On food labels, the word “Healthy” is a description that is used very loosely these days. And for those on a diet or who are trying to be health-conscious when it comes to the food they eat, a food item’s advertised health claims and/or nutritional labeling is their main source of information. Even with established food regulations, however, not all the health claims and information printed on food packaging are accurate.
Dietician and British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Helen Bond, puts some leading “healthy” bar brands under a magnifying glass and sorts out those that deliver real health benefits from those that don’t.
TREK’s Mixed Berry. With 30 grams of sugar and 204 calories in a 68-gram bar, this healthy bar may not seem like a good snack option. But according to Bond, the bar also contains 11 grams of protein which will keep you feeling full the whole afternoon. The sugar content comes from the dates that make up almost 50 percent of the ingredients but the dates also mean that the bar has a high-fiber content, which is good for your digestive system. Additionally, it only contains 1.6 grams of healthy fat.
NAKD’s Cashew Cookie Raw Fruit and Nut Bar. “There’s a lot of sugar here, almost 50 percent more than you’d get in a two-finger KitKat,” says Bond. With 143 calories, this may not be the best snack option for you if you are watching your calorie intake. “However,” Bond adds, “the sugar content is from fructose, which gives a more sustained release of energy. As the nut content is so high – more than 50 percent – this snack is a good source of protein. Cashews are quite high in iron, too, so good for healthy red blood cells. Though the fat content at 8 grams is high, these are the healthy monounsaturated fats.”
COMVITA’s Manuka Honey Bar. Manuka honey, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cinnamon make up this snack bar. Increasing evidence indicates that Manuka honey has antibacterial and antiviral benefits. “The honey means the sugar – which at 4.7 grams amounts to just over a teaspoon – is in the form of fructose, a natural fruit form, so it will give you a slow release of energy,” says Bond. While it has more fat than a Cadbury’s Flake, at 10.7 grams, 80 percent of this fat is from fruit, nuts, and seeds.
SLIM SECRETS’ Cranberry Choc’ n’ Nut Bar. This snack only has 87 calories and its protein content (6 grams) comes from soy. The bar contains the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar, or 4.6 grams, however. While the bar contains antioxidant-rich cranberries, they only make up 5 percent of the ingredients and only provide very minimal benefits.
THE FOOD DOCTOR’s Get Set Bar. This snack contains dried spiralina algae, which is claimed to increase energy; its other ingredients are dried banana, rolled oats, honey pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and quinoa. Bond says, “The 40-gram bar does have a high fiber content so you will feel fuller for longer, though a third of its nutritional value comes from the 15 grams of sugar – the equivalent to three teaspoons. You would need to eat four Fry’s Turkish Delights to get the same.”
And Not-So-Healthy Picks
EAT NATURAL’s Hazelnuts, Apricots, and Vanilla Bar. According to Bond, this brand contains 10 grams of sugar, which is more than the sugar content of a two-finger KitKat; it also has more calories than one bag of Maltesers. “So one snack is taking a sizeable chunk out of your recommended intake (2,550 calories a day for men and 1,940 for women) without a great deal of benefit,” says Bond. Additionally, the bar’s 11-gram fat content comes from unhealthy saturated fats. Bond adds, “You may be better off having a small packet of apricots. The nutritional values are printed on the packet – is that because customers might be put off if they are watching their weight?”
TASTY LITTLE NUMBERS. Similar to KitKat, this bar is a dark chocolate-covered wafer and, at 100 calories, is only seven calories less than a two-finger KitKat chocolate bar; its 5.1 grams of fat makes up 25 percent of the 20-gram bar. “If you fancy eating this,” Bond says, “then feel free but don’t think it’s a healthier alternative. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants which can protect against heart disease. But why not have a couple of squares of dark chocolate, which are lower in calories?”
SPECIAL K’s Red Berry Bar. The fruit and nuts in this bar will make you feel fuller longer; however, it also contains the equivalent of about two teaspoons of sugar. The high sugar content will rapidly increase your blood sugar levels and then, within 30 minutes, you will feel lethargic when the levels crash. Bond adds, “This bar doesn’t even have much fiber in it. You would be better off with a bag of sugary popcorn for breakfast – and that’s not saying much.”