Few cereal bars deserve their healthy image, as new research from Which? reveals high levels of fat, sugar and calories.
All but one of the 30 cereal bars Which? compared from best-selling brands were high in sugar with 16 bars over 30 per cent sugar. One bar (Nutrigrain Elevensies) contained nearly four teaspoons’ worth of sugar (18g) – that’s more sugar than in a small 150ml can of cola (15.9g) and 20% of your recommended daily allowance. Almost a third of a Tracker Roasted Nut bar was found to be fat and, while some of this comes from the peanuts and hazelnuts content providing some nutritional benefit, the ingredients also contained vegetable fat.
Monster Puffs, a cereal bar marketed to children and described as “great for your lunchbox”, shockingly contained 43.5% sugar, the equivalent of more than 2 teaspoons of sugar. Six out of the seven cereal bars targeted at children were high in saturated fat which, if eaten in large quantities, raises cholesterol levels. Which? wants to see manufacturers reduce levels of sugar and fat in food products marketed to children and tighter controls over the way these are promoted.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“People often choose cereal bars in the belief they’re healthier than chocolate or biscuits but our research shows this can be a myth. With high levels of sugar and saturated fat in some of these products they should be on the sweet counter not marketed as health foods.
“Manufacturers need to be much clearer about how much sugar, fat and calories are loaded in to each bar so people can make an informed choice. We want all foods to have traffic light colour coding system so people can see easily what they’re eating and giving to their children.”
Some cereal bars did live up to their healthy reputation. The Nakd Apple Pie was the only bar we looked at that didn’t contain any added sugar. Alpen Light Apple and Sultana was the only bar to have three green traffic lights for fat, saturated fat and salt indicating that the levels were low – and also had the lowest calories overall. Weetabix Oaty Strawberry Crusher bar was the healthiest choice for children with its low salt content and medium levels of fat and saturated fat.
Notes for editors:
1. Which? tested 30 cereal bars, including 7 aimed at children.
We looked at 30 cereal bars from the major brands, focusing on fruit and nut bars, biscuits and bakes (including those marketed as breakfast and brunch options) and children’s cereal bars.
We compared the nutritional content of the bars using the manufacturers’ information and applied traffic light labelling to see if the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt were high, medium or low.
Alpen Fruit & Nut, Alpen Light (Apple and Sultana), Dorset Cereals (Blackcurrent, Cherry and Raspberry), Eat Natural (brazils, sultanas, almonds, peanuts & hazelnuts), Jordans Frusli(Juicy Raisins & Hazelnuts), Nákd Apple Pie, Nature Valley chewy Trail Mix Fruit & Nut, Nature Valley Crunchy and More Oats and Berries, Quaker Oat So Simple Fruit Muesli, Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Soft and Fruity Apple, Kellogg’s Special K Red Berry, Tracker Roasted Nut, Traidcraft Geo Bar (Apricot), Trek Cherry Crunch Protein Flapjack, Wholebake 9 Bar Original, Kellogg’s All-Bran Breakfast Biscuits original, Belvita Breakfast Fruit and Fibre, Cadbury Brunch Bar Raisin, Go Ahead! Crispy Slices (Apple & Sultana), Jordan’s Breakfast Bars Multigrain (Juicy Fruits and Sliced Almonds), Go Ahead! Fruit Bakes (Apple), Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Breakfast Biscuits, Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Elevenses (Raisin Bakes).
Aimed at children: Kellogg’s Coco Pops Snack Bar, Kellogg’s Frosties Snack Bar, Harvest Cheweee (milk choc chip), Monster Puffs Cereal & Milk Chocolate Bar, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Snack Bar, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares (Chewy Marshmallow), Weetabix Oaty Bars Strawberry Crusher
2. One teaspoon is equivalent to 5g of sugar.
3. Full table of findings here.