Dietitian reviews of snack foods for kids: Chewsday Reviews


Today's food product is Carman's original fruit and nut muesli bars, suggested by a lovely Chewsday reader. A quick, nutritious snack or just junk?

🔶Ingredients: 🔹This is a slightly tricky ingredient list to interpret, but basic facts suggest it's 77% muesli. The muesli ingredients include oats, dried fruit, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, golden syrup, oat flour and cinnamon. 🔹if 77% of the bar comes from muesli, then obviously you want to know what the other 23% of ingredients are. Well, according to the information panel, it's just glucose (sugar) and natural vanilla flavour. So essentially, this product is Carman's muesli, with sugar to bind it. Keep reading- this isn't as bad as it sounds.

🔹I like that almost every ingredient is a real food- grains, fruit, nuts and seeds

🔶 The positives: 🔹High fibre food, with 3.2g per muesli bar, which is good for little tummies 🔹Very low sodium (salt) content 🔹High protein content (remember that Australian kids already have a high protein intake so don't necessarily need more protein in their diets!) 🔹the dried fruit in these bars is sulphite free, which is useful for those with food chemical intolerances (but most people can tolerate these with no problems) 🔹The convenience factor also can't be overlooked. These can be chucked into a bag, with no storage specifications, and pulled out in an emergency weeks later. Sometimes you can't put a price on that!

🔶The negatives: 🔹The sugar content comes in at 17.3g per 100g, which is just over general guidelines (aim for less than 15g/100g). However some of this sugar comes from the dried fruit, which also provides fibre and nutrients. The bars contain 4.5g more sugar (by weight) than the regular Carman's muesli, which was definitely better than I initially expected considering glucose is the binding ingredient. 🔹the overall fat content is relatively high because of the nuts (which are mostly a good fat), and because the muesli is toasted (baked with oil). They contain 14.9g per 100g, which is more than the 10g recommendations. However, the saturated fat content comes in under healthy guidelines. 🔹although nuts are super nutritious, the inclusion of almonds and pecans means that these muesli bars are banned at many Australian schools.

🔶 The marketing: 🔹Carman's do make a big deal out of their 'real food' ingredients and 'real natural fruit' (is there actually such a thing as fake natural fruit?!) I think they've got a reasonable edge in the market, because most of the other muesli bars are made up of some stranger sounding ingredients like humectants and starches and multiple forms of sugars. These aren't 'bad' ingredients, it's just that they don't have a lot of nutritional worth or health benefits- they're there to keep the bar stuck together.

🔶The alternatives: 🔹this product is an ok choice in a snack aisle often filled with foods containing very high levels of sugar, fat and salt 🔹homemade muesli bars might be a better option, but I am yet to find a recipe that tastes good, keeps its shape and isn't loaded with sugar. If you've got a recipe- hit me up!! 🔹these particular muesli bars are also a much better option than any of the other 'yoghurt' topped bars or 'protein' muesli bars sold by Carman's or any other brand for that matter. But that's a review for another day!

Today's Chewsday review is of Mother Earth Oaty Slices, and I chose the basic "golden oats" bar to put under the microscope today. Mother Earth also have fruit variations of this bar, but they may be for another Chewsday!

🔶Ingredients: whole grain cereals (47%), butter, golden syrup (13%), desiccated coconut (12%), brown sugar, whole egg powder, raising agents (450, 500), natural flavour, natural colour. 🔹The majority of the cereal content (96%) is oats, with the rest as flour. 🔹Raising agents 450 and 500 are substances that produce gas in the dough to bulk it out. These are non-harmful ingredients, although a small minority of people may have a sensitivity to 450.

🔶The positives: 🔹Good fibre content. Works out to 3g per Oaty Slices bar, which is considered to be a high fibre food! 🔹The convenience of these bars is another positive, but I do feel like I'm scraping the barrel here...

