You might assume that oat, nut and fruit bars are always healthier than a Mars bar. But you’re wrong.
High street cereal and protein bars can contain even more calories than Britain’s best-loved treat.
Kind Protein’s Dark Chocolate Nut Bar (274), Eat Natural Almond and Cocoa Bar (243), and the Deliciously Ella Peanut Butter Bar (230) all have more than a Mars (228).
And Nakd bars in blueberries or salted caramel, as well as Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Raisin bar, contain about 18 g of sugar — the same amount as four McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives.
Experts warned that despite appearing healthier, the snacks “should be treated with caution” as they can be high in fat, sugar or salt, while also being packed with fruits and nuts.
MailOnline looked at 100 muesli, fruit and nut bars – often eaten for breakfast or as a snack during the day – available from supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Most contain health claims on their packaging, such as “packed with protein,” a “source of fiber,” and “lower sugar.”
Some also emphasized that they were “raw,” “made with natural ingredients,” and contain vitamins.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least five servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Basic meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grains
• Thirty grams of fiber per day. This is equivalent to eating all of the following: five servings of fruits and vegetables, two whole-wheat granola biscuits, two thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and a large baked potato with skin
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks), choose options with less fat and less sugar
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small quantities
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
A Kind Protein Dark Chocolate Nut Bar – packed with almonds, peanuts and dark chocolate – contains 274 calories, which is more than a bar of Dairy Milk (240).
However, the Kind option has just 8.6g of sugar, compared to 25g in the chocolate bar, and four times more protein.
Eat Natural bars in almond and cocoa, as well as pecans and peanuts, contain about 240 calories and 6 g of sugar.
This is more caloric than a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donut (200). However, it is half the sugar content (12.6 g).
A Deliciously Ella Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bar contains 230 calories, more than a Kit Kat Chunky – although again it has half the sugar content (10.6 g vs. 20.5 g).
An oatmeal bar with strawberries, raspberries and cranberries from Quaker Porridge contains 218 calories — about five Jaffa Cakes — and 8.3 g of sugar.
Meanwhile, Nakd Blueberry Muffin and Salted Caramel Bars, along with Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Raisin Bars, were the most sugar-packed, with about 18g each — the same amount as a Twix Xtra or four McVitie’s Chocolate Digestive.
Zoe Davies, a nutritionist at Action on Sugar, told MailOnline: ‘Cereal bars with added protein may seem healthy, but they often contain high levels of sugar that are detrimental to our health.
“Despite the “no added sugar” labels often added to these products, they probably use processed fruit in the form of juices and purees, which is still the kind of sugar we should cut back on.
“Instead, we can “dismantling” these bars and grab a handful of nuts, whole fruit, and plain yogurt for a healthy snack or to start our day.”
Dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and researcher at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, told MailOnline that food manufacturers can claim their product is a source of protein or high in fiber if it contains a certain percentage of that nutrient.
Dr. Mellor said, “While this may seem like a good thing, it says nothing about other things in the bar, like sugar and salt.”
‘In the UK it is not necessary for the total product not to contain a high level of added fat, sugar or salt for a claim to be made about a nutrient.
“These, along with marketing terms like ‘raw’ – which simply means minimally heated – and ‘natural’, do not reflect the nutritional composition of the food.”
But the public often associates these words with a product that is healthy, he cautioned.
So packaging that implies an item is healthy should be treated with caution,” said Dr Mellor.
People should consider eating nuts or seeds as a snack in their original form, rather than baked into a bar, which requires other ingredients, such as sugar, he added.
Professor Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition at the University of Reading, told MailOnline that breakfast cereals and protein bars are ‘probably often seen as healthy, regardless of their actual composition’.
“I guess this consumer perception is the biggest problem here,” he said.
Professor Kuhnle: ‘It is very often assumed that ‘healthy’ food (such as muesli bars and fruit juice) should also contain less sugar and energy.
That is clearly not always the case.
‘Traffic light labels can help consumers make better choices here.’
|Child Protein Dark Chocolate Nut Bar||274||8.6||12|
|Eat Natural Raw Protein Bar Peanuts Almond & Cocoa||243||6.8||9.7|
|Eat Natural Bars Maple Syrup Pecan & Peanut||240||5.9||8.3|
|Eat Natural Yoghurt Bar Almond & Apricot||238||15.6||3.3|
