Healthy cereal bars: The best and worst for your diet revealed

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  • Healthy cereal bars are a great on-the-go breakfast choice, but you might be surprised at the amount of sugar and fat some contain…

    Cereal bars have become a staple in our busy modern lives, with many of us swapping healthy cereals for a bite-sized bar as a low-calorie breakfast option or healthy snack.

    Often containing ingredients like oats, nuts and fruit, we’ve been led to believe cereal bars are healthy and nutritious. And whilst some certainly are, there are some by popular brands that are actually high in hidden sugar and saturated fat.

    “The biggest thing to watch out for when it comes to shop-bought cereal bars (and all kid’s breakfast cereals for that matter) is sugar content,” says Mina Khan, nutritionist and founder of nutraceutical company Formulate Health. “A ‘skinny’ or ‘light’ cereal bar may be filled with oats, high in fibre and low in fat, but the amount of sugar in some of these ‘healthy choices’ is a real shock when you look at the packaging.”

    With this in mind, we asked Mina to help us rank the best and worst cereal bars for your diet, taking into consideration factors like calories, sugar, fibre and saturated fat.

    What are the healthiest cereal bars?

    Those wanting healthy cereal bars should try Alpen’s Light Bars range which was ranked as the best cereal bar nutrition-wise. They take the trophy for the cereal bar lowest in saturated fat, with only 0.3g in each bar. Containing just 66 calories AND available in delicious flavours like Cherry Bakewell and Chocolate and Fudge, these bars are a real winner.

    • Best cereal bar overall: Alpen Light Bars (Cherry Bakewell)
    • Best cereal bar for sugar content: Fibre One Protein Bars (Caramel and Nuts)
    • Best cereal bar for saturated fat content: Alpen Light Bars (Cherry Bakewell)

    Whilst the least healthy cereal bars are Rice Krispies Squares Bars, which contain huge quantities of sugar and very little evidence of nutritional goodness. A typical bar contains 9g of sugar, which otherwise translates to four heaped teaspoons. This amounts to a third of the NHS’s daily allowance on sugar.

    • Worst cereal bar overall: Rice Krispies Squares Bars
    • Worst cereal bar for sugar content: Eat Natural Cranberries, Macadamias and Dark Chocolate Bars
    • Worst cereal bar for saturated fat content: Eat Natural Cranberries, Macadamias and Dark Chocolate Bars
    Woman eating a healthy cereal bar after training and holding her smart phone

    Credit: Getty

    Healthy cereal bars ranked from best and worst

    1. Best cereal bar overall and best for saturated fat: Alpen Light Bars Cherry Bakewell

    A pack of Alpen Light Cherry Bakewell bars which are healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Ocado

    Per bar –
    Cals: 66
    Fat: 1.1g
    Saturated fat: 0.3g
    Sugar: 2.9g
    Salt: 0.03g
    Price: £2 at Ocado

    Verdict: The Alpen Light Bars range have been crowned the best cereal bars overall for their low sugar, low fat and low calories content. This low-calorie snack also boasts the best saturated fat rating. “The Cherry Bakewell option contains almost 3g sugar per serving, which is much lower than many of the other options on this list,” says nutritionist Mina Khan. “What’s more, these bars also provide a high amount of fibre, which is great for digestion and for keeping your energy levels up overtime.”  

    View at Ocado

    2. Best cereal bar for sugar content: Fibre One Protein Caramel and Nuts Bars

    Fibre One caramel flavour bars are healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 87
    Fat: 2.4g
    Saturated fat: 1.7g
    Sugar: 1.0g
    Salt: 0.27g
    Price: £2.89 at Tesco

    Verdict: Fibre One bars also ranked highly in our healthy cereal bars list. Their Protein Caramel and Nuts bar is the best cereal bar for sugar content with only 1g in each bar. Mina also confirms these are both high in fibre and protein – perfect for those on a high-protein plan. “Sound like a winner to me,” she adds.

    View at Tesco

    3. Kellogg’s Special K Milk Chocolate Chewy Delight

    Special K Fibre chocolate bars are healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 96
    Fat: 3.1g
    Saturated fat: 1.2g
    Sugar: 5.8g
    Salt: 0.1g
    Price: £1.99 at Tesco

    Verdict: “Special K’s Chewy Delight bar is quite high in fat and sugar, as you’d expect given that it contains chocolate,” says Mina. “It is however also high in fibre, which is great to see.” This Special K cereal bar is not a bad option for those wanting a chocolatey cereal treat as it will satisfy your cravings and keep you full. 

