Are muesli bars healthy? Like the breakfast drinks I wrote about here, the muesli bar market is big business. As there are SO many varieties on the market, I thought I’d just pick the most featured ingredients and do an overall analysis of them.
Muesli bars are advertised as being a nutritious, low GI, fibre filled snack or start to the day. Once again I’m not the first person to question these claims. In fact, the consumer group watchdog, Choice, stated that many cereal bars would be better off called “fat and sugar bars” and that much of the “real fruit” is more “chemical” than fruit.
I’m also very amused by the claims of low GI which is a statement often used by the food processing industry. Offsetting large amounts of sugar with large amounts of fat and fibre renders a product low GI. However, it is important to understand that low GI does NOT = healthy!
So, in order of the most prevalent ingredients:
- Rolled oats – are nutritious, mineral rich grains and make up about a third of the bar. A good start.
- Whole wheat – I would argue that processed wheat would be more appropriate. I’ve never seen a grain of whole wheat in a muesli bar.
- Sugar features heavily – Glucose (wheat), maize starch, honey, various dried fruits and fruit purees. These fructose based sweeteners are very damaging (and addictive). I have written about sugar here.
- Vegetable oil – I have written about here. It is not healthy and along with sugar (the other chief ingredient in this product), is proving to be a direct cause of obesity and many of the degenerative metabolic diseases afflicting our society. Some bars also include palm oil labelled as vegetable oil. For more about why you need to avoid palm oil, check out this post here.
- Skim milk powder – is nutritionally void as all of the vitamins and minerals present in regular milk, are removed during processing. In addition, a dangerous oxidised cholesterol is formed during its processing. I trust a cow more than a laboratory so full-fat cows milk is always my preference (preferably organic and non-homogenised). Did you also know that skim milk powder has been used for decades as a method to fatten pigs; need I say more? I’ll also add that studies have found that children who consume skim milk products have a higher body mass index than those that drink full-fat milk.
- Rice puffs – sound good but they are very highly processed and nutritionally void.
- Sorbitol – and artificial sweetener and gastric irritant.
- Sulphites are of great concern in these products. Sulphites are known to trigger asthma attacks so it is critical for asthmatic and allergic people (especially children) to avoid. Of wider concern is that sulphites are suspected mutagens and teratogens (cause birth defects). They are linked to a variety of other ill effects including gastric irritation, nausea, diarrhoea and skin rashes.
Once again not much in the way of real food here. Often thought of as health food bars, I hope I have demonstrated that these are anything but healthy.
So head to the kitchen and make your own.
I make trays of my own muesli bars and protein bars every fortnight and freeze them to grab and go. Take a look at the many recipes to choose from under the recipes tab, here a few of my personal faves (all are nut-free so great for the lunchbox too):