All About Cereal Bars
Pretty much everyone has grabbed a cereal bar at one time or another, for a meal replacement or on the go snack but are all cereal bars actually good for you? Cereal bar nutrition can get very complicated as there are various bars created to fill different needs. Many brands try to market and promote that their bars are healthy, but sometimes they are far from healthy.
The main reason why cereal bars are so popular is because everyone is so busy and they want an on the go snack that they believe is “healthy” or “healthier” than other snacks they could be eating. Which is why many of us grab a few cereal bars and sit and eat them at ours desks either before or after lunch as a quick pick me up.
Are All Cereals Bars Created Equal?
We will be comparing and contrasting the most popular cereal bars, and in order to do that we needed to pick a basic flavor that most brands sold. Since peanut butter and the chocolate combo is so popular in the US, we chose this. So for the purpose of this post we will look at various brands and compare the peanut and chocolate flavored cereal bars amongst themselves. *If a certain brand did not have a peanut butter and chocolate bar we used the most comparable flavor that could be found.*
We have taken 12 popular brands and compared them on their saturated fat, sugar, protein, calorie content, fiber, and sodium and ranked the top 3 for each category. You will find the winners for each category as you keep reading through this post.
Saturated Fat Content
Most of the bars had relatively low saturated fat. So low in fact that 10 of them tied were tied in the top 3 places!
Saturated fats increase cholesterol and plaque within your arteries, but saturated fats increase satiety, which prevent overeating. Saturated fats are a hot button topic at the moment, because some scientists believe that saturated fat is not as bad for your health as once thought. The current recommended daily intake (RDI) for saturated fat is 20g a day.
The recommended allowance of sugar for men is 37.5 grams (1.32 ounces) of sugar for men and 25 grams (0.88 ounces) of sugar for women per day. One of the biggest hidden dangers with cereal bars is the sugar content, with many containing as much a candy bar. For example, the Chocolate Chips and Crunchy Peanuts Luna Bar (which did not place within the top 3 healthiest bars for sugar content) contained 20 grams of sugar. Thats just over half the daily allowance for men and nearly the total allowance for women.
Having a cereal bar with high protein is beneficial, especial if you want to beat the afternoon slump. Some of these bars had a considerable amount of protein, which was surprising in a good way because non of these bars were directly marketed as “protein bars”.
The USDA recommends women to have 1800 calories and men to 2400 calories, so its important to understand that some of these cereal bars that you eat as a snack sometimes have as many calories as a meal. The good news is that some of these bars were also very low in calories, as seen below.
Fiber is very important to your health because it provides the bulk of your feces and promotes bowel movement and decreases the incidence of bowel cancer. Some of these bars had surprisingly high amounts of fiber, which was a pleasant surprise! The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 25 grams of fiber and men consume 38 grams per day. It was no surprise that the fiber one bars won this category.
Sodium is the leading cause of high blood pressure in today’s world and is practically unavoidable in many processed foods and restaurants. So it is ideal to closely monitor the amount of sodium you are consuming. The FDA recommends 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Great news for people with heart problems and high blood pressure, some of these bars were extremely low in sodium!
Which is The Best Overall Bar?
The bars were given points for finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in each of these categories listed above, with 3, 2 and 1 points awarded respectively. Below are the top 5 cereal bars that obtained the most points.
- Annie’s (9 points)
- Quaker (7 points)
- Nature Valley (7 points)
Luna (6 points)
- Kellogs (6 points)
**Luna bars were removed from this list because each bar contains 20 grams (5 tablespoons) of sugar, which is unacceptably high, even if it did end up ranking in the top 5 bars. At Mr and Mrs Nutritionist we can not overlook the amount of sugar this bar contains and for this reason we suggest you try to avoid buying the chocolate chips and crunchy peanuts Luna bar.
Final Word From Mr and Mrs Nutritionist
It is very easy for cereal bars to take the place of mid day snacking or even meals. But here at Mr and Mrs Nutritionist we want people to make informed choices
If you wanted a generic cereal bar to consume as a part of daily balanced diet then any of the top four bars we suggest would be a good choice. However, If you had a specific condition i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, elderly or heart disease it may be beneficial to choose one of the individual bars that won its respective category. For example Annie’s Peanut Chewy Granola for those who suffer with high blood pressure as it contains the lowest amount of sodium out of the bars analyzed, or a high protein bar (other than the Luna bar) for those who are elderly to prevent muscle wasting.
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