When I’m not Graze-ing, I have to find other portable, affordable, healthy snacks to keep me going while on French soil. Cereal bars here are typically the full-of-sugar type made by major cereal companies, with little available in the way of genuine alternatives. Of course I have tried plenty of these myself and often been left dissatisfied, even with products from brands whose normal cereals I usually enjoy.
So some of the bars below were recommended to me by friends, while others have been sussed out by me while trying to ignore the tunnel of love (a.k.a. the biscuit aisle*) in the supermarket. But which ones are the best? How much do they really cost, and more importantly, how much fat and sugar do they contain? Are you really getting a healthy alternative? (FYI, the percentages below refer to a woman’s guideline daily amount, or GDA, of sugar and saturated fat.) And even more importantly, do the healthiest actually taste nice?
Allow me to take you through a selection of my faves.
How many varieties does it come in? 5: original, organic, pumpkin seed, nutty, and flax
How much fat and sugar? The original bar contains 5g of saturated fat (25%) and 13.1g (14.5%) sugar. These amounts obviously vary for the other bars.
Where can I buy them and how much do they cost? 9 Bars are stocked at a wide variety of UK supermarkets (including Waitrose, Asda and Tesco), but your best bet is to try Morrison’s or Holland and Barrett, who each stock 3 varieties out of the 5. On average, a bar costs about 99p (but you can get them as low as 87p a bar if you shop online).
How do they taste? Maybe not all of the seeds are individually detectable in their flavours, but their flavours combine to make a pleasing ‘whole’. The layer of carob is great for chocoholics who need a fix while on their diet! Slightly sticky (but not inconveniently so). Possibly too sweet for some.
How many varieties does it come in? The ‘Nudie’ bars (i.e. their most basic line; see left) come in around 9 flavours (some places stock discontinued flavours): Banana Bread, Apple Pie, Berry Delight, Cocoa Mint, Cocoa Delight, Cocoa Orange, Pecan Pie, Ginger Bread, and Cashew Cookie.
How much fat and sugar? Obviously the cocoa ones are likely to contain more. The Berry Delight bar, for instance, though, contains 16g sugar (18%) and 1g of saturated fat (5%). I was surprised by the higher sugar level, but that (I hope) comes from the natural sugars present in the fruit used.
Where can I buy them and how much do they cost? They’re available in all major supermarkets, plus at Jonathan Graves and Holland & Barrett. At supermarkets you’re more likely to find the multipacks, but a narrower range of flavours, whereas the health food stores tend to sell single bars only, with no offers on them – but you get a wider variety. Prices start at 49p online, but rise to 75p as a minimum in shops. Multipacks start from £2.29 for a packet of 4.
How do they taste? Surprisingly, not as sweet as the 9 Bars, despite the higher levels of sugar. Packed with natural flavour. A slightly strange but pleasing texture somewhere between a jelly sweet and a biscuit.
How many varieties does it come in? 3 – cocoa brownie, peanut and oat, and mixed berry.
How much fat and sugar? As these bars are made by the same guys as NAKD, let’s compare like with like, taking the stats from Trek’s mixed berry bar. This contains 30g sugar per bar (33%), and no saturated fat whatsoever. However, these weigh 68g compared to NAKD’s slightly-meagre-by-comparison 35g. In the end, there isn’t much in it – per 100g, NAKD’s Berry Delight bars contain 47g of sugar, whereas the Trek bars contain 44.
Where can I buy them and how much do they cost? The stockists are the same as above, but you’re more likely to find them at Holland and Barrett than anywhere else, where they’re £1.49 a bar.
How do they taste? The only one I’ve tried – the peanut and oat – carried both flavours through distinctively and successfully. Tasted natural and not too heavy or greasy. Sweet, but not overly so. A hint of an almost ‘caramelized’ flavour is present.
Original Crunchy Bars (Honey and Almond)
How many varieties does it come in?
Just the one you see here – although coconut and even butterscotch versions are rumoured to exist.
How much fat and sugar? Each bar contains 1.3g saturated fat (so 6.5%) and 8.8g sugar (9.7%). So these come in lower on the saturated fat scale than the other bars, but typically higher on the sugar content.
Where can I buy them and how much do they cost? They are occasionally available as single bars for around 45p. However, they are mostly available in multipack form, costing from £1.98 for 9 bars. Available at most major supermarkets, including Tesco.
How do they taste? The honey and almond flavours come through nice and clearly (although the former perhaps more than the latter). My only complaint is regarding the texture – these are very hard indeed, so don’t give them to any tiny people who might be on the cusp of losing a tooth.
How many varieties do they come in? This Jordans creation is available in more variants than its crunchier brother: the six types consist of cranberry and apple, raisin and hazelnut, red berries, blueberry, tropical, and apple/cinnamon/sultana.
How much fat and sugar? At 8.9g sugar per bar, this contains nearly 10% of a woman’s daily sugar requirement. With 0.5g saturated fat, this amounts to 2.5% of a woman’s GDA.
How much do they cost and where can I buy them? These can start at a mere 40p for a single bar online, but again they’re most commonly spotted as part of a multipack – which starts at £1.50 for a box of six in most major supermarkets.
How do they taste? Fruity, but not too sweet. However, you don’t get the feeling of a really satisfying snack – it feels like they have a lot of air in them and the odds of going back for a second one are high.
So which ones are “the best”?
The more mainstream bars by Jordan’s cost less than the others, but this is probably to be expected when you pit a major cereal brand against smaller independent companies. In saturated fat terms, the Trek bar is the winner, with none whatsoever for its peanut and oat variety. I was surprised to see how much saturated fat the 9 bars had in them! The Jordan’s Crunchy bars contain the least sugar, which again surprised me. The Trek bar, which had the least saturated fat, also contained the most sugar, so I wouldn’t let these figures necessarily get in the way too much, as it’s likely to be swings and roundabouts. But for a combined total of GDA, it’s the Frusli bars that come out on top – their combined GDA of sugar and saturated fat is a mere 12.5% compared with the “worst” bar, the 9 bar, which has a combined GDA of 39.5%! Even if you eat 2 Frusli bars (which, as mentioned above, is likely), that’s still the equivalent of 1 NAKD bar in terms of combined GDA. So it looks like you’re best off going for Jordans or NAKD as an everyday snack, leaving Trek bars and 9 bars as more occasional treats.
Combined GDA (saturated fat + sugar) ranking table
9 bar 39.5%
Trek bar 33%
NAKD bar 23%
Jordans crunchy 16.2%
Jordans Frusli 12.5%
But these findings don’t necessarily mean that this investigation is over. Oh no. I recently put in orders at both The Health Bay and Healthy Supplies to replenish my cereal bar stock, and these are the ones I’m looking forward to trying:
Tropical Wholefoods Apricot and Raisin bar (you’ll remember that they already won me over with their delicious and affordable dried mango pieces)
Beond Raw Acai Berry Bar
Oskri Sesame Bar with Date Syrup
O Bar Pomegranate and Raspberry
Fruitus Apricot and Oat
So it’s very possible that you’ll be seeing Battle of the Bars: Part 2 commencing within the next few months (depending on how fast I can eat them…), which all hopefully helps you to make more informed snacktime choices. YAY 😀
*Lamentably I cannot take credit for this little gem; for that, I point you in stand-up comedian Bill Bailey’s direction.
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