‘Healthy’ snack bars are a popular snack choice for many; especially those trying to avoid that afternoon chocolate fix. Unfortunately, they might not be so healthy after all!

A new study by consumer group Choice has revealed that most snack bars — even the ones labelled ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ — are overloaded with sugars and saturated fats.

For the study, Choice compared 224 cereal, muesli, nut, seed and raw bars from Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, assessing each of the bars’ health star ratings, energy per serve and wholegrains per serve.

It found the lowest rated snack bars to be:

  • Coles Nut Bars, choc-coated nut flavour – with 30.4grams of sugar and 16.6grams of saturated fat.
  • Fontelle Oven Baked Mini Meal, choc chip flavour – with 28.7grams of sugar and 18.8grams of saturated fat.
  • Hillcrest Muesli Bars in apricot and yoghurt flavour, honeycomb and nut flavour, strawberry and yoghurt flavour, and tropical and yoghurt flavour – all with over 28grams of sugar and over 10grams of saturated fat.
  • Carman’s Oat Slice Bars in Belgian chocolate brownie flavour, cranberry and blueberry flavour and golden oats and coconut flavour – all with 26grams of sugar and over 17grams of saturated fat.
  • Kellogg’s LCM’s split stix yoghurty and Nutri-Grain bars – with over 34grams of sugar and over 7grams of saturated fat.

A benefit of the Health Rating System (the little stars you see on many product boxes) is that it allows consumers to make a healthier choice at a glance, however not all manufacturers use it.

Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin told Choice that leading brands such as Kellogg’s and Weight Watchers have not put health star ratings on any of their snack bars, while Carman’s appears to be using the system as a promotional tool by only displaying the stars on its healthiest products.

“Unless all brands put the stars on all products, it’s very difficult for shoppers to compare at a glance and make an informed choice,” she says.

“At a time when 63 percent of Australian adults and 27 percent of children are overweight or obese, it’s disappointing that so many food companies are not supporting consumers with the information they need to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”

Many Weight Watchers’ snack bars also had low Health Star Ratings with some at just 1.5 stars and over 30 grams of sugar in each bar! That’s a lot of time on the treadmill!

I know what you’re thinking: “Well, I might as well just eat chocolate.” But please, don’t resort to that just yet.

The study also found the best and healthiest snack bars out there.

In the category of cereal and muesli bars, two products received a health star rating of 4.5, and met all of Choice’s criteria for energy and wholegrains. Those were Goodness Superfoods Better for U Cereal Bar in wild berries and yoghurt flavour (18.9grams sugar and 2.9grams of saturated fat) and Uncle Toby’s Farmer’s Pick in roasted macadamia and almond flavour (13.3grams sugar and 1.9grams saturated fat).

In the nuts, raw and seeds category the best were:

  • Emma & Tom’s chia bars in cacao flavour and cinnamon flavour – with less than 21.5grams of sugar and 1.5grams saturated fat.
  • Golden Days seed bar with quinoa – with less than 11.5grams of sugar and 3.5grams of saturated fat.
  • Naturally Nood wholefood bar, apple rumble flavour – with less than 37grams of sugar and 2.2grams of saturated fat.
  • Soma Bite’s bar, apple and superseeds flavour and goji and chia flavour – with less than 27.5grams of sugar and 5grams saturated fat.

So put that chocolate away!

You can find Choice‘s study and the full list of bars here

But, if all that has put you off snack bars for good, why not try some of these healthy snack ideas?