    View at Tesco

    4. Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Oats & Honey bar

    Made from oats, Nature Valley crunchy oats and honey bars are healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per packet (two bars) –
    Cals: 196
    Fat: 7.6g
    Saturated fat: 0.9g
    Sugar: 11.3g
    Salt: 0.36g
    Price: £2.39 at Tesco

    Verdict: Don’t be put off by the calorie content of this bar, as it’s natural ingredients will keep you more satisfied than other low-cal cereal bars on the market. “Nature Valley’s Crunchy Granola Oats & Honey bar is made with 100% wholegrain oats, making it a great, filling option for those looking for slow release energy that will keep you satisfied,” says Mina. “However, this bar is also fairly high in sugar, containing 11.3g altogether. In saying this, the bars have relatively low saturated fat contents, so may be an ideal choice for those on low fat diets.”

    View at Tesco

    5. Kellogg’s Frosties Cereal Bars

    Kellogg's Frosties bars make our healthy cereal bars list

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 100
    Fat: 2.3g
    Saturated fat: 1.6g
    Sugar: 6.5g
    Salt: 0.14g
    Price: 99p at Tesco

    Verdict: “Just like Frosties cereal, Frosties Snack Bars contain a lot of sugar which helps keep them tasting grreat, but unfortunately does not make them very nutritious,” says Mina. Whilst the sugar content is alarming, their saturated fat content and calories are better than other cereal bars on the market. 

    View at Tesco

    6. BelVita Breakfast Biscuits Yogurt Crunch

    A box of belvita breakfast cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 114
    Fat: 4g
    Saturated fat: 1.3g
    Sugar: 6.8g
    Salt: 0.14g
    Price: £2.25 at Tesco

    Verdict: These BelVita Yoghurt Crunch bars are in the middle of the spectrum. “It’s definitely not packed full of fibre, the sugar content is quite moderate and it is more like a biscuit rather than a cereal bar,” says Mina on their nutritional value.

    View at Tesco

    7. Tesco Free From 5 Oaty Crunch Granola Bars

    Our healthy cereal bars list includes Tesco's own brand granola bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 199
    Fat: 8g
    Saturated fat: 0.9g
    Sugar: 11.6g
    Salt: 0.1g
    Price: £1.80 at Tesco

    Verdict: Though these cereal bars are gluten free, don’t be fooled into thinking they are better for you. Mina tells us: “This option is fairly high in sugar and again, has very little fibre so is unlikely to keep you feeling satisfied for long. Don’t be misled by the mention of 5 oats in the title of this one, it actually contains less fibre than a Rice Krispies bar.”

    View at Tesco

    8. Alpen Strawberry and Yoghurt Bars

    One of the healthy cereal bars is Alpen Strawberry and Yoghurt

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 199
    Fat: 8g
    Saturated fat: 0.9g
    Sugar: 11.6g
    Salt: 0.1g
    Price: £1.99 at Tesco

    Verdict: Mina rates these Alpen yoghurt bars because of their good fibre rating which rivals most of the other options out there. She adds: “The sugar content in these is moderate, but some of this comes from real dried fruit.”

    View at Tesco

    9. Coco Pops Snack Bars

    Coco pops are one of our listed medium healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 84
    Fat: 2.6g
    Saturated fat: 1.9g
    Sugar: 5.4g
    Salt: 0.08g
    Price: 99p at Tesco

    Verdict: Coco Pops – loved by kids and adults – is available as a bar, but how does it rank in our healthy cereal bars list? “Just like with the Rice Krispie bars, Coco Pops Snack Bars provide very little nutritional benefits and contain a high amount of sugar,” says Mina. “Again, the fibre content in these bars is also quite low, meaning it’s more than likely that you’ll end up feeling peckish, reaching for another one 10 minutes later.”

    View at Tesco

    10. Rice Krispies Snack Bars

    Kellogg's rice krispies bars are in our healthy cereal bars edit

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 83
    Fat: 2.2g
    Saturated fat: 1.7g
    Sugar: 5.8g
    Salt: 0.11g
    Price: 99p at Tesco

    Verdict: Sadly Rice Krispies bars rank more towards the unhealthy end of the cereal bar spectrum. According to Mina they contain very little fibre and are high in fat and sugar. “They may give you a short spike of energy (think sugar rush) but are unlikely to keep you feeling full and satisfied for very long,” she tells us.

    View at Tesco

    11. Cadbury’s Raisin Brunch Bar

    Cadbury's raisin brunch bar is one of the least healthy cereal bars on the market.

