Go ahead bars. You know the ones. The so-called ‘healthy’ snack you see in the supermarket next to the cereals. They seem to have been around for ages. First brought out in 1996 as ‘delicious and healthy snacks bars that are ideal for those who snack on the go‘, United Biscuits have just spent £4 million on a campaign to relaunch these bars as ‘the most important snack of the day’.
“Golden baked or crispy. Some smothered with milk chocolate and some with yogurty topping. There’s a go ahead! to suit any time and any place. Why not discover the range?”
The marketing is clever. The packaging looks healthy. It’s nice and green which we tend to associate with nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony and freshness and has strong emotional correspondence with safety. The nice pictures of fruit suggests this product is healthy and nutritious. They are keen to tell us which bars contribute 1 of your 5 a day and there is a reassuring strapline for each type of snack about how handy and satisfying they are. What they don’t do however is stick a big red label on the front saying their products are loaded with sugar!
They are canny in their labeling too – telling us they are low in Calories but the 57 Calories is for 1 slice only. Now if I open up one of these packets I am not going to eat just one slice, fold it neatly and tuck it away in my draw for tomorrow. No, I am going to eat the whole darn thing. So that means we have to double or treble some of the figures!
Here is what is in each of these snacks –
- 57Cal and 5.5g
- That’s 171Cal and 16.5g or over 3 teaspoons of sugar per 3 slice snack pack (5g/tsp)
Strawberry Yoghurt breaks (Delicious yogurty topping on crispy biscuits so full of fruity filling, it’s a wonder that they fit in your pocket) so don’t try! The yogurty topping is not healthy either.
- 73Cal, 7.3g sugar per slice
- That’s 146Cal and 14.6g or nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar per snack pack.
Stawberry Fruit Bake (Golden baked bars, full of fruity filling that you can eat at any time of day) so why not just have a piece of fruit at any time of day?!
- 133Cal, 13.7g or over 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
Stawberry chocolate thins (Fruity sultana biscuits smothered in milk chocolate. A perfect partnership for your mid-afternoon break) but no better than a chocolate biscuit!
- 72Cal, 7.2g sugar per slice
- That’s 144Cal and 14.4g or nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar per snack pack.
You are starting to see the picture. Despite their appearance these snacks are not healthy at all. They may be relatively low in Calories and fat but they are definitely not low in sugar. I can’t imagine you would be happy munching on a few teaspoons of sugar straight out of the sugar bowl, but this is pretty much what you are doing when you have one of these snacks. These snack bars will contain some natural sugar in the fruit but also a lot of added, or free sugar. It is this sugar which can be very difficult to measure in processed products but it is the sugar we need to be cutting down.
Sugar has been in the headlines repeatedly in the last few weeks and it has been revealed how much sugar we actually consume. Frightening amounts, which is contributing to the high levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and other health concerns.
The sugar we find in processed convenience foods and drinks is unacceptably high, yet we live a life where we rely heavily on these products. Whilst huge efforts are being made to provide healthy eating guidelines and advice, it is an uphill battle trying to compete with the huge forces that are media and marketing influences.
I felt reassured when the Public Health Responsibility Deal was introduced by the Government in 2011. Over 600 members from the food industry pledged to reduce Calorie and sugar content in their products. Yet last month it was revealed many of the food giants have side-stepped their promises and have not done what they said they would. A huge loss of confidence in my eyes.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition are looking to revise dietary guidelines that focus on carbohydrates and last week released a draft consultation paper. Like the World Health Organisation, they suggest we half our consumption of free sugars to around 5% of daily Calorie intake which is 25g for women (5-6 tsp) and 35g (7-8 tsp) for men. This is not a lot in comparison to what we are actually consuming – just over 11% of energy intake in adults and 15% of energy intake in children comes from sugar.
There is a nice article here from BBC News about how much sugar we eat.
So please check your food labels carefully when buying. Go for GREEN traffic light food labels that indicate the sugar content.
Look for the “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)” figure in the nutrition label. A low sugar content is 5g of total sugars or less per 100g.
As for go ahead (and like most snack and cereal bars) they are no different to having a couple of biscuits with your mid-morning cuppa. They are pretty much the worst snack of the day, so best avoided. They also claim the extra vitamins make their snacks healthy but that’s clutching at straws. You would be so much better off having a banana. It comes in its own packaging which is biodegradable, it will satisfy your hunger, is so much better for you and is a fraction of the cost! It’s a no brainer really! 🙂