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Calorie Count Blog

Cubicle Cuisine Test: Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars


By Igor on May 19, 2009 12:00 PM in Tips & Updates

Do you ever snack at work? If you do, you’ll love this new series of articles called the Cubicle Cuisine. I will every now and then pick up a couple of pieces of a popular snack or lunch item, share them with my fellow colleagues at About.com, and compare my impression with theirs. I hope that we’ll help you discover some healthy new food options, and make you rethink all the others. This week we tested… Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars.

This snack bar has the word cereal in its name, but unlike the products with the same name that are sold in Australia and New Zealand, the US version is not made of bonded breakfast cereal. Instead, it has a soft baked crust, which Kellogg’s claims is made of whole grains, and the filling comes with real fruit. To top it off, these bars have “Nutri” in their name, and the package proudly wears a Whole Grain Council stamp. Surely, this must be a great product, right?

After I announced my plans to my colleagues, I quickly found three volunteers who wanted to help me with testing. So we needed four of those bars, but our local grocery store only sells them in a pack of eight, which, as far as I can tell, is the only package these snack bars come in. Not a problem – at $4.79 for the entire package, this investment is hardly a difficult one from a financial point of view, but I do worry that buying in bulk leads to over-consumption, as I mentioned here earlier. If you can’t trust yourself, you may want to stick with single-bar products, like the Odwalla or the KIND bars.

Here are some of the questions that I asked my testers, and their combined answers:

(1) Describe the taste

Sweet, but not toothache-inducing like cotton candy. About halfway through eating the bar, I could taste a hint of berry flavor. Otherwise, the filling tasted like sugar. It was pleasant, actually, but don’t buy this bar expecting to taste mixed berries.

(2) Describe the texture

Somewhat moist - the filling really helped out here. I’ve had so-called health bars before, and they can tend to be like sponges in my mouth. This bar was not like that, but it wasn’t as moist as, say, a candy bar.

(3) What did you like about it?

Despite my gripes about the non-berry flavor, I liked the flavor of the bar. This is the perfect snack for me when I’m between meals but need something small to keep me going.

(4) What did you not like about it?

I would have liked to taste a fresh, berry flavor, but that’s kind of tough to do with mass-produced products.

(5) Did it satisfy your snack craving or did you want something else as well?

This definitely satisfied my craving and held me off until my next meal. I think I actually might stock up on these and keep them at my desk.

(6). How does this food compare to similar and competing products?

It’s quite tasty. Other healthy bars can be chalky, dry, and flavorless. This one is chewy, perfectly sized, and pretty flavorful. The Nutri-Grain would win in a first round knock-out against the Nature Valley Granola Bar.

Overall, the testers gave the Nutri-Grain bar quite a positive review. This is certainly not quite undeserved, but I also suspect that my colleagues didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth – after all, the food was free and it hit the sweet spot just at the right time in the mid-afternoon.

So let’s put our detective hat on and look at the nutrition facts label – the first ingredients listed there are: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glycerin, sugar… In other words, sugar, sugar, and some more sugar. And if you are hoping to find a ton of fiber and protein in those bars, you’ll be disappointed as well – 2 grams of each is all you get. To put this in perspective, this is more than Nature Valley Granola Bars, but less than Clif Bars, Kashi Go Lean, Power Bar Harvest, and Odwalla Bars.

In summary, the taste is top but the nutrition is flop. There’s no reason to feel bad about having one of these bars, and they are certainly better than many alternatives such as bagels and other mainstream food. That said, if you’re going to buy a snack bar, you might as well get one that will actually do something good rather than just prevent you from doing something bad. Or, as Kellogg’s puts it on their own Nutri-Grain packaging, "One Good Decision Can Lead to Another."

Question for you:
Am I being too tough on this bar? Have you tried it, and how do you like it?

Nutrition Facts:

 

Follow-Up:

At the time of this writing (95 comments), there are 13 positive Nutri-Grain reviews in the comments section, 10 comments that recognize that there is at least something good about this product, and 46 strictly negative comments. This reaffirms my recommendation to go for other snack bars with more fiber and protein, and less sugar.



