Can cereal bars cereal-ously damage your diet?

Kellie Collins

We’ve all slept in at some stage. You know that feeling where you open one eye, squint at the clock and then shoot out of bed as you realise you must have switched the alarm off in a sleepy haze. As you dash around the house in a frenzy, breakfast is the last thing on your mind. Lucky you bought that box of cereal bars last week to keep at your desk in work for such emergencies.

But don’t be deceived into thinking that a cereal bar will give you a healthy start to the day because depending on which type you’ve chosen, they could be doing you as much damage as a bacon butty.

Some of the worst culprits, believe it or not, are the Kellogg’s cereal bars. These include Coco Pops, Cornflakes, Frosties and Rice Krispies Cereal and Milk bars “fused with a splash of milk to make delicious crunchy bars”.

On average these bars contain 3 grams of fat (most or all of which is saturated) and 10 grams of sugar, all packed into 90 calories (1½ Totals). This means that around 30% of the calories in these bars are from saturated fats – for a healthy diet, we’re recommended to get no more than 10% of our energy from saturated fat so these little bars provide 3 times this!!

Sugar can provide up to 40% of the calories in these bars, again going way over the recommended 10% of energy.

When you compare these values to a bowl of cereal with semi-skimmed milk (around 170 calories, 2 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar or 2 Totals), it really brings these nutrition numbers home.

The bowl of cereal provides only 10% of its energy from fat and a much more respectable 20% of energy from sugar. Even that bacon butty doesn’t look so bad in comparison – one of these will provide just over 30% of its calories from fat (that’s not the go-ahead to have a bacon butty every day, by the way).

And lets face it, a paltry little bar isn’t going to fill you up for very long whereas a bowl of wholegrain cereal will keep those batteries recharged until lunch, making you less likely to need a chocolate bar in between.

If you’re a fan of Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars, there’s more chance that they will fill you up better, and for longer, than the Coco Pops or Frosties type bars. They are higher in complex carbs and lower in sugar than the super sweet bars having an average of 160 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar (2 Totals).

So they are still not as good as a bowl of cereal with semi-skimmed milk, but they’re certainly better than a cereal and milk bar.

Kellogg’s have also launched a new Fruit n’ Fibre bar which you might perceive to be healthy but at 96 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar (1 Total) it’s almost as bad as the cereal and milk bars above.

However, Kellogg’s have managed to redeem themselves with my own favourite, the Special K bar, now in two flavours – original and new peach and apricot flavour. At around 90 calories each with 1.5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar (1 Total), these bars are within dietary recommendations and quite yummy too.

Not to be outdone, Nestle have followed Kelloggs’ lead and launched their own line of cereal bars, including Cheerios and Nesquik bars. Unfortunately these are also pretty high in the sats and sugar stakes with 96 calories, 7.5 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of those being saturated fat (1½ Units).

After all that, I would say that you still can’t beat a bowl of cereal with lashings of ice-cold (semi-skimmed) milk and the potential to keep you going until lunchtime.

My advice is to set your alarm a few minutes earlier and make time for a tasty bowl of cereal, but if you’re prone to being late the odd time, keep a few Special K bars or Nutri-Grain bars around your desk at work. Just don’t make a habit of it or you could cereal-ously sabotage your diet.

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