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Sifting through the 'healthy'

March 23, 2012 - Kathie Evanoff
I’m a skeptic.

I prefer real food rather than over-processed, food-like substances that claim to be healthier than the real stuff only to find the claims aren’t what they seem. After all, food is a business and companies that provide food to our mega-grocery stores have to make profits every year to stay competitive.

But people can only eat so much food, so in order to compete, companies have to find new ways to present food to us so we will be tempted to try their products over the competition.

I’m also a very busy person who doesn’t have time to prepare elaborate recipes, so it is often hard to resist ready-made food, even as I wonder if really does provide all the nutrition I need along with all the sugar and salt that I don’t. But I would be lying if I said I never indulge in a package of instant oatmeal once in a while over old-fashioned oats, and I can’t say I never toss a bag of frozen French fries in a hot oven instead of peeling and slicing fresh potatoes. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.

When I was asked to review fruit drinks that claim to contain real fruit (turned out to be 30 percent real fruit, the rest was water and sugar), I had to ask myself, why not just eat a piece of real fruit?

So when the marketers at Kraft asked me to try their new “Milk Bites” bars that claim to have the nutrition of a full glass of milk in each bar, I had to ask myself, why not just drink a glass of milk?

I always have time to eat, but the choices I make when time is not my friend aren’t always the greatest. I also admit that I probably don’t get enough calcium in my diet. Perhaps a “milk” bar that promises to give me extra calcium and that also keeps me from choosing something less than nutritious from the vending machines when I’m just trying to get through the afternoon until I get home to dinner would be just the thing.

So I tried the samples of Kraft Milk-Bites bars sent to me from their marketers. I also passed them out to my coworkers, some of who tore into the packages immediately while others squirreled their samples away for a better time. A few days later, the opinions came in and all were in favor of the bars. They tasted pretty good, some said. They weren’t bad, said others. One co-worker, however, had to refuse the bar because the second ingredient listed is sugar and he is diabetic.

I also tried the bars, keeping a few samples myself. What was sent to us were the strawberry and chocolate varieties and I thought they were pretty tasty. They weren’t hard and crunchy like some other granola bars and they had a good mouth-feel, to speak in foodie terms.

I was concerned, however, with their sugar content. At 140 calories each, there is 10 grams of sugar in the strawberry bars. The first ingredient is rolled oats and that’s a good thing. The third ingredient is strawberries and although they are named “Milk Bites,” skim milk rolls in at fourth.

I was happy not to see ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, which probably is why the produce has to be refrigerated. And at 18 grams carbs, 5 grams fat and 5 grams protein, this seems to be pretty well balanced as far as nutrition.

I would probably buy them again, but would be careful to take the sugar content into consideration during meal planning for the rest of the day.


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