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Health bars vs their not so healthy counterparts: Read before you eat


We took a look at some popular health bars and see how healthy they really were based on the data on their labels versus the quirky buzzword on the packaging

And to make it more interesting, we compared them to three of South Africa's most popular chocolates.

The Macmillan Dictionary defines the term Health Halo as the perception that a particular food is good for you even when there is little or no evidence to confirm this is true.

Think gluten-free , low fat , natural', raw .

We reach for healthier alternatives like organic, free trade, locally produced dark chocolate because we think it is healthier than the milk chocolate.

And of course, sweet potato and beetroot vegetable crisps are much better for us than the chips that Simba has been peddling us. Right?

Not necessarily.

Setting the bar: What should I be looking for?The main things to consider on the back of the label is calorie count, sugar content, fibre, sodium as well as the amount and type of fat.

Calorie countAccording to Chloe McLeod, accredited practising dietitian and sports dietitian a perfect snack should range from 100 to 150 calories.

IngredientsHealth24 states that ingredients are listed in order of weight. So a red flag should raise if refined grains, sugar or syrups are listed first.

SugarYou want as little sugar as possible, according to McLeod you should aim for five to ten grams. This equals about one to two teaspoons of sugar.

FibreFibre keeps us fuller for longer. Aim for 3g or more.

FatGood fat can keep you fuller for longer but be sure to look at where the fat is coming from. Nuts and seeds provide a good source of saturated fat. Aim for less than two grams per 100g.

Preference should be given to products which contain more unsaturated vs. saturated fats, within the context of the total fat the product provides.

Health24 SodiumMcLeod suggests that you should look for less than 120 mg per 100g.

Crunch time: Weighing in on the different barsTREK Cocoa Oat, Protein FlapJack (50g)

High in calories and sugar, this bar contains rice syrup as the second ingredient on the list.

Rice syrup is refined sugar and no healthier than sugar.

One tablespoon of rice syrup has 55 to 75 calories, depending on the brand; sugar has 48 calories per tablespoon. Brown-rice syrup also has a high glycemic index (98), meaning it causes your blood sugar to spike quickly. (White sugar, or sucrose, has a glycemic index of 65.)

If you were watching your calorie intake for weight loss and not the ingredients for health, this bar has more calories than a Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

Cadbury does have a glass and a half of milk in it

Approximate calories in Trek is 227 versus 216 calories in Cadbury.

Kellog's Crunchy Nut Cereal Breakfast Bars (33g)

The majority of the bars we have looked at a weight between 45 55g so we need to take into account the nutritional value of this breakfast bar which is smaller.

Marketed as a breakfast bar, we can assure you the sugar high you may get will have you craving your elevenses sooner than needed.

Pound for pound this bar would rival a Bar One in terms of calorie load and sugar content.

The 3 main ingredients are peanuts, Rice Krispies and Chocolate coating. Not your ideal breakfast ingredients.

66g of Kellog's Crunchy Nut Cereal Breakfast Bar calorie count is 322 versus a 55g of Bar One at 231 calories.

Natures Valley Crunchy (42g)

Wholegrain oats and real honey! All from a valley that belongs to Nature herself!

Unfortunately, the real honey only comes up after the oats, sugar, sunflower oil and almonds. The red flag here is that sugar is the second ingredient which makes sense considering that the bar contains 11g of the stuff!

The sweetness comes from the sugar, not the honey.

The majority of the fat comes from the sunflower oil and not the almonds which would be a preferable fat source.

So it's not as healthy as the brand would like us to think it is. High sugar, high sodium and sitting at 192 calories whilst a 45g Cadbury Dairy Milk bar has 216.

So if you are looking at weight loss from pure calories in versus calories out, this isn't doing you any favours.

Future Life, Whole Grain Granola Bar:

FUTURELIFE Whole Grain Granola Bars are SA's 1st* certified Gluten Free Whole Grain Bars with added sterols and sterolins.

Sold. Sterols and sterolins, whatever they may be, must be good for you. Unfortunately, since being last on the ingredient list, we doubt there are enough in there to make an impact on your health.

But it does have real berries!

Get ready for this .5% real berries there is more brown sugar in this bar than berries.

It packs quite a bit of carbohydrate due to the oats and oat flour and is an approx 200 calories per bar.

Nakd (35g)

Vegan-friendly and gluten, wheat and dairy free! Nakd bars also contain no added sugar bar what it found in the fruit. This does add up to a hefty 17.5g of carbs though.

The bar is made up of dates, coconuts, raisins, cashews, cocoa and a hint of natural flavourings.

Well, at least the flavourings are natural right? Well not really

According to Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota natural flavourings are no better in quality, nor are they safer, than artificial flavourings.

This bar packs quite the calorie load given its size but the fibre content and natural sugars mean it keeps you fuller for longer and less likely to have a sugar crash.

Jungle Oats Peanut Butter Energy Bar (47g)

Containing oats, sugar and peanut paste this healthy alternative has almost as many calories as a Lunch Bar.

The fat content of this bar is very high at 16g per serving and we are confident it isn't the good kind of fat that the Banting folk harp on about.

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