If you’ve been choosing muesli as your breakfast staple, thinking it’s definitely a healthy option, it may be time to take a closer look at the nutrition information panel (NIP).
CHOICE reviewed 159 types of muesli, examining both their nutritional content and claims on the labels, with results that may surprise you. Only 10 of the products met the Australian food regulator FSANZ’s definition of low fat (no more than 3%) and 11 met FSANZ's definition of low sugar (no more than 5%).
We even found one brand, The Muesli, which contains twice the amount of fat of a MacDonald's Double Quarter Pounder. It’s important, however, to clarify that not all fats are the same.
While, a lot of the fat found in muesli is the good, unsaturated type - coming from oats, nuts and seeds –if you’re trying to lose weight it’s important to remember that high-fat tends to also mean high kilojoules.
High sugar content was also a factor in some mueslis, usually due to high dried fruit content. While providing many valuable nutrients, dried fruit is also a concentrated form of sugar. For example, two of the gluten-free varieties, Sunsol Gluten Free and Nu-Vit Low Fat Fruity Muesli Gluten Free, were found to have 43% sugars which is 7% more than Coco Pops.
Muesli has gone upmarket in recent years, with many boutique brands popping up on supermarket shelves. But if you’re thinking that a higher price tag might be some guarantee that you’re getting the healthier option, think again. While the boutique brands are more likely to contain fruits and nuts other than the standard sultanas and almonds, the cheaper brands are just as likely to give you a nutritious start to the day.
Additionally, if you’re basing your choice of muesli on the terms or claims written on the package, you may not be getting what you think you’re getting. For example, Morpeth Sourdough Muesli Deluxe says it has “no added cane sugar” but its dried fruit content and added honey result in a product that’s almost 28% sugar.
When you only have confusing claims and a whole bunch of numbers to go on, making nutritious choices can be difficult. That’s why CHOICE has called for mandatory front of pack traffic light labelling on all products which make nutrient or nutrition claims. Traffic light labels provide a visual cue to the product’s fat, sugar and sodium content, indicating whether they are high, medium or low. For more information, check out our Food labelling campaign.
Until traffic light labelling is adopted, here’s how to choose the most nutritious muesli:
- Check the NIP, for fat and saturated fat – less than 12% (12g per 100g) total fat is better than average for most muesli.
- Check the ingredients’ list for added sugar. It can be disguised as honey, maple syrup, golden syrup or glucose.
- Check the NIP for 10% (10g per 100g) or more of fibre. Don’t rely on claims like “good source of fibre” or “high in fibre”. Many types of muesli with higher than average fibre are claim-free.