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Food science report finds muesli bars could help Australian dietary intake

The number of wholegrain snack bars is on the rise, research shows.
Photo: Felicity Curtain

Whole lot of benefit can be gained from consuming grains in muesli bars.

A new report published in the food science journal Foods in August shows the humble muesli bar could help address the shortfall in Australian wholegrain dietary intake.

The report, covering a Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) study, looked at more than 160 muesli bar products.

The study found that two-thirds of muesli bars on supermarket shelves were wholegrain, with one bar providing up to a third of the daily wholegrain consumption target of 48 grams for adults and half of the daily wholegrain target of 32 to 40g for children.

It also showed that more than 40 per cent of Australian school lunchboxes include a snack bar and, while not all bars are nutritionally equal, GLNC nutrition manager Felicity Curtain recommends wholegrain bars as a healthier option in this food category.

"Bars made from wholegrains, such as oats, brown rice, barley or wheat, were higher in protein and fibre and lower in sugar and sodium," Ms Curtain says.

"So selecting these over refined bars is a simple step towards choosing a healthy bar," she says, adding that refined bars are often made with puffed or flaked grains.

The GLNC research indicated that the number of wholegrain snack bars on-shelf had increased by 31 per cent compared with data collected in 2015.

Selecting these over refined bars is a simple step towards choosing a healthy bar. - GLNC nutrition manager Felicity Curtain

The average sugar content of these food products was found to have declined by four per cent between 2015 and 2019, suggesting manufacturer reformulation to help reduce sugar intake.

Other findings of the GLNC study were:

  • muesli and oat-based snack bars had the highest average nutritional score of three stars under the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, and most of these products were rated four stars or above;
  • based on GLNC's Code of Practice for wholegrain ingredient content claims, which defines the content required for registered users of the code to make claims on foods, 66 per cent of muesli bars were wholegrain, meaning they contain at least 8g per serve;
  • wholegrain bars were higher in protein and dietary fibre and lower in sodium than non-wholegrain bars; and
  • more than half (56 per cent) of all bars provided a source of fibre, between 1g and 4g.

Ms Curtain says these new findings, highlighting increased wholegrain content and manufacturer innovation, help to lift the nutritional profile of muesli bars, which have often been viewed with consumer scepticism due to the perceived high sugar content of this food category.

More information: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council.

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