Yes, breakfast biscuits CAN be good for you – if you pick the right one. Our expert reveals which to try… and which to ditch

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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When pushed for time, should you start your day with a breakfast bar?

‘A breakfast bar is never going to provide a complete, well-balanced breakfast — but if it’s your only option, think of it as you would a breakfast cereal, and choose a product with as many simple, unprocessed ingredients as possible,’ says dietitian Nigel Denby of harleystathome.com.

‘Wholegrains such as oats and wholewheat flour are a good choice for filling fibre,’ he says. ‘And avoid anything with too much added sugar’ — as a guide, anything with more than 22.5g sugar per 100g is too high — ‘so your blood sugar doesn’t spike, or you’ll end up craving another cereal bar soon after eating it.

‘If you choose carefully and add fruit and a milky coffee, glass of milk or a small yoghurt, you should have a fairly balanced meal.’

Here, Nigel assesses a selection of breakfast bars, which we then rated…

BELVITA BREAKFAST YOGURT CRUNCH BISCUITS

  • Five packs for £2.75, tesco.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 452; saturated fat, 5.1g; protein, 7.3g; fibre, 3.9g; sugar, 27g; salt, 0.57g
  • Per two-biscuit serving: Calories, 228; saturated fat, 2.6g; protein, 3.6g; fibre, 2g; sugar, 13.6g; salt, 0.28g

CLAIM: ‘Five wholegrains with live yoghurt. Proven to slowly release carbohydrates over four hours. Source of fibre, calcium, magnesium and iron.’

EXPERT VERDICT: One of the original breakfast biscuits, these are made with 29.8 per cent wheat flour and just 24.6 per cent wholegrains, which is why you’ll only get 2g fibre (6.6 per cent of your daily minimum) in a serving.

There’s also just 3.6g protein (half a large egg’s worth), so I doubt these will keep you feeling full all morning. The tiny amount (3 per cent) of ‘live’ yoghurt powder is unlikely to provide the boost to your gut bacteria that a pot of yoghurt would.

And while there are added minerals (20 per cent of your daily calcium needs, 18 per cent magnesium and 16 per cent iron), it’s not enough to sway my preference for wholegrain cereal with low-fat milk and fresh fruit, which will be more filling and contain less sugar.

There is also 3tsp sugar in a serving, as well as ultra-processed ingredients such as emulsifiers. A diet high in ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is linked to obesity. 3/10

TASTE: Digestive-style biscuits with a sweet filling. 8/10

M&S PEANUT AND DARK CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST BARS

  • Four bars for £3, ocado.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 490; saturated fat, 3.6g; protein, 15.1g; fibre, 7.2g; sugar, 14.4g; salt, 0.15g
  • Per 38g bar: Calories, 186; saturated fat, 1.4g; protein, 5.7g; fibre, 2.7g; sugar, 5.5g; salt, 0.06g

CLAIM: ‘High in fibre. Source of protein and vitamin D.’

EXPERT VERDICT: The first ingredient listed is chicory fibre, which is naturally sweet and a good source of prebiotics which help feed our ‘good’ gut bacteria but it can cause bloating and gas if you have a sensitive gut.

It contains 21 per cent peanuts and a 16 per cent mix of seeds — a good source of protein, fibre, healthy fats and antioxidants, such as vitamin E.

You’ll get 5.7g protein — a small egg’s worth — and 2.7g fibre (nearly a tenth of your daily minimum) in a bar, so it should be quite filling.

The many plant ingredients will be good for the diversity of your gut microbiome. There’s just over a teaspoon of sweetness, so it’s not as sweet as some. 7/10

TASTE: Packed with nuts, seeds and nice chocolate chips. 8/10

NUTRI-GRAIN RAISIN BAKES

  • Six bakes for £2.50, tesco.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 377; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 4.3g; fibre, 2.5g; sugar, 41g; salt, 0.45g
  • Per 45g bake: Calories, 170; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 1.9g; fibre, 1.1g; sugar, 18g; salt, 0.2g

CLAIM: ‘Breakfast bakes to help fuel your busy mornings. A source of B vitamins and iron.’

EXPERT VERDICT: These bakes may look wholesome but they are 40 per cent sugar, and ultra-processed. You’ll get 18g — just over 4tsp of sugar — in one bake, and very little fibre (3.6 per cent of the daily minimum).

There’s also hardly any protein (just under a third of a small egg). The B vitamins and iron don’t make these healthy. 1/10

TASTE: Cheap carrot cake.6/10

GULLON NO ADDED SUGAR WHOLE GRAINS BREAKFAST BISCUITS

  • Pack of three for £6.70, amazon.co.uk
  • Per 100g: Calories, 410; saturated fat, 1.3g; protein, 6.8g; fibre, 9.8g; sugar, 1.4g; salt, 0.65g
  • Per 36g pack: Calories, 148; saturated fat, 0.4g; protein, 2.4g; fibre, 3.5g; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 0.24g

CLAIM: ‘No added sugar. High in fibre. Made with high oleic sunflower oil.’

