The last blog discussed breakfast cereals and how to pick a ‘better’ cereal to start off the day. Cereals companies are now coming out with breakfast bars and marketing it as a fast and easy choice for breakfast or as a high fibre snack. Just like cereals you need to be careful about what you’re choosing to put in your grocery cart.
Many breakfast bars/cereals bars are marketed as high fibre but are also filled with loads of sugar, colouring and additives. With millions of dollars spent every year on the marketing of processed foods such as breakfast bars it can be come very confusing about what the better choice is. The best way to determine the quality of your breakfast bars is to take a quick look at the nutrition label for the following:
Sugar vs Fibre Content
You want to pick a bar that has approximately equal amounts of sugar and fibre and you want to avoid bars with more then 9 grams of sugar. Look at the ingredient list and if you see sugar in the first three ingredients it’s loaded with sugar. Pay attention to how many times is sugar listed in the ingredient list? Also, the type of sugar used is important. Bars that contain high fructose corn syrup should be avoided where better sugars include organic cane juice/sugar, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave.
Additives, Artificial Colours & Flavour
Ask yourself – can I read and understand what all the ingredients listed are? If not it’s likely to be artificial.
You want to avoid any bars that have modified or hydrogenated oils/fats.
Sodium is added to processed foods for flavour and as a preservative. You want to pick a bar that has less than 150 mg of sodium per serving.
Low calorie is not always the better choices. Often low calories choices are the ones that are most heavily processed and stripped of their nutritional value and pumped with artificial colour and flavour to make it taste good. Low nutrient foods add no value to your diet and often leave you hungry and craving for more foods because of the lack of vitamins and minerals content. Physically you may feel full but your body is still starving and in need of vitamins and minerals thus leaving you hungry soon after eating. In addition, bars with high sugar content will affect your body’s blood sugar levels and also leave you hungry and craving more foods soon after eating.
Below you will find a chart of the most common breakfast cereal bars and their nutritional content – what would be your best choice after looking more closely at the sugar, fibre, artificial content, sodium levels and ingredient list?
|Cereal Bar||Special K Strawberry flavour||Fibre 1 – oats and peanut butter||All Bran Bars – oatmeal cinnamon||Kashi – 7 grains with almonds|
|Sugar||9 g||12 g||9 g||5 g|
|Fibre||0 g||5 g||4 g||4 g|
|Sodium||95 mg||90 mg||105 mg||115 g|
Ingredients – pay special attention to types of fat and sugar used.
Special K Strawberry Flavour
CEREAL (RICE, SUGAR, WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT, WHEAT GLUTEN, DEFATTED WHEAT GERM, SALT, WHEAT FLOUR, MALT FLAVORING, MALTODEXTRIN, RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE [VITAMIN B1]), CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, STRAWBERRY FLAVORED FRUIT PIECES (SUGAR, CRANBERRIES, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, ELDERBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE FOR COLOR, SUNFLOWER OIL), VEGETABLE OIL (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: CANOLA AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED AND/OR PALM KERNEL OIL, HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, TBHQ AND MIXED TOCOPHEROLS FOR FRESHNESS), FRUCTOSE, DEXTROSE, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF NONFAT DRY MILK, SORBITOL, GLYCERIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL YOGURT FLAVOR, NIACINAMIDE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6).
Fibre 1 oats & peanut butter
GLUSCOS-FRUCTOSE, PEANUT BUTTER FLAVOURED DROPS (SUGAR, MODIFIED PALMA ND PALM KERNAL OIL, PARTIALLY DEFATED PEANUT FLOUR, MODIFIED MILK INGREAIENTS, PEANUT BUTTER (PEANUTS), SALT, SOY LECITHIN), WHOLE GRAIN ROLEED OATS, INULIN, CRISP RICE (RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, MALK EXTRACT, SALT), HIGH MALTOSE CORN SYRUP, BARLEY, FLAKES, HOENY, ROASTED PEANUTS, PEANUT BUTTER FLOUR, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, PEANUT BUTTER (PEANUTS), SALT, SOY LECITHIN), CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, GLYCERIN, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVOUR, PEANUT OIL, BAKING SODA, MONOGLYCERIDES, CARAMEL COLOUR, RICE BRAN EXTRACT, TOCOPHEROLS, EXTRACT OF ROSEMARY, ASCORBIC ACID.
All Bran oatmeal cinnamon
Wheat flour, sugar/glucose-fructose, cereal (wheat bran, sugar/glucose-fructose, malt [corn flour, malted barley], salt, vitamins [thiamin hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, d-calcium pantothenate], iron), vegetable shortening (contains palm and palm kernel oils, TBHQ), oat hull fibre, rolled oats, dried whole egg, milk ingredients, salt, cinnamon, natural and artififcial flavours, baking powder, soy lecithin.
Kashi 7 grains with almonds
Seven whole grains and sesame blend (Whole: hard red winter wheat, oats, rye, barley, triticale, long grain brown rice, buckwheat, sesame seeds), whole almonds, brown rice syrup, soy protein isolate, toasted soy grits, evaporated cane juice, chicory root (inulin), whole flaxseed, evaporated cane juice syrup, rice starch, corn flour, honey, expeller pressed canola oil, glycerin, oat hull fibre, salt, natural flavour, cane juice molasses, soy lecithin, peanut flour, milk ingredients, annatto colour. Contains wheat, almond, soy, peanut, milk and sesame ingredients.
Ideally you want to avoid choosing processed foods as much as possible. It can be just as convenient and tasty to make your own breakfast using whole foods.
Some fast and easy alternative to breakfast cereals:
– Hand full of nuts and seeds and an apple/fruit (flax seeds and hemp seeds are high in fibre)
– Home made granola
– Protein smoothy – whey or soy protein, ½ cup of fruit, 1 cup of water or soy/rice/almond milk
– Hard boiled eggs, 3 egg white omelette
– High protein whole food bars – Raw Organics, VEGA, Elevate, Lara bars