Cubicle Cuisine Test: Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars
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?
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.