Many people base their diet around counting calories. If you take this approach it is very easy to resort to readymade foods that are marketed as low calorie, but just what are you eating and is it ‘healthy’? Time to do a little investigation....

On the right you will see the nutrition label for a commonly found ‘low calorie’ cereal bar (it would be mean to say which one). It’s only 90 calories but……….

First – check out that list of ingredients. It does not feel like something totally natural that you could whip up in your own kitchen; you would be much more likely to need a chemistry lab.

Second – note the weasel words ‘trans fats 0g’ ,the presence of ‘partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil’ on the ingredients list and the note right at the bottom ‘less than 0.5g trans fats’. This product contains trans fats (albeit at a low level which according to Government guidelines allows them to say 0g trans fats). Trans fats are the very nastiest form of fat and one that should be avoided completely. If any product shows ‘partially hydrogenated fat’ or ‘hydrogenated fat’ on the ingredients list my advice is don’t eat it.

Third - this bar contains negligible levels of protein. Protein can help fill you up and stop you getting hungry. A lack of protein means that you will want something else to eat again really quickly after you have finished this….perhaps another low calorie cereal bar?

Fourth - 8g of sugar in a small 23g bar means that it is 35% sugar. The added sugar comes from lots of sources: ‘sugar’, ‘malt’, ‘maltodextrin’, ‘corn syrup’ and ‘fructose’ and ‘strawberry flavoured fruit pieces’….note: this is not real strawberries but cranberries flavoured to taste like strawberries……really?  

Fifth – nutrients have had to be added. I am interested to see that whilst the product does list B vitamins these are not naturally contained in the base ingredients but have been added in as separate ingredients. I would much rather get my nutrients from real food than food that has had to be fortified to give it nutritional value.

Finally - the last little ingredient on the list is BHT – know what that is? Butylated hydroxytoluene….sounds delicious? It is a preservative used to prevent the oxidation of fats and oils; there is debate around the link between this substance and increased cancer risk.

This is just one example. My advice is take a look at the ingredients list and the nutritional panel and decide for yourself - check what has been added in when they take the calories out.