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Not so much healthy as harmless
on 25 January 2014
"Alpen Light" cereal bars are standard industrial confection flaunting a "high fibre" and "low calorie" label to enable them to masquerade as a healthy food choice, while selling the customer as much air and packaging material as possible. There are two main reasons that each of these bars contains few calories: the first is that about one third of its weight is supplied by oligofructose syrup, a cheap, manufactured sweetener derived mostly from acacia gum or chicory, which, by virtue of being indigestible to humans contains almost no calories. Being digestible by the bacteria of the large intestine, though, gives it the added benefit of promoting the activity of beneficial microflora of the gut, thereby allowing the manufacturers to wave the "healthy" flag over the product. The second reason the bars contain few calories is that they are actually tiny and contain very little substance: each bar takes up less than two thirds of their hermetically sealed, gas-filled wrappers and weighs in at a paltry 19g in total. Most of the volume of each bar is actually air, cunningly concealed in a light, gooey matrix of puffed rice. With a total of only 7g of cereal to a bar, though, they hardly count as "high fibre" in absolute terms.
In the mouth, the bars do have a good firm texture and are nicely chewy but taste-wise they don't really stack up, being far too sweet and with an artificial and chemical tasting flavour. My wife declared them disgusting. I didn't find them that bad, but I won't be rushing to replace them once they're gone.
As a light snack to make you think you've eaten something and therefore shouldn't have anything else, these bars may work to reduce snacking of the less healthy variety, as long as you like the taste. Under no circumstances should they be mistaken for an energy bar, despite their sweetness; they essentially provide no nutritional value whatsoever.