🔶The negatives: 🔹these bars have a high fat content, and my particular concern is about the high saturated fat content. General healthy guidelines suggest aiming for less than 10g of total fat and less than 3g of saturated fat per 100g. These Oaty Slices have 24.6g of fat and 15.5g of saturated fat per 100g. That is a LOT more than the recommendations. It's also a lot more than most other muesli bars out there. For example, these bars have double the fat content and SIX TIMES the saturated fat content of Carman's fruit and nut bars (see my review of these from two weeks ago). Most of the fat content comes from the butter and the coconut. 🔹the sugar content of Oaty Slices is also reasonably high at 22.4g per 100g, exceeding recommendations of 15g per 100g. Most of this sugar comes from golden syrup and brown sugar. Just as a side note, these two forms of sugar are no better or worse than regular white sugar. 🔹the sodium content of these bars also seem to be a lot higher than most other muesli style bars with 169mg of sodium per 100g. This is below the general recommendations, but is 8 times more than Carman's or Uncle Toby's muesli bars.

🔶The marketing: 🔹They only use Australian of New Zealand oats. Great. 🔹They add NATURAL ingredients like butter and whole grains. Natural does not necessarily equal good for you. In fact, the butter is the main source of the saturated fat and sodium in these bars. 🔹They "bake the bars, just like you would at home". Wow, this statement takes up 1/3 of the back of the packet. I think Mother Earth might be scraping the barrel here too...

🔶The alternatives: 🔹Other 'muesli-style' bars. I'd prefer Carman's fruit & nut bars or some of the Uncle Toby's muesli bars with a lower saturated fat, sugar and sodium content.

These snacks are in the health food aisle, and they've got a school canteen stamp on them- so are they a good lunchbox choice? Today's Chewsday Review features Mamee Monster Rice Sticks. These are VEGETABLE flavoured (perhaps a revolutionary way to get kids used to the taste of vegetables 😂- my tongue is firmly in my cheek!)

🔶Ingredients:

🔹Rice, corn, palm based carotino oil, wheat fibre (gluten free), vegetable flavour powder, dhall powder, tapioca starch, sugar, spices, salt, maltodextrin, yeast extract

🔹Carotino oil is a mixture of palm oil and canola oil. The manufacturers claim that it comes from sustainable plantations (orang-utan friendly!) and has a better nutrient profile than regular palm oil (less saturated fat, more omega 3 and some vitamin A & E). It sounds like a reasonable option at face value, but Dr Oz endorses it, so I am therefore highly suspicious.

🔹Common allergens include: milk and soy

🔶The positives:

🔹Low in sugar (as you would expect for a savoury snack)

🔹Reasonably high fibre content (2.4g per packet, which is about 17% of a toddler's requirements, 13% of primary school aged requirements)

🔹20g portion packs, meaning kids won't eat a lot of them. However, they are 75c per pack, which works out to about $37/kilo.

🔹Gluten free for coeliac kiddies

🔶The negatives:

🔹Very high in sodium (salt). At 610mg/100g it exceeds the upper limit of the healthy guidelines by 150%.

🔹High fat content, and particularly high saturated fat content at 8.2%. Healthy guidelines suggest aiming for less than 3% of saturated fat so this is more than double. Having said that, these chip-style snacks have half the total fat and half the saturated fat of regular potato chips.

🔶The marketing:

🔹Healthy School Canteen Strategy- Amber Compliant. This strategy defines amber foods as those that may contain some valuable nutrients (e.g. fibre) but may be too high in saturated fat (yes), sugar (no) and sodium (yes) to be categorised as green foods (everyday foods). Basically, they're a 'sometimes' food.

🔹No added MSG. I'm surprised that this is a big selling point, given that MSG is rarely used in flavourings in today's market. I'm guessing this is aimed at parents particularly worried about additives, and just makes it clear from the get go.

🔹No flavour enhancers, no artificial flavours.

🔹GM free. Genetically modified foods are a particularly controversial issue in the States, but not so much here.

🔶The alternatives:

🔹These are definitely better than snack packs of potato chips/crisps, but still not a particularly healthy choice. Snack packs of popcorn can be a better option, as can other corn and rice cakes. 🔹Aim for less than 3g saturated fat per 100g and less than 400mg sodium per 100g.

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