewy Muesli Bars Choc Chip, Uncle Toby's Chewy Muesli Bars Forest Fruits, Uncle Toby's Chewy White Choc Chip, Home Brand Muesli Bars Apricot, Nice and Natural Choc Chip Muesli Bars, AO Apricot and Almond Bars.

"We found only 13 met the nutritional requirements in terms of its fibre content, being low in fat and sugar and having a good grain content from rolled oats," Indira said. "Many are not a replacement for the fibre, antioxidants and nutrients that you find in an apple and if you are tossing up what to opt for in the kids' lunchbox, we would always recommend to put in a piece of fruit rather than one of these bars."