'Health benefits' of cereal bars are nothing but a myth, says study

The image of cereal bars as a healthy snack is a myth, according to a study that found many contain high levels of fat and sugar. All but one of the 30 bars tested were high in sugar, with 16 containing levels above 30 per cent, the consumer group Which? found.

One bar, Nutri-Grain Elevenses, contained nearly four teaspoons of sugar (18g) – more than was found in a small 150ml can of cola (15.9g) and 20 per cent of the recommended daily allowance. The Tracker Roasted Nut bar was found to be almost a third fat; while some of this came from the peanuts and hazelnuts that also provided some nutritional content, the ingredients also contained vegetable fat and harmful hydrogenated fats.

Monster Puffs, a cereal bar aimed children and described as "great for your lunchbox", contained 43.5 per cent sugar, equivalent to more than two teaspoons-full, the Which? researchers found. Six of the seven cereal bars targeted at children were high in saturated fat.

Which? compared the nutritional content of the bars using the manufacturers' information and applied traffic-light labelling to see whether the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt were high, medium or low.

The Naked Apple Pie was the only bar tested that did not contain added sugar, while the Alpen Light Apple and Sultana was the only one to have three green traffic lights for fat, saturated fat and salt. The Weetabix Strawberry Crusher bar was the healthiest choice for children, with low salt content and medium levels of fat and saturated fat.

Which? urged manufacturers to cut sugar and fat in products meant children and for tighter controls on how they were promoted. The group's executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "People often choose cereal bars in the belief they are healthier than chocolate or biscuits but our research shows this can be a myth."

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