Is your 'healthy' muesli as sugary as Frosties and how do you choose between all the wholesome-looking packets
02:22 GMT, 16 October 2012
Sales of sugar-coated breakfast cereals are falling, and it seems many of us are turning to mueslis and granolas instead.
Tesco has reported a 20 per cent rise in sales of these ‘healthier’ products.
Industry insiders say there’s a growing demand for less processed foods: consumers want natural ingredients that will help to keep their cholesterol levels and digestive system healthy.
While some cereals really will help to keep cholesterol down, others are as sugary as Frosties and contain high levels of saturated fat
As a result, supermarket shelves are now heaving with mueslis.
But how do you choose between all the wholesome-looking packets
Essentially, muesli is a raw mixture of oats, other wholegrains, dried fruit and nuts. Granola is a crisp, baked version of the same thing.
But after that, the variations between the individual products are endless, from ‘extra crispy’ to those packed with ‘super seeds’.
And while some products really will help to keep cholesterol down, others are as sugary as Frosties and contain high levels of saturated fat.
To help you sift the wheat from the chaff, we asked HEART UK’s dietitian Linda Main to give her opinion of some popular products.
We then rated them for health benefits, taste and price.
DORSET CEREALS DARK CHOCOLATE GRANOLA
£3.79/550g. Cost per serving: 31p. Sugars, 22.5g (per 100g); fats, 28.7g (saturated, 6.5g); fibre, 8.6g.
THEY SAY: ‘An indulgent blend of oats with decadent dark chocolate and macadamia nuts, gently baked the traditional way.’
EXPERT OPINION: This is packed with high-fibre oats, so a bowlful counts as one of the three recommended daily portions of wholegrains. (Adults need around 18 g of fibre a day.)
It also has a high proportion of nuts and seeds so is a good source of unsaturated fats, which can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
I wouldn’t recommend chocolatey cereals, although a good quality dark chocolate, like the 70 per cent cocoa solids here, is thought to be rich in polyphenols — powerful antioxidants — which may also have health benefits.
But chocolate and golden syrup make this one of the sweeter cereals here, with around two teaspoons of sugar per serving.
The saturated fat content looks quite high, but some of this would come from the stearic acid in the chocolate, and this doesn’t raise cholesterol levels.
VERDICT: A tasty and relatively healthy cereal for chocolate lovers — but pricey and quite high in sugar. 4/10
TESCO EVERYDAY VALUE MUSELI
£1.18/1kg. Cost per serving: 5p. Sugars, 7.8g; fats, 4.4g (saturated, 0.7g); fibre, 7.9g.
THEY SAY: ‘A blend of oat, wheat and barley flakes with sultanas, raisins and hazelnuts.’
EXPERT OPINION: As you might expect with a value product, a tiny 1 per cent of this is nuts, compared to a whopping 33 per cent in some of the other products. So this is a little disappointing from a taste point of view.
The unsaturated fats, minerals and vitamin E that come with nuts are also missing.
However, this muesli is high in healthy wholegrains and all its sugars come from natural sources such as dried fruit, rather than added honey or syrup.
VERDICT: A good basic muesli at a good price. You could add fresh fruit or nuts and seeds to liven it up. 7/10
KELLOGG'S COUNTRY STORE
£2.39/750g. Cost per serving: 14p. Sugars, 24g; fats, 5g, (saturated, 0.9g); fibre, 8g.
THEY SAY: ‘The original muesli with the lighter taste.’
EXPERT OPINION: With added sugar, brown sugar, glucose-fructose syrup and dried fruit, this is a very sweet cereal. It is high in fibre and low in saturated fat, which is good for heart health. Unlike the other cereals, it’s also fortified with B vitamins and iron.
However, just 1.5 per cent of this product is nuts (hazelnuts) and the only dried fruit are sultanas and a tiny bit of dried apple.
VERDICT: Very sweet and a bit boring, though it does contain good amounts of fibre and useful added nutrients. 5/10
EAT NATURAL GLUTEN-FREE TOASTED WITH MUSELI WITH VINE FRUIT
£3/500g. Cost per serving: 30p. Sugars, 36.5g; fat, 18g (saturated, 2.2g); fibre, 1.7g.
