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These days you can find a snack bar in the muesli bar aisle, health food aisle and at the checkout counter just in case you missed them while shopping. But which one should you choose if you want to eat one?  There are some ingredients to be mindful of that can alter the nutritional content of the bar you choose.

We have selected a range to show the impact of different ingredients, let’s have a closer look:

Name HSR Serve size (g) Energy (kJ) Protein (g) Fat total (g) Saturated Fat (g) Carbohydrate total (g) Sugars (g) Dietary Fibre (g) Sodium (mg) Ingredient watch
Carman's

Carmans Gourmet Protein Bar: Dark Choc and Cranberry

2 40 779 10.8 9.3 2.1 13.5 10.6 1.9 72 Chocolate & soy
The bar counter

The Bar Counter: Banana & Quinoa

3.5 40 537 3.9 2 0.2 23.1 13.4 4 26 Dried fruit
Paleo bars Mac' Lemon

Blue Dinosaur Paleo Bars: Mac’ Lemon

NA 45 984 2 17.6 12 14.8 14.4 6 Coconut oil
Bounce

Bounce Natural Energy Ball: Peanut Protein Blast

4 49 872 14.4 8.5 1.3 17.3 12.8 1.5 166 Peanuts & whey protein

My Yummy lunchbox

My Yummy Lunchbox: Blueberry & Beetroot

NA 25 334 2.5 1.1 0.1 15.2 8.3 2 1.8 Fruit juice concentrates & inulin

Uncle Tobys

Uncle Tobys Yoghurt & Mango & Passionfruit

4 31.3 510 2.3 3.5 1.4 18.7 5.6 3.3 7 Inulin
Be natural four

Be Natural Four:Currant, berry, pepita, & oats

NA 38 670 4.6 7.1 1.1 18 11.4 3.3 60 Nuts & inulin
Be natural nuts bar

Be Natural Nut Delight

4.5 40 950 7.8 16.6 3 10.8 6.8 2.6 20 Nuts
  1. Saturated Fat is largely impacted by the inclusion of coconut oil and added confectionery, including hard yoghurts. When choosing a bar, stay clear of these ingredients to keep the saturated fat down.
  2. Sugars can be influenced by a number of ingredients, so it’s important they come from nutritious sources like dried fruit and not things like fruit juice concentrates, added inverted sugars or syrups or even honey. Dried fruit will contribute to a higher fibre content of the bar and bring some vitamins and minerals with it unlike juice.
  3. Protein is influenced by nuts, peanuts in particular, soy, ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth and the addition of protein powders like whey, pea or soy. Bars with these ingredients will be higher in protein.
  4. Fibre is something that is generally added to many bars, particularly grain based ones. Inulin and wheat bran are common ingredients that add fibre to bars. If there is a high percentage of wholefoods like dried fruit and grains or nuts and seeds, added fibre should not be necessary to bump up the fibre content. The fibre from actual whole foods is a lot more nutritious than from added ingredients that have been extracted from whole foods to start with.
  5. Energy content of bars will be influenced by the ingredients that are high in fat and the serve size. These include ingredients like nuts, coconut and simply added fats like coconut oil.  We need fat in our diets to help absorb some nutrients better and provide fatty acids our bodies can’t make by themselves.  Nuts naturally contain healthy fats our bodies need, along with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals making them a nutrient rich food. If you’re watching your weight and need to limit your energy intake, avoid bars high in saturated fat (like those containing coconut oil) and keep serve sizes small (150 cal or less).
  6. HSR: this stands for the health star rating. The higher the HSR the more ‘healthy’ the bar.  When you’re in a rush and don’t have time to look at the ingredients this is an easy way to select a bar that provides the most positive nutrition and less of the stuff we need to eat less of. HSR is intended to help identify the healthier choice between ‘like’ products at a glance. This means it can be used to compare two foods that are similar.  When using in the snack bar category, compare ‘like’ bars against each other eg. nut bar against nut bar, dried fruit bar against dried fruit bar.

 

So when selecting a bar, look at the ingredients and opt for the option with the highest percentage of whole foods, less of the added unnecessary ingredients and in a serve size that limits your energy intake to 150-200 cal. When in a rush, use the HSR to compare ‘like’ bars and select the bar with the highest star rating in a serve size under 45g.

Remember  – it’s a snack not a meal but make it count towards your daily 5 food groups for a more nutritious snacking occasion.

For me, I exercise every day and need the extra carbohydrate boost but also like some protein in there to keep my appetite at bay. My pick is The Bar Counter Banana & Quinoa bar. It’s just the right size at under 150 cals per bar, contains 4g protein and 23g of carbohydrate from nutritious dried banana and quinoa.

Written by,

Jennifer Madz, Senior Dietitian

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