Raise your hand if a yoghurt topped muesli bar was your go-to snacks as a kid? If not, was there a favourite you snacked on during playtime? What do you put in your kid's lunch boxes?
Muesli bars are a quick, convenient and a tasty way to snack on the go. However, just because they contain the keyword 'muesli' which is often associated with being a healthier breakfast option, they're typically packed with refined grains, added sugars and salts. Often the addition of these three ingredients amongst others can make muesli bars extremely energy dense, low in fibre, vitamins, and minerals as well as well as high in salt and sugar.
With just shy of one-hundred muesli bar varieties stocked at any local Woolworths or Coles shelf, choosing a muesli bar that ticks all the boxes can be extremely overwhelming. In light of this, here are my top tips for choosing a better option*.
Here's what to look for:
1. Avoid the pretty colours and attractive marketing.
Marketing is clever and it sucks all of us in (including me). Instead of noticing the green packaging that makes the product look healthier and from nature, flip it over and focus on the ingredients.
2. Decide what is important to you.
Is it price? The recyclability of the packaging? Or do you prefer to support local and Australian made products? Whichever is or are important to you, know this before shopping so you can narrow your choices down, reduce the burden too many options and make an informed choice.
3. Know your ingredients
Below the Nutrition Information Panel should be a list of ingredients in order of most to least. Look for key words like 'whole grains' and 'oats'. If sugar, salt or fat are listed in the top three ingredients, place the product back on the shelf and walk away!
4. Look at the Nutrition Information Panel (The NIP).
4a. Focus on the per serve column. Is one serve one muesli bar? If not, what is the serving size? This already raises alarm bells as manufacturers try to make their product look better than it really is.
4b. Aim for less than 600kJ/serve
4c. Now focus on the 100g column.
4d. Scroll down to fibre. Aim for more than 4g/100g.
4e. Scroll down to saturated fat or sat fat. Aim for less than 1.5g/100g.
4f. Scroll down to sugar. Aim for less than 15g/100g
5. Understand muesli bars are a snack, not a meal.
Remember less than 600kJ is a better choice and swap it up some days by preparing a plastic pocket full of nuts and seeds or better yet, choose fruit like a banana or apple that doesn't require plastic wrap in the first place.
Want to know which muesli bar is best? Stay tuned we are sifting through the products to work out which are healthier and better for you, and the environment.
* Disclaimer. This post is in no way funded by any brands and as such is the opinion of the author who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Although there are healthier snack options including fruit and veg, muesli bars do offer convenience for some.