Meet the Competitors
In this corner, Special K Nourish Caramel Sea Salt & Mixed Nut Bars With Quinoa. From their website: “This Special K Nourish bar with Quinoa is a delicious chewy bar with whole grain oats and quinoa, combined with real, visible ingredients. This variety is made wtih*: Roasted peanuts and almonds in a delightful caramel and sea salt combination. Gluten-Free and made with no artificial flavours or colours; you'll have no second thoughts - just second bites!” (*Yes, this spelling mistake was on the website!)
Their website is full of marketing messages - ”8 out of 10 women don’t feel they are living life at Full Strength. We want to help change that.“ “97% of women have at least one “I hate my body” moment every day. Watch to discover how we can change that together.” Which is followed up by “See The Goodness. Made with real ingredients that you can see, there's no more second guessing with Special K Nourish*.”
And in the other corner, the mighty almond. We’ll use the Almond Board of California’s Website, but whole foods in general don’t have websites, or a marketing budget. To be fair, California does produce 82% of the worlds almonds. From Almonds.com; “California Almonds offer a one-of-a-kind crunch that will keep you in the game for a long time to come, whether you're getting ready to hit the road, in need of a mid-afternoon boost or just preparing for the next task at hand. So, grab your favorite almond snack and crunch on.”
Their marketing messages? “Tasty? Yes. Crunchy? Absolutely. But did you know that almonds also pack a serious nutritional punch?” They even teach you about the almonds lifecycle; “From Orchard to Table. Crunching into an almond, it’s hard to imagine the journey that little nut took to make its way to your mouth. The almond lifecycle has many stages and an abundance of natural beauty. Here are the different life stages.”
The Weigh In
Let’s look at the labels and ingredients.
Special K Nourish - Peanuts, almonds, corn syrup, whole grain gluten-free oats, sugar, fructose, coconut, corn syrup (fibre), quinoa, dextrose, modified palm oil shortening, vegetable oil, glycerin, milk ingredients, sea salt, sorbitol, salt, natural flavour, butter, soy lecithin, soy protein.
Ok, that is 5 types of sweeteners/sugars (I won’t count the corn syrup (fibre), because they’ve split that out from the corn syrup for some reason). Corn syrup, sugar, fructose, dextrose and sorbitol. The “milk ingredients” could actually be lactose, so there is another maybe sugar. Why is this bad? Watch this, or this. Or maybe fertility is a concern. 7 grams of sugars total. That means more than 21% by weight is sugar.
The website is saying that these are all “real, visible ingredients”. I’m not sure about you, but their definition of “real” is different than mine. Let me point out just one of the ingredients: modified palm oil shortening. This is an interesting ingredient, because you can find information on “modified palm oil”, and “shortening”, but not the product as listed. Shortening traditionally is a hydrogenated product, and definitely not natural and very destructive in the body. In fact, Health Canada is banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, in fact, it was to be done by this summer! Whole, unrefined virgin palm oil can be nutritious, but Modified Palm Oil which is high in saturated fat and no more nutritious than the partially hydrogenated oils it is replacing. Palm oil is also notoriously bad for the environment. Rather than using abandoned agricultural land, which is costly to rehabilitate, palm oil producer’s clear rainforests and peat swamp forests to create plantations. The soil and water from these lands are polluted by pesticides used on the plantations and the release of effluents into the environment. They are also endangering the lives of the Sumatran tiger, orangutans, elephants, and rhinoceros.
I am also very skeptical on labelling in Canada. Directly from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website with respects to Trans Fatty Acid labelling:“when the value for trans fatty acids is 0.049 g or less per serving of stated size (by statistically appropriate level of detection or through a reliable calculation), then the trans value can be rounded to zero;”. From a Government of Canada website – “However, the main source of industrially produced trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the shelf life and texture of food. Some foods that may contain partially hydrogenated oils include:
commercially baked goods like cookies
Manufacturers have made significant progress in reducing the trans fat content in many of these products. However, some products still contain high levels of trans fats. Check the nutrition facts table on the label to make sure the product has little or no trans fat.”
So, we have a potential discrepancy as if this product contains trans fats or not.
Ok. Almonds ingredient list.
What do these competitors bring to the table, nutrient wise?
Special K Nourish:
Almonds – I’ve picked roughly the same calorie content to play fair – so one ounce of almonds, roughly 23 almonds.
And the winner...
When people see a Special K product, the success of marketing has you believing that it is a healthy option. And that is assuming that the label on the Special K bar is even accurate (there can be up to a 25% discrepancy!) More on food labels here. The commercial product has had to even add additional soy protein, and even still, doesn’t touch the almonds. You can see side by side, the nutritional profile of the almonds is hands down, your better option. You’ll feel fuller longer, you won’t spike your insulin which helps control your blood sugar, you’re on your way to your intake of daily fibre (resulting in cholesterol management), a boost of plant antioxidants, can help prevent heart attacks and heart disease, help brain function with the healthy fats, help with weight loss and prevent overeating, increase your nutrient absorption, increase your digestive health, help fight cancer and inflammation and helps maintain dental and bone health (you can get calcium from other sources than dairy! Where do you think cows get theirs from?).
It’s just as easy to grab a small handful of raw almonds than it is to grab one of these sugar bomb bars. Whole food will win out every time. I don’t need marketing to tell me what is good for my body, let nature tell me. This Special K bar is being delegated to my trash bin where it belongs, what choice will you make next time you’re in need of a snack?