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 133
    Fat: 4.8g
    Saturated fat: 2.4g
    Sugar: 10g
    Salt: 0.15g
    Price: £1.00 at Tesco

    Verdict: Cadbury Brunch Bars, containing raisins and chocolate, unsurprisingly contain really high amounts of sugar. Mina notes that whilst they do taste great and have some fibre (albeit small) they are one of the least healthy cereal bars out there.

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    12. Special K Biscuit Moments Strawberry

    A box of Special K's biscuit moments - one product in our healthy cereal bars edit

    Credit: Ocado

    Per bar –
    Cals: 98
    Fat: 1.9g
    Saturated fat: 0.7g
    Sugar: 7.8g
    Salt: 0.19g
    Price: £1.99 at Ocado

    Verdict: “Calories definitely aren’t everything when it comes to checking labels on shop-bought snacks,” says Mina. She reveals that these Biscuit Moments Strawberry bars are actually packed with sugar, containing more than Coco Pops and Rice Krispies bars.

    View at Ocado

    13. Jordans Frusli Raisin and Hazelnut Bar

    A packet of Jordans Frusli bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 120
    Fat: 3.7g
    Saturated fat: 0.5g
    Sugar: 9.6g
    Salt: 0.01g
    Price: £2 at Tesco

    Verdict: Nutrition-wise Jordans Granola and Frusli bars fall at the bad end of the table. They’re extremely high in sugar with one bar containing over two teaspoons of sugar. That’s a third of your daily free sugar allowance. 

    View at Tesco

    14. Nutri-Grain Strawberry Bars

    A packet of Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Strawberry cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 130
    Fat: 3.1g
    Saturated fat: 1.1g
    Sugar: 12g
    Salt: 0.20g
    Price: £1.99 at Tesco

    Verdict: Just one Nutri-Grain Strawberry Bar contains 12g of sugar and not a lot of fibre. “They’re another product that has been marketed as being healthy, yet is packed with sugar,” adds Mina.

    View at Tesco

    15. Worst cereal bar for sugar and saturated fat content: Eat Natural Cranberries, Macadamias and Dark Chocolate Bars

    Eat Natural's dark chocolate and cranberry bars are one of the least healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 215
    Fat: 11.7g
    Saturated fat: 8g
    Sugar: 15.9g
    Salt: 0.01g
    Price: £2 at Tesco

    Verdict: These Eat Natural Cranberries, Macadamias and Dark Chocolate Bar are not recommended by Mina, with each bar containing more than 4 teaspoons of sugar. “This is definitely the kind of thing you’d see on the shelf and presume to be healthy, but unfortunately they contain a similar amount of sugar and calories to a typical chocolate bar,” she says. “They are definitely something you should enjoy as a one-off treat as opposed to a regular snack.”

    View at Tesco

    16. Worst cereal bar overall: Rice Krispies Squares

    Rice Krispies Squares are the least healthy cereal bars

    Credit: Tesco

    Per bar –
    Cals: 119
    Fat: 3.4g
    Saturated fat: 2g
    Sugar: 9g
    Salt: 0.21g
    Price: £1.99 at Tesco

    Verdict: As tasty as they may be, Mina rates Rice Krispies Squares as the least healthy cereal bar: “Rice Krispies squares bars are extremely high in sugar and very low in fibre, providing very little nutritional value.”

    View at Tesco

    Why can cereal bars be bad for you?

    Nutritionist Mina Khan tells us that some cereal bars can be bad for you because of their high-sugar content:

    “Cereal bars can be a quick, substantial snack that will keep you full and give you energy throughout the day. However, not all cereal bars are healthy, with some popular branded bars containing sugar and refined carbs which are calorific and will contribute to a ‘sugar rush’.”

    Healthspan Nutritionist Rob Hobson agrees, adding that on the whole, ‘any shop bought cereal bar I would treat as a sweet snack’.

    ‘They often contain quite a bit of sugar, which is normally in the form of honey,” he says. “However this is normally less sugar than a chocolate bar. The plus side of a cereal bar compared to other sweet treats is that they usually contain healthy ingredients such as nuts, seeds, oats and dried fruits. These offer healthy fats and minerals such as magnesium and iron.”

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    Rob adds that when looking for healthy cereal bars, seek out those with ingredients like oats and dried fruits and forego chocolate.

    “To keep it as healthy as possible, I would steer clear of chocolate or any bar that has a coating of some sort – the yogurt ones can be very high in sugar,” he says. “Check the sugar content by looking at both the front of pack labelling and the nutrition label on the back of the packet.”

    Due to their sweet nature, Mina further advises against reaching for a daily cereal bar:

    “No matter which type of cereal bar you prefer, I wouldn’t recommend having them every day. As with anything in life, they’re great to consume in moderation, as and when they’re needed.”