THEY SAY: ‘Gluten free . . . with no hint of a compromise.’
EXPERT OPINION: Because this cereal is gluten free, it doesn’t contain any of the wholegrains such as wheat, rye, oats or barley, so it’s low in fibre.
It could benefit from a few more nuts, which will boost the fibre. Packed with dried fruit and pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds (good for providing some useful nutrients) and crisped rice, it also has added honey and sugar.
A bowl of this has the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar.
VERDICT: Only a tiny bit less sweet than a bowl of Frosties, and low in fibre. 3/10
MORNFLAKE EXTRA CRISPY MUSELI
£1.95/500g. Cost per serving: 17p. Sugars, 5.4g; fats, 20.6g (saturated, 4.2g); fibre, 12g.
THEY SAY: ‘Our signature oats and cereals blended with roasted hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachio nuts.’
EXPERT OPINION: Packed with seeds, nuts and wholegrains, this product is exceptionally high in fibre.
Almost 80 per cent of the fat in this is unsaturated — a good thing, as unsaturated fats have been shown to help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. The sweetness comes from dried apple rather than added sugar.
VERDICT: This crisp, nut-packed treat is tasty and healthy. 8/10
£2.25/750g. Cost per serving: 3p.
Sugars, 23.1g; fats, 5.8g (saturated, 0.8g); fibre, 7g.
THEY SAY: ‘The very best natural ingredients. High in fibre, wholegrain, and low in saturated fat.’
EXPERT OPINION: This classic muesli has high levels of wholegrain wheat and oats, so would count as one of your three recommended daily portions of wholegrain. Although it seems quite sweet, the majority of the sugars come from the raisins and milk powder rather than refined sugars. It’s low in saturated fat, unlike some of the other products.
VERDICT: A basic and very sweet muesli — with five times the amount of sugar found in Weetabix. 5/10
SAINSBURY'S STRAWBERRY GRANOLA
£1.99/1kg. Cost per serving: 9p. Sugars, 19.1g; fats 13.4g (saturated, 5.2g); fibre 7.1g.
THEY SAY: ‘A blend of honey toasted wholegrain oats with freeze-dried strawberry pieces.’
EXPERT OPINION: Like most granolas, the main ingredient in this is oats, a good source of soluble fibre, known to help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.
The added palm oil and desiccated coconut have pushed the saturated fat level up into the high category, however, which isn’t good news for cholesterol levels.
The freeze-dried strawberries make up just 1.5 per cent of the total product, so would contribute very little towards your recommended daily fruit and veg.
VERDICT: High in fibre, but also quite high in saturated fats. 5/10
THE FOOD DOCTOR CACAO AND TANGERINE GRANOLA
£2.99/425g. Cost per serving: 35p. Sugars, 19.6g; fats, 20.4g (saturated, 3.4g); fibre, 8.4g.
THEY SAY: ‘High in fibre, a good source of protein, and no added sugars, salt, artificial preservatives or flavours.’
EXPERT OPINION: This has plenty of fibre in the form of oats, seeds, cocoa fibre and inulin, an extract from chicory.
Although it claims to have no added sugar, it has been sweetened with agave syrup (a sweet plant extract), so it’s still a pretty sweet breakfast.
However, the high fibre content should prevent the sugar from getting into your bloodstream too quickly.
VERDICT: An unusual flavour. Packed with healthy fibre. 6/10
PERTWOOD SULTANAS AND NUTS GRANOLA
£3.71/500g. Cost per serving: 33p. Sugars, 23.8g; fats, 15.6g (saturated, 4.8g); fibre, 7.6g.
THEY SAY: ‘Moreish wheat-free, organic granola’ — endorsed by Raymond Blanc.
EXPERT OPINION: With sugar coming second on the ingredients list, this product is sweet.
Two-thirds of the fats are heart-healthy unsaturated fats, but the addition of coconut increases the proportion of saturated fats — only the Sainsbury’s granola has a higher ratio.
On the plus side, very low in salt and has soluble oat fibre.
VERDICT: Tasty with excellent organic credentials, but high in sugar and saturated fat. 3/10