That bowl of muesli you conscientiously ate for breakfast may not be as healthy as you thought, a new survey shows.
In a Consumer magazine test of 75 muesli brands, one was found to have almost the same amount of fat and salt as corn chips, and more than four times as much sugar.
Several brands contained high sugar levels of more than 15 grams per 100g of cereal. Many contained added sugars, sometimes disguised as honey, golden syrup, maple syrup or glucose, and some used dried fruit that had been sweetened with sugar.
Of the 75 supermarkets and health food store brands tested, only 12 had low levels of fat, sugar and salt.
Muesli sales were worth $34.8 million last year and growing, the magazine said.
However, Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the organisation was unable to recommend muesli as a healthy breakfast option. It called for simple "traffic light" nutritional displays on packets.
"Consumers might think it's healthy, but they don't realise about all the added things like sugars, nuts, oils and seeds."
Donnell Alexander, a member of Dietitians NZ, said a good breakfast provided up to a third of daily energy requirements, as well as some fibre and whole grains.
Examples included porridge, wholegrain bread, eggs and low-fat yoghurt.
"I would rather my kids had porridge with a teaspoon of brown sugar than white bread with just margarine."
While some mueslis were high in sugar, they also provided fibre, proteins and vitamins.
Cereal maker Hubbards said the Consumer survey was accurate. "We're pleased it has highlighted several of our products that have lower-than-average fat and sugar content."
Muesli bars also on foods-to-avoid list
In February this year, a study by Christchurch-based Otago University researchers added muesli bars to a list of 49 foods to avoid.
The list, drawn up by dieticians and clinical psychologists, labels the 49 items as non-essential, energy-dense and nutritionally deficient foods.
Anything containing alcohol, saturated fat, added sugar, a large amount of energy relative to their essential nutrient value or that is prepared using a high-fat cooking method makes the list.
Christchurch research fellow and dietician Jane Elmslie, who led the study, admitted many people might be surprised to see items such as muesli bars on the list, because they were often marketed as healthy. But they were a processed food high in fat and sugar, she said.
Study co-author Ria Schroder said about two-thirds of participants in the two-year project had experienced significant weight loss since eliminating or cutting back those foods
The Five Most Sugary Mueslis
- Alison Holst Honey Toasted: 30.7 grams of sugar per 100g of product
- Cec's Homestyle Gluten Free: 30.4g
- Freedom Foods Muesli Gluten Free: 30.1g
- Hubbards Fruitful Breakfast Extra Tasty Toasted Muesli: 28.9g
- Hubbards Thank Goodness Gluten Free Berry Muesli: 26.8g
Source: Consumer Magazine
Grain Foods Toasted Muesli (per 100g)
Fat: 20.7g Sugar: 17.9g Salt: 479mg
Nacho cheese flavour Doritos (per 100g)
Fat: 23.9g Sugar: 4g Salt: 565mg
- The Dominion Post