* Prices may differ from that shown
I have developed a bit of thing for cereal bars over recent months, and not one for turning down the chance to try new and interesting foodstuffs, I was disproportionally pleased when I came across Nature Valley's "apple crunch granola" bars* whilst stocking up on cod liver oil in the Holland & Barrett sale recently. My purchase wasn't based on anything more complex than, (a) they sounded vaguely wholesome, (b) I love oats and apples, and (c) I'm getting really fed up with Nutri Grains and Tracker bars. The fact that I had only once before eaten granola (in breakfast cereal format) and not especially enjoyed it did register with me, but I thought it was worth trying again baked into a bar for my snacking convenience as they were available singly and inexpensively. And I was bored.
- So how do they taste?
Pretty damn good, actually - much nicer than my experience with granola breakfast cereal. Crunchy and oaty and slightly sweet, with a lovely cinnamon aftertaste that almost convinces you that you are eating a real biscuit rather than a healthier compromise food. The baked oats develop a satisfying crunchy texture that feels like you are eating something really substantial, and have almost a nutty flavour to them. Imagine Hob Nobs, only harder and with some apple and cinnamon added in and you will be almost there - very pleasant indeed. My only taste complaint is that there is very little evidence of the apple that should be there if they are truly to be "apple crunch" bars rather than "oat crunch" or "cinnamon crunch"; it is there, but only weakly and it is swamped by the other flavours. More apple please!
- What is good about them?
Like any cereal bars, they are convenient. They also taste good, are filling, provide plenty of fibre and are relatively cheap (especially if you buy the multi pack from supermarket). The shelf life is long (mine had a best before date some seven months in the future) so storage is not a problem and a large pack can be kept in for an occasional treat. Looking at the ingredient list, they are more than 50% oats, and nothing seems too awful until you reach the words "emulsifier (soya lecithin)". Interestingly, while the ingredient soya lecithin sounds a bit grim, there are studies that show soy-derived lecithin has significant effects on lowering bad cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat associated with narrowing of the arteries and therefore increased risk of heart attack), while increasing HDL ("good cholesterol") levels in the blood. So it is actually rather good that it is in there, then! Overall pretty good for a cereal bar, and I feel my initial sentiments of this product being "vaguely wholesome" weren't too far wrong.
- What is less good about them?
Well, nothing is perfect. While most of the ingredients in apple crunch granola bars are pretty innocuous, they do have added sugar and salt. In the 42g pack that I bought, there was a whopping 11.7g of sugar, providing an adult with 13% of the guideline daily amount. The fat level might also worry some people - 15%! "Low Fat" generally refers to things less than 5% fat, and "high fat" definitions seem to hover around the 20% mark, so that should put it in some perspective (although I should add that a relatively small measure of this is saturated fat, just 1.7% of the total bar content). Ouch, that balances out the benefits of the oats that I was so pleased about before. They are also unsuitable for anyone with coeliac disease or nut allergies, but that is not all that unusual for such a product.
- Final thoughts?
I recognise that such bars are not Real Food and are therefore not really all that healthy, but they are a useful and tasty occasional addition to a lunch box or good to take if you are out walking - and must be better for you than a lot of the alternatives out there. I realise that snack and cereal bars are never quite as healthy as they like to make out, but given that I have quite a sweet tooth and would be reaching for a Twix if I didn't have something like this to munch on in times of crisis or the munchies, I still buy quite a lot of cereal bars. I not only enjoyed the apple crunch granola bar, but it kept me feeling full and satisfied for far longer than a lot of snack or cereal bars manage. I would happily buy them again, and would recommend trying them (although not on a regular basis, what with all that sugar).
Nutrition per 2 bar pack (42g): 185kcal (9% GDA) / Protein 3.1g (6% GDA) / Carbohydrate 29g (11%), of which sugars 11.7g (13%) / Fat 6.3g (9%), of which saturates 0.7g (4%) / Fibre 2.4g (10%) / Sodium 0.1g (5%).
Nutrition per 100g: 440kcal / Protein 7.3g / Carbohydrate 63g, of which sugars 27.9g / Fat 15g, of which saturates 1.7g / Fibre 5.7g / Sodium 0.3g.
Ingredients: Whole grain rolled oats (53%), sugar, sunflower oil, water, dehydrated apple (2%), honey, salt, molasses, cinnamon, emulsifier (soya lecithin), raising agent (sodium bicarbonate), natural flavouring.
Contains: gluten, soy ingredients, nut traces.
A six pack box from Tesco costs £2.14. Also available in two bar packs from Holland & Barrett for around 80p.
*For some reason Dooyoo have decided to list these bars under their American name, rather than the name I asked them to be listed under. "Apple Crunch Granola Bars" is the correct name for the UK market.
Made with whole grain rolled oats, cinnamon, and real apple