Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Treat sodium claims with grain of salt

Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes its content.

Why would we choose WeightWatchers over a normal product with less salt and fat? Photo / Supplied
Why would we choose WeightWatchers over a normal product with less salt and fat? Photo / Supplied

WeightWatchers Macadamia and Cranberry
$3.99 per 4 bars, 136g.

Most people turn to a WeightWatchers product because they are trying to lose weight, or perhaps choosing a healthier option because they are on a low salt or low sugar diet. "Life is too short to eat bad food ..." says the packaging. And the words in big letters on the package "LOW IN SODIUM" would catch anyone's eye who had been told to keep salt levels low in their diet.

By picking up this pack of cereal bars you would go home confident that of the many bars available to you in the snack bar aisle you made the best choice for your health.


It took me a matter of moments to find another bar which makes no similar "low in sodium" claims on its packaging yet has a massive 69 per cent less sodium.

The WeightWatchers bars have 100mg of sodium per 100g, Nice & Natural's Homestyle Chewy Muesli Bars with cranberries have just 31mg per 100g. Low sodium? Yeah right.

Click here to read Wendyl's columns on other food products

But it didn't stop there. Nice & Natural were also lower in kilojoules, lower in fat, lower in sugar and higher in fibre, which is a good thing. So why would we choose WeightWatchers over a normal product?


(25 per cent) (Peanuts, macadamias, 9 per cent)

This tells us that the bar is made up of a quarter nuts, of which 9 per cent are macadamias and the rest are peanuts.

(19 per cent) (Sultanas, vegetable oil), Sweetened Dried Cranberries (sugar, cranberries (4 per cent), vegetable oil)

The fruit in this bar is dried which is why there is mention of vegetable oil and added sugar.

(16 per cent) (Rice Pops (rice flour sugar, salt, malt barley extract, emulsifier 471), multigrain flakes, rolled oats)

The cereals in this bar are rice pops, which are processed and similar to Rice Bubbles. To make them rice flour is added to sugar, salt, malt barley extract and emulsifier 471 which is mono and diglycerides of fatty acids.

From what I can learn, multigrain flakes are like cornflakes but made out our various grains such as rice, oat and wheat.

Rolled oats are the same as you would use when you make porridge.


This is a form of sugar which is often used in processed foods as a thickener.

Milk choc compound
(10 per cent) (sugar, vegetable oil, milk solids, cocoa powder, emulsifiers (soy lecithin 492,476), acid (citric), flavour

This is the chocolate used on the bottom of these bars. These are fairly standard ingredients for chocolate but you don't usually see three emulsifiers. They are soy lecithin which is a yellow-brownish fatty substance taken from soya beans. Sorbitan tristearate (492) is a common emulsifier and 476 stands for polyglycerol polyricinoleate which is made from castor beans and is a common ingredient in chocolate because it reduces the thickness of the product. All ingredients are in here as emulsifiers which usually act to keep oil and water mixed together.

Glucose (Preservative 223)

This is a sugar syrup which for some reason has the preservative sodium metabisulphite (223) in it. People who avoid sulphites because they cause allergic reactions will want to avoid this.

Humectant (glycerol)

Glycerol is a natural substance in here to keep the product moist.

Sunflower oil

This oil is low in saturated fat.


(471), Soy Lecithin

As above.


This will be artificial flavour.

Acid (citric)

This is citric acid.

My recommendations:

When I compared the nutrition panel per serving of this bar with the Nice & Natural cranberry bar I found some astonishing information. This bar is 34g per serve, the Nice&Natural bar is 45g per serve. Yet comparing both bars head to head, at their different sizes, this bar had less protein, more fat, less carbohydrates, more sugar, less fibre and a lot more sodium.

So if you're looking for a bar which is low in fat, low in sugar and low in sodium you would be better off choosing the one which doesn't advertise itself as a weight loss product and you can get more bar to fill you up.

The WeightWatchers bar does have slightly less kilojoules at 637kj compared to Nice&Natural which is 667kj at their different serving sizes but per 100g of each product Nice&Natural has less kilojoules.

This proves to me how important it is to read labels very closely and not just pick something up because it claims to be "LOW IN SODIUM."

There is no legal definition for making claims such as this or for that matter "LOW FAT", or "LIGHT". So manufacturers can make any claims they like on their packaging.


*Says it is low in sodium but has 69 per cent more sodium than a similar product making no such claims.

*Is higher in fat and sugar and lower in fibre than a similar product.

*Higher in kilojoules per 100g than a similar product.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature?

Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately, Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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