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Comments


Love these bars..  I find that one in the morning with Coffee/Tea starts my day. Sometime I use them mid-morning or afternoon for that all important snack.



I don't like fruit and jam based stuff, so i don't eat the fruit bars. Occasionally (bi-annually) i have a chocolate nutrigrain bars. They taste very sweet and the baked outside stuff is quite nice. I think in general cereal bars are a bit of a trick-food because of all the sugar.



I cant stand these bars. They actually hurt my teeth and taste awfully artificial (which is what they are- klots of high fructose corn syrup). I prefer a trail mix bar which has real ingedients and fruit and nuts anyday.



I grew up eating Nutri-grain bars. They are delish! Though I haven't had one in 3 or 4 years. I honestly find it hard to believe there is anything substantially healthful about them. They remind me more of a "better" choice for desert or something.



I think it's way too sweet...



I used to eat these quite often, but they now add milk powder to their outside. Which is sad, really, as one of these in a microwave, then broken into natural yoghurt is very tasty indeed. Not suited for sweet tooths, certainly - with me being one of those people who prefers savoury over sweet - but with the tang of natural yoghurt it's somewhat balanced out.



I use to eat these and think that they were healthy but they too contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial junk - now I eat the Kashi ones. They are yummy and no chemicals and man made junk!



What is the size and calorie count of these bars?



My husband loves these things, he eats them as a snack, but he can go thru a box in a few days!  I agree, they are not as nutritious as they first appear but are better than some other things you could snack on.  I prefer fresh fruit and nuts myself.

Maggie



I like the taste but I don't really buy these because of the high sugar content. I used to pack it for my 7 year old for school but I stopped that as well since I have towatch his weight. I started buying the South Beach protein bars or Fiber One bars instead...much more nutritional value, lower sugar!



My son used to eat these bars like they were going out of style (which is fine because he can afford the calories), however recently he's been turned off of them. I'm not sure if he ate so many that he's sick of them. Me?! They weren't my favorite. You should really check out the Fibre1 bars (my favorite is the Oats & Chocolate)!! They are AMAZING, and chocked full of fibre! Enjoy!



I've never had them, but my first question after reading this article is the same as tishcowan's - what is the calorie count/nutrition facts per bar?



Unfortunately, those of us not eating refined sugar cannot eat these.  If it's in the first 5 and not fructose or malted barely, I don't eat it.  There are some good bar substitutes, such as the Cliff Organics for kids, but you have to read the labels.  Most bars, even "healthy" ones such as these, contain sugar in the first 3.



"high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glycerin, sugar"

Wow....they might taste good, but they are filled with really unhealthy, unsatisfying ingredients.   The high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst things for us.  It has no nutritional value, and is just sugar.    Don't get me wrong.....I love sugar.  But I have learned how bad it is for us in the dose that many of these "health bar" makers are giving to us in one serving!  I agree that the Kashi brand bars are better for you....but beware!  Kashi was recently purchased by Kelloggs, so will the ingredients change?



As far as taste they are pretty good, a little too sweet for anything other than a snack. Not that great for a snack if your leaning toward a healthier lifestyle. I agree with fresh fruit and nuts as the healthiest snack. I also am in love with Fiber one bars, which are coated with honey so they are a little sweet also. But they have lots of Fiber!



Nutri grain bars 1.3 oz 130 calories

I eat them occasionally, they are ok but, not my favorite, I like the fiber1 bars.

Joyce

 

 



Nutrigrain bars taste very good - too good! I may eat one if on the go and will remain on the go.  I prefer "Soy Joy" bars - very filling and better for you.  Please do a test on "Soy Joy".



Most days I use these as snacks in the mid afternoon, helps me get over those hunger pains until dinner.  I eat them if I don't have time for a big breakfast.  Some of the flavors can be too sweet (cherry) I usually stick with the Strawberry.  They get an "A" on the food log and are typically between 130 and 140 calories per bar depending on the flavor.



