Product review: Plain sweet wheatmeal biscuits side by side

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 17 August 2010.
Tagged: carbohydrates, healthy snacks, review, snacks

Product review: Plain sweet wheatmeal biscuits side by side

Looking for a plain healthy biscuit to have with your coffee or tea? Want one that's reasonably healthy, not cream-filled or choc-coated, but still a pleasant sweet mid-meal bite? Here I compare two of the top sellers Arnott's Shredded Wheatmeal and Paradise Highland Oatmeals They look healthy, but are they?

Taste

Shredded wheatmeals  5/10

My first impression was its branny oaty smell. Nothing outstanding, just a 'floury' aroma with no hint of sweetness, more of a solid grainy air, a biscuit that could comfortably pair with a cheddar cheese without trouble. Its texture was a little gritty or sandy, more coarse than crisp, reminding me of boarding school sensibility and starched bed linen.

Oatmeals 6 / 10

In contrast, I detected a sweeter, slightly malty flavour in the Oatmeals. And they had a noticeably smoother texture. If you prefer a sweeter biscuit, this is the one for you. It has a pleasing malty smell and flavour which was confirmed by the ‘malt extract' on the list of ingredients. There were a few flakes of oats baked onto their surface which made them look more appealing than the Shredded Wheatmeal's more serious ‘British ship's biscuit' look.

But don't get too carried away. Paradise Oatmeals boasted they were ‘full of oats' on the label but oats was only the third largest ingredient (after flour and sugar).

At only 12% of the total biscuit mix, this is perhaps a whimsical claim. Yes there ARE oats in them but hardly ‘full' of them.
 

Wheatmeal biscuits packs Copy

 

Both biscuits are great for dunking in your tea and almost begged for this. If you ate more than one without some sort of liquid, it became dry stodge in your mouth, clogging up your mouth with dry packed-in biscuit mass.

Nutrition 6 / 10

Despite their healthy-sounding names, both these are still biscuits with their usual trio of flour, fat and sugar, the three basic ingredients needed to bind and create a sweet biscuit. The good news is that both have less fat and less sugar than others plus a little fibre from the bran and wheatmeal. 

Fat
Most biscuits are deceptively high in hidden fat. In fact, you can't make a biscuit without fat. These two are no exception - wheatmeal have 12% fat while oatmeal have 14%. The type of fat is hard to work out with the labelling catch-all "Vegetable oil" which gives no clue to which sort of fat is used to bake them. But the nutrition panel tells me about half their fat is saturated so the fat is likely to contain palm oil or a hydrogenated semi-solid baking fat.  See my note below.

Sugar
These biscuits don't taste terribly sweet but you still get a 22% sugars or 17%. Not low but way better than other sweet biscuits which have a lot more. Per serve, three wheatmeals give you a small 4g of sugar, the same as from two oatmeal.

Sodium (salt)
Bet you didn't think of biscuits as a source of salt but they are, even sweet ones. Most sodium comes from the baking powder (aerator) which are sodium-based compounds. The Paradise Oatmeals had around a third the sodium which explains why they qualified for the Heart Foundation Tick.

Fibre
You'd hope to boost your fibre from these and you do, but they‘re not in the same league as All-Bran! Here the Shredded Wheatmeal did shine with a decent 2g per serve while the Oatmeals had only a 1g fibre (you're aiming for 30 grams or more a day). OK for a snack but below a slice of dense wholemeal bread (4g) or a pear (3g).

Few additives, few ingredients
Check out the list of ingredients for each below and you'll see that the Shredded Wheatmeals come out ahead, having a ‘cleaner' no-additive list and less additives then the Oatmeals.
Note: 'Wheat flour' simply means white flour made from wheat. It's NOT wholemeal flour.

Arnott's Shredded Wheatmeal list    (8 ingredients)

Wheat flour, sugar, wheatmeal, vegetable oil, wheat bran, salt, baking powder, milk powder  

  

Paradise Highland Oatmeal list     (15 ingredients)

Wheat flour, sugar, rolled oats (12.5%), vegetable fats and oils [antioxidant (307)], modified starch (1413), golden syrup, milk solids, malt extract, natural flavours, glucose syrup, soy lecithin, salt, raising agents (500, 450, 503) 

 Convenience 10/1

Nothing to prepare - just open and eat.


The bottom line

While wheatmeal and oatmeal biscuits have less fat and sugar than other sweet biscuits, they're still not as healthy a mid-meal snack as fruit, yoghurt, raisin toast or savoury crackers.

Wheatmeal biscuits 3up

They are NOT wholegrain nor low GI nor especially high in fibre, which are my three criteria for ‘good carbs'.

Yes, they're better for you than Arrowroot, Nice, Marie, etc but a long way from being a bread substitute. Enjoy a couple a day but that's it. There are better healthier foods to fill your stomach with.

After Note

  • Goodman Fielder, makers of the Paradise Oatmeal, confirmed that they use palm oil to make their Highland Oatmeal, not a hydrogenated fat (impossible to tell this from the label). They also noted that they only use sustainable palm oil from accredited plantations in Malaysia.
  • And they've worked hard to keep their sodium (salt) levels down to 205mg per 100g by minimising added salt and sodium-containing ingredients eg baking powder.

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Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life  is a new update on all the things you've read or heard about. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!