Plant-based Nutrition: Store-bought snacks verse homemade

By Jactina Sultana

Is that “high protein muesli bar” really that good for you... or is it just great marketing? When it comes morning teatime at work or school you are likely ready for a little something to munch on to tide you over until lunch. Most of us are pretty similar when searching for lunchbox snacks for the week, we want delicious, healthy and convenient options. The problem is, sometimes its hard to decipher if a product really is all its cracked up to be, or if it is just clever marketing? What’s the real difference between store-bought snacks like muesli bars vs homemade?

Here are some ingredients from some store bought muesli bars are marketed “high protein, fibre rich, nuts bars. Gluten free made with real food”

Nuts 53% (Peanuts, Almonds), Glucose, Dark Choc Compound 10% (Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Cocoa Powder, Emulsifier [Sunflower Lecithin], Salt, Natural Vanilla Flavour), Seeds 8% (Pepitas, Sunflower Seeds), Golden Syrup, Brown Rice Syrup, Puffed Rice, Coffee Beans 2.5%, Psyllium Husks, Natural Coffee Flavour, Cinnamon.

While I must say, compared to some of the products on the market these aren’t too bad. However, there are definitely some ingredients in these bars that aren’t necessarily health promoting.

If you didn’t know already, legally foods must be listed on nutrition panels in order of their quantity. The largest amount of a food type within a product is listed at the beginning of the list right down to the least amount of food being listed last. So fifty percent of these bars are made up of almonds and peanuts which is great. However, the next ingredient is glucose. Basically, one of the most refined forms of sugar and is absorbed super quickly. Not an ingredient we would commonly add to a homemade snack! Because it is listed second this means it’s the next largest quantity of “food” that is in these bars after the nuts, a refined sugar is not something we really want in our snacks, especially as the second largest ingredient. Next, we go into the chocolate coating of the bar, a vegetable oil, more sugar and natural flavour. Again, some more energy dense ingredients that don’t really provide any nutrients, if any at all. Then we have some seeds, which are great, but two more types of sugar quickly follow them.

All in all, these bars are pretty well what they are marketed to be! They are moderately high in plant protein and fibre as well as gluten-free. But what they don’t market is the four different types of sugar, the added flavours and vegetable oil that they contain. Don’t get me wrong, I am such a preacher when it comes to #balance but when these are taking a place in your diet on a daily bases their not exactly the formation to a whole food diet.

You can thank me later because here is the recipe for my gluten-free high fibre, high protein, high omega 3, calcium-rich whole food granola bars... I could really keep listing more great points about these bars but I will stop here. The point I’m trying to make is that they are all of those things and nothing else, no refined sugars, flavours or oils.

Recipe: Blend 1 cup of Medjool dates (they will form a ball) and set aside. In a mixing bowl add 2 cups of quinoa/rice flakes, 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup of walnuts, 2 tbsp sunflower seeds, 2 tbsp chia seeds and 2 tbsp of hemp seeds. Add the "ball" of blended dates to the bowl. Heat up 1/4 cup of peanut butter & 1/4 of date paste (2 Medjool dates, soaked in 5 tbsp of hot water and blended). Pour into the bowl and combine all ingredients! Line a baking tray and press down, pop into the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove, slice into bars and stores in an airtight container in the fridge.

So here we have it, we have successfully deciphered the common store-bought muesli bar ingredients verse homemade. It is clear to say that homemade you will be getting more bang for your buck, less of what we don’t want and more of what we do want!


Jacinta Sultana is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian that specialises in Vegan Nutrition. She contributed a comprehensive plant-based nutrition guide to our hardcover cookbook Vegan Bowls for Vegan Souls and developed a 5-day Vegan Meal Guide for our coco community. Follow her inspiring and educational Instagram page @jacinta_sultana.

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