|Delicious Ella Peanut Butter Oat Bar||230||10.6||5.1|
|Eat natural protein bar||229||8.4||10.2|
|Eat natural easy vegan bars||223||10.1||5.4|
|Eat Natural Protein Packed With Salted Caramel||223||8.9||11.7|
|Eat Natural Protein Packed With Salted Caramel||223||8.9||11.7|
|Quaker Porridge To Go Mixed Berries||218||8.3||3.4|
|Kind of protein crunchy peanut butter bars||218||6.7||10|
|Quaker Porridge To Go Cinnamon Bar||218||6.6||3.5|
|Eat Natural Raw Fruit & Nut Bar Hazelnut Dates Peanut||216||12.6||5.1|
|Graze Cocoa Vanilla & Egg White Flapjack||216||4.3||7.2|
|Eat Natural Dark Chocolate Cranberry & Macadamia Bars||215||15.9||2|
|Fulfill Chocolate Hazenut Whip Vitamin Protein Bar||214||1.9||20|
|Delicious Ella Apple And Raisin Oat Bar||213||14.5||2.8|
|Fulfill Peanut Butter Vitamin Protein Bar||212||1.8||20|
|Fulfill White Chocolate Peanut & Caramel Vitamin Protein Bar||211||2.1||20|
|Cadbury Nuttier Peanut & Almond Bar||206||9.7||6.2|
|Tesco Pumpkinseed Almond & Dark Chocolate Bars||204||5.6||7|
|Meet Salted Caramel Vitamin Protein Bar||204||1.7||20|
|Cadbury Nuttier Cranberry & Almond Milk Chocolate Bar||201||11||5.5|
|Nature Valley Protein Salted Caramel Nut Bars||200||5.4||10.3|
|Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Oats & Chocolate Bars||199||11.3||3.7|
|Nature Valley Protein Chocolate & Peanut Bar||198||6.2||10.2|
|Nature Valley Protein Peanut & Chocolate Bars||197||6.2||10.2|
|Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Variety Cereal Bars||196||11.3||3.6|
|Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Oats & Honey||196||11.3||3.6|
|Eat natural bars of apple, ginger and dark chocolate||195||14.6||2.1|
|Nature Valley Granola Bars Maple Syrup||195||11.3||3.6|
|Ermine Porridge Bars Blueberry & Honey Bars||178||9||3.2|
|Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Chocolate Chip||177||17||2.1|
|Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Raisin||170||18||1.9|
|Belvita Baked Bar Cranberry & Hazelnut||168||9.8||2.2|
|Belvita Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut Baked Bar||166||10||2.3|
|Go Ahead Fruit Crispy Slices||162||11.1||2.4|
|Nakd Cashew Cookie Bars||155||13.7||3.5|
|Tesco 6 coconut and chocolate bars||150||7.8||2|
|Nakd Peanut Delight Bar||149||13.6||4.8|
|Fulfill Chocolate Salted Caramel Vitamin & Protein Bar||148||1.2||15|
|Nakd Cocoa Orange Bar||146||13.6||3.9|
|Tesco oat & honey muesli bars||145||5.5||2.2|
|Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nuts Peanut Bars||143||5.8||3.7|
|Mcvitie Go Ahead Yoghurt Breaks Strawberry||142||12.6||1.8|
|Go Ahead Yoghurt Breaks Forest Fruits||142||12.6||1.8|
|Graze Honey And Oat Bar||142||4.1||4.7|
|Fulfill Chocolate Brownie Vitamin & Protein Bar||142||1.1||15|
|Meet Peanut & Caramel Vitamin & Protein Bar||141||1.5||15|
|Fulfill Chocolate Caramel Vitamin & Protein Bar||140||1.4||15|
|Tesco Peanut Munch Bar||139||8.6||2.3|
|Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Dark Chocolate With Nuts||139||6.6||3|
|Nakd Bakwell cake bar||138||16||2.6|
|Cadbury Brunch Bar Chocolate Chip||137||8.8||2|
|Nakd Berry Delight||136||16.6||3|
|Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Strawberry||136||12||1.6|
|Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Blueberry||136||12||1.6|
|Nakd Cocoa Delight||135||15.9||3.3|
|Tesco Strawberry Fruity Baking||135||12.9||1.4|
|Tesco Raisin Munch Bar||135||10.6||2|
|Nakd almond macaroon||134||17.5||2.4|
|Nakd Lemon Drizzling Bars||133||17.7||2.1|
|Cadbury Brunch Bar Raisins||133||10||1.7|
|Tesco Salted Caramel Munch Bars||133||9.6||2.2|
|Graze Fiber Oats boost Cherry Bakewell||131||3.8||1.9|
|Graze Protein Oat Boost Peanut Butter Flapjacks||131||2.6||4.3|
|Nakd Blueberry Muffin Bar||130||18.2||2.5|
|Graze Chocolate Cookie Oat Boosts||130||2.9||2.2|
|Nakd Salted Caramel||128||18.2||2.3|
|Go Ahead Apple bakes||128||7.8||1.2|
|Mcvitie Go Ahead Strawberry Bakes||128||7.4||1.2|
|Graze Protein Oat Boost Lemon Blueberry||128||3.8||1.8|
|Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Cranberry||125||6.7||2.5|
|Nature Valley Fruit and Nut Cereal Bars||125||6.6||2.5|
|Nakd Double Cocoa Chocolish||119||14||2|
|Jordans Frusli Wild Berries||119||8.7||1.6|
|Alpen Strawberry & Yoghurt Cereal Bars||119||8.1||1.6|
|Nakd Fruit & Nut Bar Raspberry Chocolish||119||1.45||1.9|
|Jordan’s Frusli Blueberry Burst||116||8.8||1.8|
|Jordans Frusli Bars Cranberry & Apple||115||8.2||1.8|
|Nakd Berry Bliss Bar||99||14.4||1.9|
|Nakd Cocoa Twist Bar||99||13.8||2.1|
|Nakd Apple Danish Bar||98||14.9||1.8|
|Nakd banana bread bar||94||13.2||1.8|
|Fiber One Peanut Butter Popcorn Bars||90||4.2||1.6|
|Fiber One Protein Cookies & Cream Bars||88||1||10|
|Fiber One Protein Caramel Bars||87||1||10|
|Fiber One 90 Chocolate Mint Brownie||84||4.5||1.2|
|Kellogg’s Special K juicy red berry bars||83||5.8||1.3|
|Fiber One Chocolate Fudge Brownie Reduced Sugar||83||4.9||1.1|
|Fiber One Milk Chocolate Popcorn Bars||83||4.7||1|
|Special K Milk Chocolate Bars||78||5||1.4|
|Alpine Light Chocolate Brownie Flavor||68||3.2||1|
|Alpen Light Chocolate & Fudge Bar||67||3||1.1|
|Alpen Light Cereal Bar Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes||67||2.7||1.1|
|Alpen Light Cereal Bars Salted Caramel||66||3.2||1|
|Alpen Light Cereal Bars Jaffa Cake||66||2.9||1|
|Skinny Crunch Light Raspberry & White Chocolate||66||2.7||0.8|
|Alpine light summer fruit bars||65||3.4||1|