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by Alison McAleese, LiveLighter Victoria Campaign Manager and Dietitian


Muesli Bar

Paleo, superfoods, activated, raw – the health food section of the supermarket is full of snacks which claim to be healthy. But they’re also extremely expensive.

We hit the supermarkets to see if these ‘healthy’ alternatives are worth the extra cost, taking a handful of snacks from the health food aisle and comparing them with a similar product.

We've also provided DIY snack alternatives that are less processed, healthier and cheaper.

Here's what we found...

You can also read our chat with the Sydney Morning Herald about our findings here

Muesli bars

“Health food” aisle

“Regular food” aisle

Emma and Tom's life bar

Cocao and coffee bean

 $2.99 per serving (35 g)

Carmen’s

Dark choc espresso

 $0.78 per serving (35 g)

Our analysis:

The two bars are similar in size and energy (Carmen’s is slightly higher in energy). There is more protein in the Carmen’s bar but also more sugar. The sugar in the Carmen’s bar comes from added sugars and in the Emma and Tom’s bar comes from dates and raisins. Overall, these bars are similar. Both are more like occasional treats rather than everyday foods.

LiveLighter alternative:

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Small handful of plain nuts and few dried apricots (29 g)

Rice chips

“Health food” aisle

“Regular food” aisle

Sun Rice Brown Rice Chips
Sweet chilli

$1.22 per serving (35 g)

Fantastic Rice Crackers
Sweet chilli and sour cream
$0.48 per serving (42 g)

Our analysis:

Both options are low in sugar and high in sodium (salt). The brown rice chips are definitely still chips at 21% fat. The rice crackers are lower in fat but are pretty much ‘salty air’. You don’t get a lot of nutrients from them. Out of the two, the rice crackers are a better choice, but eating a smaller amount with toppings like cheese, avocado, tomato or hummus would make them a more nutritious snack.

LiveLighter alternative:

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Choose some grainy crackers and a slice of cheese (42 g)

Apricot bites

“Health food” aisle

“Regular food” aisle

Golden Days
Apricot bites

$0.85 per serving (40 g)

Robern Delightfuls
Apricot indulgence
$0.38 per serving (25 g)

Our analysis:

The apricot bites are 50% apricot and 50% ‘other stuff’ – sugar, glucose syrup, vegetable oil and some preservatives. These are not a nutritious snack and I’m unsure of their reason for being in the ‘health food aisle’. They are 53% sugar. The Apricot Indulgence are no better with only 40% apricots. Worryingly they are 72% sugar. Neither of these are a ‘health food’. Treat them like a lolly.

LiveLighter alternative:

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Grab an apple instead (100 g)

Energy balls

“Health food” aisle

“Regular food” aisle

Bounce Natural Energy Ball
Peanut

$3 per serving (49 g)

Sunbeam Energy Bites
Date and cacao
$1 per serving (30 g)

Our analysis:

I’ll tell you a secret. If ‘energy’ features in the name of the food or on the pack the product is going to be really high in kilojoules (energy). The Bounce energy ball contains added sugars and has no fruit. It does include 29% peanuts and some sesame seeds but appears to be highly processed. Of the two, the Sunbeam energy bites would be a better choice as they are 80% dates. However when it comes to dried fruit we recommend watching your portion. Dates are high in energy and eating more than 2-3 can mean you’re eating a lot of sugar. If you are having mini snacks like this, put a few in a bowl and put the pack away before you start eating – otherwise the packet can disappear before you know it.

LiveLighter alternative:

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A piece of wholegrain toast with a thin spread of peanut butter (52 g)

Vegie crisps

“Health food” aisle

“Regular food” aisle

Vege Deli crisps
Lentil lightly salted

$1 per serving (20 g)

Cobs Natural popcorn
Sea salt  
$0.71 per serving (20 g)

Our analysis:

The Vege deli lentils crisps look like a bit like a mini poppadom’s but they are full of air and clearly quite refined. While they have lower saturated fat than other chips, they are still high in total fat (20%) and therefore energy (1010kJ per ½ a bag). The first ingredient is ‘potato starch’  and the second is ‘lentil flour’ – there are no whole lentils, which explains why the fibre content is low (2.5%). Popcorn can be a better choice, but this product has a lot of added fat (it is 25% fat) which means it is high in energy – so you need to watch your portion size. Of the two, the popcorn is better, but an even better option would be homemade popcorn with less fat and salt.

LiveLighter alternative:

popcorn


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