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On busy mornings, many people grab a cereal bar as a convenient and fast way to ensure they have a healthy breakfast. Nature Valley bars are a commonly available snack and a popular choice as an on-the-go breakfast option, but have you ever considered just how healthy Nature Valley bars are?
We’ve taken a detailed look at these handy-sized snacks to find out if Nature Valley bars are good or bad for you. Our findings have been collated into a comprehensive review showing the ingredients used, the nutritional values and to discover if Nature Valley bars can help with weight loss as part of a calorie-controlled diet.
Nature Valley bars – The ingredients & flavours
The main ingredient, which forms up to 59% of the Nature Valley Crunchy bar, is wholegrain rolled oats. Wholegrain rolled oats are a source of plant-based protein and provide a good source of fibre, making the choice of oats a healthy and filling option.
Nature Valley bars don’t contain any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives but they do contain refined sugar and oils.
There are four main bar types to choose from, each having a slightly different set of ingredients to cater for different tastes:
- Crunchy Bars – a sweet option with natural flavours of honey, nuts, maple syrup, almonds and berries. There is also a more indulgent alternative which features a choice of dark chocolate or peanut butter.
- Sweet & Salty Nut Bars – still sweet, but with a salty kick, these nut-based bars use ingredients including peanuts, almonds and coconut.
- Protein Bars – Packing 20% or your daily protein requirements, these muesli bars have a roasted peanut base flavoured with chocolate, almonds or salted caramel.
- Nut Butter Biscuits – More of a Hob-Nob style biscuit than a traditional granola bar. Nut butter is created by blending almonds into a smooth paste and offers cholesterol-fighting properties.
We always recommend reading the ingredients listings before consuming new food, as the Nature Valley website states that their bars may contain eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts and other tree nuts.
Nature Valley bars nutritional values
With many of the bars formed from ingredients such as honey, rolled oats, nuts, chocolate chips and coconut, the nutritional values can vary vastly. Whilst they provide a beneficial source of fibre and protein, they do also contain sugar and fats which need to be consumed in moderation. In this section of our review, we look at the nutrition values of the Nature Valley ranges.
Nature Valley’s products include lots of nuts and grains, which are part of the food group of complex carbohydrates. This is a generally healthy type of carb, rather than the refined carbohydrates found in sugary drinks, pastries, white bread and pasta. Consuming complex carbs is less likely to lead to a spike in blood sugar levels – followed by the inevitable crash that leaves you craving more refined carbs.
However, the Nature Valley Crunchy range has an average of 27g carbohydrates per bar, of which 11.8g is sugars. When you consider that 4.5g of white sugar is roughly a teaspoon, then you need to weigh up if the relatively high sugar count is worth the trade-off for the benefits of the complex carbohydrates.
Fibre is key to maintaining a healthy digestive system. The government guidelines state that an average adult should consume 30g of fibre daily. Most adults, however, eat much less than this. If you want to increase the amount of fibre in your diet, the Nature Valley Protein bar in coconut and almond flavour is your best choice, with 5.1g of fibre per bar coming from the use of the wholegrain rolled oats.
Good fat vs bad fat
The NHS website recommends that adults eat less than 70g of fat each day and less than 20g of saturated fat.
Nature Valley use a variety of nuts in their snack bars and it is important to understand that the flavours that contain peanuts or are peanut-based like the Sweet & Salty Nut bars, have a higher saturated fat count than the Crunchy bar range.
The Oats & Honey Crunchy bar has 7.2g of fat of which 1.1g is saturated fat, which would be the best choice for anyone wanting to reduce their fat intake.
Most of the bars also contain palm oil and shea vegetable fats. Palm oil has been in the news recently due to concerns about the impact of palm oil production on the environment, which might be an ethical decision for some people who chose not to consume products which contain palm oil.
Calories in Nature Valley bars
According to the Nature Valley product nutrition labels, the calorific content of their snack bars ranges from 139 to 200 calories per serving. If you are looking for the bar with the least calories, then you should choose the Dark Chocolate, Peanut & Almond Sweet & Salty Nut snack bar, which has just 139 calories in a 30g serving.
Vitamins and minerals
The nutty flavours contain the most vitamins and minerals. Try the Nature Valley Almond Butter Biscuit, as almonds are a good source of vitamin E and magnesium. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which can help strengthen your immune system against viruses. Magnesium is a mineral that could help to guard against type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and headaches.
Nature Valley bars and weight loss
Most of Nature Valley bars are quite high in sugar and calories. For that reason, they are not the best snack choice if you are looking to lose weight. If you eat too many every day, this may even cause you to gain weight so be careful! It’s best to snack on fresh fruits and plain nuts if your goal is weight loss.
Wondering whether these snack bars are acceptable if you are following the Slimming World diet? Well, you should know they come with quite a few syns. For example, the Canadian Maple Syrup and Oats and Honey bars have rather high 9.5 syns, which means they might not be the best choice if you’re looking for a snack to help with your weight loss.
The bars should also be avoided if you’re on the keto diet as they are not keto-friendly.
Are Nature Valley bars vegan?
Some of these bars are suitable for vegans. However, some of the bars contain honey which many vegans do not accept as a vegan-based food, as it produced by bees.
Do Nature Valley bars contain gluten?
If you are gluten intolerant, then you should only consume the Protein Bar range, which the Nature Valley states are their gluten-free choice.
So, just how healthy are Nature Valley bars?
If a product has ‘nature’ in the title, is easy to believe it will be good for you. But that is not always the case. The bar does have its benefits with the Protein bar range scoring highly for protein and the Almond Nut Butter range providing a better option than the bars containing peanuts. Another plus point is the use of wholegrains for the base of the Crunchy range which provide fibre.
The Sweet and Salty Nut bars are unfortunately high in fructose corn syrup and use palm kernel oil which is a processed saturated fat.
As with any food, moderation is key, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a Nature Valley bar occasionally as part of a healthy, balanced diet – but are probably best avoided if you are looking to reduce your weight.
Kerry Garner has an interest in nutrition and is always on the look-out for new, healthy and exciting snacks for her son’s packed lunch to ensure he gets a balanced diet that’s not boring. She is a keen home-cook and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and inventing nutritious, yet tasty meals for her family to enjoy.