WOW.... 370 calories, 7g total fat, 73 carbs, 34 sugars.  too much for me in a little snack.  I like the Quake Chewy Bars - only 90 calories, 2g fat, 19 carbs, 7 sugars.  gotta read those labels!



Awesome job on the product placement.

These bars are full of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, full of simple carbohydrates and are perfect for gaining fat and reducing muscle growth. Don't waste your time with these things. 

 

Grab some peanuts and almonds and eat real food instead of crap that comes in a box. Nutrition is more important than calories in/calories out, unless skinnyfat is your goal.



'Sugar, sugar and some more sugar' - 'nuff said.  Won't eat them, just for that.



In the caloriecount database, these bars are listed as an A for nutrition. But that doesn't seem to agree with what this article is saying about nutrtition. What's the deal?



Disgusting...sickly sweet and packed with genetically engineered sugars.  Foot in mouth No real nutritional value.  If you eat one of these babies at your desk in the late afternoon, of course you will feel better from the carbs and the sugar rush, but other than that, it doesn't give your body anything!  It's a false satisfier.  Eat something that has nutrients that give you REAL energy! Laughing



These bars are tasty but I agree with your recommendation that there are better choices in bars for nutritional value without loosing the flavor. That said, sometimes if you are craving something sweet this bar will fill that craving and still keeps calories in control.



ugh, those bars are pure garbage; sugar, sugar, sugar, perservatives, chemicals and some 'whole grain'.. the name "Nutrigrain" is a clever marketing technique to make consumers think that this a good and NUTRItious.... puh-lease.

I wonder how many of those bars you would actually have to eat to even get a whole serving of whole grain? like 10! or how about a full serving of fruit.. probably like 50!

read the labels people... why would you put this crap into your body? or feed it to your children

a nice fresh cup of berries topped with greek yogurt and flaxseed is a much better alternative... not only is is REAL FOOD, but has no added sugar, and tons more fiber and protein



I eat them occasionally, but consider them similar to a donut.  I like bakery sweets and green tea in the afternoon (now on my forbidden list) and for 130 cal.  this is an okay once in a awhile treat.  It definitely satisfies my sweet tooth.  But, yes, there are much healthier snacks out there.



there's something about nutri-grain bars I just do not  like. Maybe I got burnt out on them as a kid-- but If I had a choice between a nutri-grain bar and dog poop I might very well choose the latter.

 

 

 

 

 

 



There are other bars out there that attempt to balance fat protien and carbs at the same calorie point--Luna bars are my favorite.   But on the whole I agree with flugelnull's comment. Eat real food, shun processed food.   I see "bars" as convienence food when I'm doing active sports- cross-country skiing, or biking for a long enough period that I need energy replenishment. Otherwise- stay away from the empty calories marketed as healthy. Bogus!



I don't like these because of the high fructose corn syrup, I try to avoid this at all costs. For a great bar, I use Cascadian Farms Vanilla chip bars. In moderation, these are much better and delish, and no HFCS.



Yuck. Can't stand them, waaayyy too sweet. Just another piece of candy, that's all. Tongue out



I used to have these a lot, but once I looked at the back of this thing, I was truly disgusted by the amount of artificial crud in it. Anything that has aftificial flavor in it is bound to be choc ful of useless crap.

Honestly, I would recommend a slice of ezekiel bread with organic cashew or peanut butter. Its low calorie (as long as you dont load up on the nut butter), its high protein and fiber, and its filling. Roll a banana or berries inside to add a bit of sweetness (where you can actually taste the fruit!)



Seems to me that your review is dead on -- the taste is good, and these are okay as a once-in-a-while snack, but they're not doing us any favors nutritionally, and we could get more out of those calories by eating something else.



I don't really like them.  They're empty calories and don't do much for my hunger.  I like the South Beach cereal bars. 



My results differed from those of your testers in one respect.  These bars do not satisfy me until my next meal.

If you're going to consume huge amounts of sugar, at least include a decent amount of fiber and some protein.  These bars don't--frankly I think they have little to recommend them.



they are great but i tend to binge on them so i can't trust myself with them and therefore don't  buy them anymore.



