Cereal bars lambasted by consumer group Which?

If there was still anybody out there who believed that ‘healthy’ cereal bars were nutritional and a better option than say a chocolate bar, perhaps more research that has just been published on them will finally shatter that belief.

Cereal and granola bars are often seen as a quick meal replacement for people, especially schoolchildren, who don’t seem to have the time to sit down and eat a proper, healthy breakfast. As a general rule of thumb, some believe that if they taste ‘bad’ then they will ironically probably be better and healthier for you. On the other hand, the ‘nicer’ they taste will more than likely be attributed to the bad qualities contained in them such as the fat, sugar and chocolate.

The popular choice of snacks have taken a battering in recent years in the media, with studies emerging that have portrayed them in a poor light, unearthing them to be just as damaging as chocolate bars in terms on sugar content, with many even being more unhealthy than a typical bowl of sugary cereal in this aspect too.

The new research into them comes in the form of a detailed analysis conducted by the consumer group Which?, who closely looked at 30 of the top selling cereal bars. To their shock, they found that all but one of these actually contained an alarmingly high amount of sugar. In addition, 16 of them comprised of more than 30% sugar.

One of the shocking discoveries was regarding the widely popular Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Elevenses Raisin Bake bar, which they found to be containing four teaspoons of sugar (18g). This is a higher sugar content than that of a small 150ml can of cola drink (15.9g) and is approximately 20% of the recommended daily intake.

Worryingly, it was found that six out of the seven cereal bars marketed for children that they studied, were high in saturated fat. A particularly unhealthy cereal bar was determined to be the Monster Puffs bar, advertised as ‘great for your lunchbox’. The evidence would suggest it is not so great however, with one bar containing a whopping 43.5% sugar, working out at around over two teaspoons of sugar.

Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which?, provided a scathing attack on the companies that are producing the worst offending cereal bars and he 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.”

A spokeswoman for Kellogg’s tried to deflect criticism however and argued that their Nutri-Grain Elevenses bars are not being viewed in their intended purpose. The spokeswoman said, “We’re confused as to why anyone would call a Nutri-Grain Elevenses snack a cereal bar. If you’ve eaten one you know it’s not. It’s a baked bar and looks and eats much more like a muffin or cake. We bake it like a cake and market it as a mid-morning snack. In fact, compared to other similar mid-morning snacks, it’s one of the choices that has slightly less sugar than the norm.”

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