Six of the best bars for your shopping trolley – and how to choose them yourself. By nutritionist Rose Carr.
Choosing a healthy snack bar can be a bit like walking across a minefield – most claim to be healthy, but in the back of your mind you know all is not what it seems. Here’s what to look for at the supermarket.
Varieties of snack bars
Wholegrains, nuts, seeds and fruit
Snack bars containing a high percentage of wholegrains, nuts, seeds and fruit help give them a lower GI – perfect for longer-lasting energy and better health.
Look for a bar with less than 600kJ, or 450kJ for kids. (The Be Natural Trail Bars, based on five wholegrains, are only 460kJ each.) If you are active and need a higher-kilojoule snack, the nut-based bars are a suitably nutritious option.
Heart disease kills 34% of Australians each year, and eating too much saturated fat is one of the major contributing factors. So avoid snack bars containing too much of it – 2g per bar is plenty.
The sugar content of snack bars can be high, so look for products containing natural sugars such as dried fruit and honey; both add sweetness, so less added sugar is needed.
Fibre promotes a healthy heart and bowel and helps with weight management, yet doesn’t legally have to be listed on the pack. As it’s an important nutrient for appetite control, try to avoid bars that don’t include fibre content on the nutrition information panel. Also look for bars with a high content of wholegrains, nuts, seeds and fruit, or with added inulin, which will be higher in fibre.
Less healthy choices
Keeping snack bars on hand in the car or office drawer is a great idea, but make sure you don’t overeat them. One a day is plenty – an extra 600kJ every now and then can add up pretty quickly! Here are snack bars you should avoid:
Yoghurt-topped bars are generally higher in saturated fat, sugar and overall kilojoules.
Muffin and cake-style bars are higher in fat or carbs and sugar or all of them, plus high in overall kilojoules. In many cases, the serving size is also too small to be really satisfying.
Baked biscuit bars and twists are high in carbs and sugar and overall kilojoules plus contain more artificial ingredients.
Fruit bars and strips are high in sugar and made from juice purée and concentrate, not juice.
Rice-based bars such as LCMs meet most of the nutrition criteria, but they are high-GI and contain little protein and virtually no fibre.