In this week’s Sunday Soapbox I’m ranting about greenwashing in respect of the new Naturally Nood Bars from Sanitarium. We’ve seen it with Pepsi Next and Coke Life and well be seeing it a whole lot more. Just look at all the products marked “gluten free” that are free of gluten but are full of all other manner of undesirable ingredients.

Before getting into my little rant though I wanted to make the point that I absolutely get it that there are foods out there that are much worse for our kids than the ones I’m talking about here. But the thing is, I don’t need to tell you guys that deep fried mars bars and Coke are not good for your children.

The foods I tend to talk about here are the pseudo healthy foods. Those ones that claim to be “healthy” and beneficial for our kids. So it’s not always that the foods in and of themselves are terrible – but rather the manner in which they’re marketed which I consider takes advantage of busy tired parents.

In essence what I object to is the slick branding that purports (and not just a little bit but emphatically) to turn a highly processed product into some kind of healthy option for you to feed your children. Branding that perpetuates the myth that an expensive product with just “a cheeky touch” of something undesirable is the best that can be done by way of processed product (when it’s not). Or that we as parents don’t have the time to make our own snacks for our kids (when more than likely we do).

In respect of the product I discuss here it honestly would take you about 10 minutes to make your own with less sugar and no nasties (as in absolutely nothing known to be inflammatory).

So here’s my little rant – let me know what you think! I know we won’t all agree.

Dear Sanitarium

Yes it’s me again – Claire from Dom’s Kitchen.

SO…I noticed you’ve launched a new product – these “Naturally Nood” snack bars. (Actually ‘noticed’ is putting it mildly – I’ve found it hard to avoid them popping up all over the show this past week – clearly your social media marketing budget is doing just fine.)

Look I know we don’t see eye to eye on many (any?) things. I don’t know I’m a bit weird: I just don’t agree that those cardboard-like cereals and long life milk-like substances (made with added sugar and vegetable oils) you make really are optimum nutrition for our growing kids.

Point being, it’s fair to say that when I saw your adverts – or rather when I saw various bloggers’ informal “product review” posts – I harbored a certain degree of skepticism about the products. However, not wishing to jump to conclusions (well not too much) I visited your website to check the facts. Of course before getting to the facts there was a teeny bit more marketing spiel to navigate.

nood bar marketing materials

Naturally Nood Bar Marketing Materials … No added nasties?

By the way, love the cutesy way you get the bars themselves to do the talking. Kind of reminds me of another of my most favourite “healthy” kids snacks. It’s just so endearing. ‪#‎nobull‬. [Ed.That’s me being sarcastic *grin* in case it’s not obvious – but more on those guys next week.]

So OK back to the Nood Bars. What’ve they got to say about themselves? Well, it all sounds very promising indeed: “Whole food” and “all-natural” … “there’s nothing naughty about us… just scrumptious fun in a bar” … “no added nasties or boring bits, just … whole foods”.

Most notable perhaps is the pronouncement that “there’s no worries, cause there’s zero added sugar”… “What you get is what you see”.

So there you go then. These bars certainly sound like “healthy snacks” just as you describe them.
There’s only one teeny problem. You’ve heard that we have a little bit of a issue with sugar right? I mean it’s been in the news somewhat lately.

Because your bars average 35% sugar content. Yes 35%. But that’s just a number – to put it in more easily understood terms that’s over 3 teaspoons of sugar average and in fact one of the bars (Cheeky Cocoa) at 43.8% and 14.9 grams is closer to 4 teaspoons of sugar.

sugar in nood bars

How much sugar is really in these bars?!

So look, I can certainly see how this can all get quite confusing. Especially when you’re busy sounding cool on social media with buzz phrases like “no added sugar” and “all-natural”. But here’s the thing: As far as our kids’ bodies are concerned: Dates are sugar. Raisins are sugar. Dried apple is sugar. Apple juice is sugar. It’s all just sugar.

The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day. And that’s for an adult. You can see things are going to go a bit hay wire if our kids are having 4 teaspoons in a very small snack. One could go so far as to say these bars are really a bit “naughty”.

More than this though, I think that for me where things go wrong is in your use of the term “natural” and your assertion on every packet that there’s “nothing naughty” inside.

First off I’m curious as to exactly what’s in your “natural flavours” because you and I both know that these “natural flavours” aren’t what most people think they are. I mean we’re not talking about an extra bit of banana puree or pure vanilla extract are we?

And just so you know – no matter how you try to minimize it using phrases like just “a cheeky trace” or a “hint of” – even a very small amount of what’s typically in these “natural flavours” can cause havoc to a child’s health (and especially those with pre-existing gut issues).

Oh and by the way vegetable oils?!

You mightn’t have caught up on this yet although it’s also been in the mainstream press. But yeah – vegetable oils (especially canola) – they’re not really what you’d call healthy. Actually, they’re highly inflammatory and potentially one of the biggest causes of disease in human beings today.

But Claire! I hear you say – you’re just being too picky. It’s unrealistic to make bars without this amount of sugar and the vegetable oil. How the heck are we supposed to make a “all natural whole foods snack bar” without these essentials?! Well funnily enough it’s not actually that hard to make a bar that really is “free of the nasties”.

Seriously it’s not.

ingredients nood bars

Ingredients of one of the Nood Bars

But what’s that you’re saying? Oh they must be healthy because they’ve all been awarded at least 3 (and in some cases 4 / 4.5) out of 5 stars under our new Health Star Rating System.

health star rating gone wrong

The Health Start Rating System in action.

Oh boy, where do we start with the star system. Really that’ll have to be for another letter. In the meantime though… I did come across this little bit of information that I found quite interesting. It’s the names of those selected from industry to be on the Advisory Group tasked with formulating the algorithm for the star system in the first place.

Let’s see who do we have:

Pierre van Heerden, Sanitarium New Zealand
Maurice Gunnell, Nestle New Zealand Ltd
Julie North, Heinz Watties
Ms Julie Newlands, Unilever Australia
Dave Monro, National Heart Foundation
Katherine Rich, New Zealand Food and Grocery Council

Hmmm. OK then.

Well played Sanitarium. Well played.

PS I definitely feel a further letter will be in order, just to clarify a few things about this whole Health Star Rating system. Particularly in regards to the way the system was arrived at in the first place…

health star rating system advisory board

Exert from the Ministry papers on formation of the Health Star Rating System Advisory Board.



PS For the readers! If you’re looking for a bar that REALLY doesn’t have the nasties in it then keep an eye out for our round up post of raw and baked bars coming soon.

If you like this post then check out our other posts on Coconut Milk.

Better still jump on our mailing list at to get our newsletter so you don’t miss our easy fun and delicious kids real food ideas.

Next week we’ll be doing a round up of our favourite bloggers real food bar recipes as well as sending everyone on our email list the recipe for our new grain free / nut free  / dairy free lunchbox bar that looks like this:

lunchbox bar

Dom’s Lunchbox Bar