The carb count is so high in these bars that, as a diabetic, they would do for a meal, but not for a snack. 15 grams of carbs (from any source) is all that I need for a snack, so I'd only be able to eat about half a bar or I'd send my sugar levels through the roof. 45 grams is all that I'm allowed for a full meal.

When was the last time you felt satisfied after half a "cereal" bar?



I don't like these bars at all. They are way too dry, not nearly enough filling (and tastes too fake) and don't provide any significant nutritional value as well as over priced for all of this. I eat fiber 1-great taste, but they give me gas- or Sunbbelt Hearty Grain Nutrition Cookies-5 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 170 calories, 11g sugar, 3g protein, 27g carbs 1.5g sat fat, no trans fat, not the best in over all nutrition, but for $2 they are pretty good. First ingredients are whole wheat flour, whole grain oats, raisin. pt hyd soybean and cottonseed oil and then all of the 'bad stuff'. They keep me very full and if I add hot chocolate or coffee it can even be lunch! I have tried a lot of bars and not too many of them taste good and are nutritious. Some people eat them strictly for nutrition and eventually 'begin' to like them. This is caused by repetitive tasting of a food, you 'develop' a taste for them until you eat something 'really' good. I think a lot of this 'taste' stuff is mind over matter, like exercise. They have to do it for health or weight loss and then get hooked.



The Nutrigrain bars are too sweet for my liking, and I don't find them to be very filling at all.  If the cost is the issue, I think you can watch for sales, and get a breakfast that at least has more of the good stuff in it, even if they do tend to be a little high on the sugar.  I have to agree w/ the previous comment about  picking up something like nuts or maybe dried fuit to snack on.  You're still going to get fat and/or sugar but it's not processed junk.  



Whoever allowed the word "nutri" on these bars was wrong, there is no nutrition whatsoever. I have been known to point this out in grocery stores. The same goes for "Smart Balance" cereal and so many other foods, all sugar, low fiber and if they put in two cents worth of vitamins it is supposed to cover all those flaws. Just have a Snickers bar.



If you like the Fiber one bars, try the Fiber Plus bars.  I love the dark chocolate almond.  And they have less sugar, too.  (10 grams of sugars in the chocolate mocha Fiber one, and 7 grams in the Fiber Plus dark chocolate almond)  Yummy!



I really like the Kashi TLC bars.  I hope they do not change.



These are really not good. So artificial tasting and not filling to me at all. I prefer some dried fruit or even bake some flapjacks or brown soda bread at home to take to the office.



Read the ingrediants. 

Definatey not worth your time if you are tryin g to eat clean.

wm



I'm not a fan.  I work hard not to eat anything that is quite that processed.  I would prefer a concoction of natural peanut butter, ground flaxseed, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, carob chips & a bit of honey, rolled into balls or patted into bars & coated w/ either ground flaxseed or wheat germ to keep them from being sticky/messy.  My mom used to make these (she called them protein balls) when I ran track in high school - that was 29 years ago!  They're still wonderful!



Look forward to more reviews.  This one's timely, as I have been using these as my primary Cubicle Cuisine.  If you think the 8 bars is bad, Costco sells them in groups of 48 (16 each of Apple/Cinnimon, BlueBery and Strawberry)!  Harris Teeter also sells every flavor I've seen at other stores.



I haven't done alot of research on Cocoa Cassava bars at http://www.mercola.com but you might want to check those out.  They also may be a bit more pricey but perhaps worth it.  Since I cannot find much bad over at mercola.com, check those out!



I like to have one every once in awhile as dessert. They're just sweet enough to keep you from eating something you really shouldn't.



Even my 8 year old won't eat these, by the way.  They have too much sugar.



gross- too sweet!

I generally hate cereal bars, but LOVE South Beach Living's Cranberry Almond high protein cereal bar. 15 carbs, 7g sugar, 10g protein, 140 calories....They really are yummy!



I'm with flugelnuff - either make your own bars (without all the processed stuff and packaging) or just eat "real food" instead. 



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