EXPERT VERDICT: There’s just an eighth of a teaspoon of sugar in a serving here, from natural ingredients, and the high oleic sunflower oil may help reduce cholesterol levels.

The wholemeal flour and oatmeal will provide just over 11 per cent of your daily fibre needs which should help to fill you up, although there’s very little protein — less than half a small egg’s worth.

However, these do contain maltitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause bloating and have a laxative effect — and evidence is emerging that sweeteners may upset your gut bacteria and ‘trick’ your brain so you eat more. 6/10

TASTE: Malted milk flavour, but could taste the sweetener. 5/10

MYPROTEIN BERRY BREAKFAST LAYERED BAR

  • 12 bars for £25.99, myprotein.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 423; saturated fat, 6.8g; protein, 26g; fibre, 10g; sugar, 5.6g; salt, 0.34g
  • Per 60g bar: Calories, 254; saturated fat, 4.1g; protein, 16g; fibre, 6g; sugar, 3.4g; salt, 0.20g

CLAIM: ‘Full of fibre and a whopping 16g protein per serving. A powerhouse when it comes to supporting muscle growth.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Protein is vital for muscle and bone strength, and helps keep us full — but the idea that it is nutritionally beneficial to eat vast quantities from powders and concentrates, as found here, is wrong.

This bar might give you the same amount of protein as a small piece of chicken or salmon, but nature never intended you to eat manufactured protein with scores of additives. 2/10

TASTE: Powdery aftertaste, but nicer than expected. 7/10

PROTEIN BALL CO BREAKFAST TO-GO COFFEE OAT MUFFIN

  • Ten bags for £18.99, theproteinballco.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 411; saturated fat, 2.7g; protein, 13g; fibre, 7.8g; sugar, 37g; salt, 0.12g
  • Per 45g bag: Calories, 185; saturated fat, 1.2g; protein, 6g; fibre, 3.5g; sugar, 17g; salt, 0.05g

CLAIM: ‘These healthy breakfast balls are a delicious way to supercharge your mornings!’

EXPERT VERDICT: You’ll get the equivalent of 4tsp of sugar in a bag — mainly from the dates, which are a good source of fibre and protective antioxidants.

Natural sugar is better for us than added sugar as it comes with nutrients and tends to have less impact on our blood sugar levels.

There’s 6g protein (around a small egg) which, with the 3.5g fibre, will help fill you up.

But with just 2 per cent oats and no fresh fruit, these sit on the edge of being a sweet treat rather than a healthy breakfast. 5/10

TASTE: Powerful coffee flavour; not too sweet. 7/10

QUAKER PORRIDGE TO GO GOLDEN SYRUP

  • Two bars for £1.60, asda.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 397; saturated fat, 1.1g; protein, 6.4g; fibre, 11g; sugar, 12g; salt, 0.51g
  • Per 55g bar: Calories, 218; saturated fat, 0.6g; protein, 3.5g; fibre, 6.1g; sugar, 6.6g; salt, 0.28g

CLAIM: ‘Source of fibre, including beta-glucan which has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol. Contains 35 per cent less sugar than other cereal bars.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Porridge oats are a great breakfast choice — filling and full of fibre. You get 20 per cent of your daily fibre needs; 15 per cent of your recommended calcium intake; and half a small egg’s worth of protein.

These bars are 36 per cent wholegrain rolled oats and are significantly less sweet than similar products, but they contain ultra-processed ingredients and 1½ tsps of added sugar (golden syrup, sugar and brown sugar).

A bowl of homemade porridge with milk, yoghurt, nuts and fresh fruit would be healthier. 7/10

TASTE: Like a dry flapjack. 4/10

NESTLE LION BREAKFAST CEREAL BAR

  • Six bars for £2.50, ocado.com
  • Per 100g: Calories, 407; saturated fat, 6.6g; protein, 8.4g; fibre, 4.6g; sugar, 27.5g; salt, 0.58g
  • Per 25g bar: Calories, 102; saturated fat, 1.7g; protein, 2.1g; fibre, 1.1g; sugar, 6.9g; salt, 0.15g

CLAIM: ‘Enjoy Lion cereal in a ready-to-go bar with wholegrain.’ Provides at least 20 per cent of the daily recommended amount of six vitamins and minerals.

EXPERT VERDICT: A bowl of sugar-coated cereal with milk has more to offer nutritionally than this.

The added B vitamins and calcium aren’t enough to enhance its value health-wise. There’s little fibre or protein and it’s packed with ultra-processed ingredients. The 1¾ tsps of sugar is almost entirely added sugar.0/10

TASTE: Cloyingly sweet. 2/10

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