· By Julia Boase
What Muesli Bar to Buy for Lunch Boxes?
If you feel confused about what muesli bar to buy for your lunch boxes I don't blame you - it was tough to narrow it down to the few I chose to review.
I've lined up some that I do, or would consider buying, and I've given you an example of what I definitely wouldn't buy (last slide).
Just looking at the nutrition information panel doesn't really give you the whole picture and considering the ingredient list and serving size is important too.
Finally I could basically split the available supermarket muesli bars into two categories - those that have mostly whole ingredients and don’t use flavours, low calorie sweeteners or fibre boosters, and those that do. To create a final product that is lower in sugar, but higher in fibre, whilst maintaining an acceptable taste, leads many companies use ingredients such as stevia, chicory root or added flavours. I don’t personally have a problem with any of these ingredients, and they are safe to consume, but I do feel a product made mostly from whole ingredients generally tastes better. Read on for my review of some popular supermarket muesli bars.
What should you look for in a muesli bar?
- Fibre content of 4g or more per 100g
- Sugar less than 15g per 100g
- Added seeds, nuts and dried fruit provide additional nutrients beyond the cereal/oat base (these ingredients will also increase the fat and/or sugar content of the bar)
- Mostly whole ingredients (and certainly as the first ingredients on the list)
- Ideally not more than 150 calories per serve
- Nature Valley oat and honey bar has a higher amount of sugar, higher energy and lower fibre than the others, but the ingredient list doesn't include things like "flavours" or ingredients to boost the fibre content (eg inulin, chicory root etc that you'll see in many of the others). Often we need more sugar for flavour when extra "flavours" haven't been added to the product. This product also comes as two bars in a serve and for some kids, 1 bar might be sufficient which helps to bring the sugar and calorie content down per serving. I’ve included these as they one of the few muesli bars I can find without added flavours.
- Carmen's Brownie bars have one of the lowest sugar and calorie contents plus high in fibre, but they use added flavours to help them achieve an acceptable taste (minus the extra sugar) and use Chicory root to boost the added fibre. I can personally taste the added flavour in this one, and it's not a favourite from a taste point of view, but it's a good choice nutritionally and formulated to be lunch box friendly.
-Uncle Toby's chewy choc chip muesli bars are similar to the Brownie Bar from Carmen's - the sugar is low but they have added flavours and they have used chicory root to boost the fibre (not as high as the brownie bar). A good choice nutritionally and I personally like the flavour of these and buy them regularly.
- Carmen's fruit free and fruit and nut muesli bars-have more calories and sugar (and also some added flavour) but have quality ingredients like seeds, nuts and dried fruit and gives a boost to the overall nutrient density of the bar (adding in extra protein, healthy fats, zinc and iron - please note the added dried fruit also makes the sugar content of the fruit & nut version higher, but as this is naturally occurring sugar I’m happy to accept it).
- Milo bars are basically a combination of wholewheat and wheat flour mixed with milo beverage. Whilst perhaps a little more processed than some of the others they're not a bad choice and still have a reasonable fibre content whilst keeping the sugar under 20g/100g, (but not under the ideal 15g) and the calorie content reasonable for a snack bar.
What I wouldn't buy? The LCM bar. It's loaded with various different types of sugar, is made form refined white rice bubbles and has very little fibre. All round its pretty 🤢
I would quite happily choose any of the other bars but if your school allows nuts then the Carmen's fruit free or fruit and nut bars would be my first choice as you get extra nutrients from the nuts/seeds/fruit.
I personally buy the Nature Valley bars quite often because I need a nut free bar and I think they taste good. They are a simple muesli bar with whole ingredients and many times just one of the two bars in the pack is sufficient. As mentioned above Uncle Tobys Chewy Choc chip muesli bars also frequently make their way into my shopping trolley. I don't like the taste of some of the bars that use added flavours because I think they take on a very distinctly vanilla like flavour which I don't find appealing. That said, I have nothing against added flavours they have a place in our food supply and they are safe to consume.
Ultimately for the amount of sugar you get in a muesli bar I’d prefer to see something that also includes seeds, more wholegrains and dried fruit to boost the overall nutrient content, which often leads me to make my own “muesli type” bars like my seedy cornflake slice. Of course we don’t always have time to spend in the kitchen, so I hope you’ve found something on the list that might be useful to you and meets your own personal food philosophy.