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Food labelling, isn’t it great? If you know how to read and interpret food labels they are very useful. Some food producers get a bit carried away with the claims they put on certain products and you need to make sure you keep an eye out and don’t get sucked in. I’ve noticed some odd things recently are being labelled as ‘protein bars’ when I don’t particularly agree that they are. I thought I’d talk about what I call pseudo protein bars today.
Protein and protein bars seem to one of the buzz terms around food at the moment. I’ve seen things like quinoa have claims on the packet that it’s packed full of protein and they aren’t kidding. A quick Google search tells me that there’s about 8 grams of protein per cup of cooked quinoa which is high for a grain, I will concede, but in broader terms is not that high in protein.
What is really bugging me at the moment is the amount of cereal and nut bars that are being labelled as protein bars. In my opinion a nut bar, which is probably held together by a nice range of sugars (yes honey is basically pure sugar) is not a protein bar. Again nuts are a food item that people love to talk about being high in protein but again that’s relative! For me to think about eating a protein bar it needs to have at least 15 grams of protein and many of these nut bars (that I’ve looked at their nutrition information panels) only have about 10 grams of protein if you’re lucky.
Not only does the labelling of them as a protein bar rub me up the wrong way but also how they are marketed as a healthy snack. We all know protein is good for us right? Let’s eat this ‘healthy’ nut protein bar as an afternoon snack. Most of these products have more calories in them than your average chocolate bar. I realise nutrition is not all about pure calories because nuts do have some great nutrients that are good for our bodies but if you’re trying to watch your weight and do the right thing you can be getting off-track without even realising it.
I went to the supermarket to have a look at the food labels and quite a few of the bars, especially nut ones have about 10 grams of protein per bar. This isn’t that bad and compared to normal muesli bars they have a whole heap more protein in them. Many of these ‘protein bars’ I noticed have soy nuggets in them. This is upping the protein content but could be problematic if you’re trying to avoid soy protein. On every label I looked at sugar, or at least sugar in some form, was the second or third ingredient on the ingredients list. That means that sugar is the second or third biggest ingredient in terms of amount in these bars. I don’t know about you but these kind of things are not my jam. Here’s some labels as an example:
I’ve written a post all about reading food labels and if you haven’t read it before I really recommend you go here to read it. Learning to read food labels in a meaningful way will help you decide if the thing you are thinking about eating is worth it and after bariatric surgery it’s really important to make these considerations with everything you eat. You are worth looking after and doing these things for yourself are huge steps in the right direction to achieve that.
I may start doing a yearly reminder to watch out for the strange, outrageous and just simply misguided claims that food producers put on their food to try and convince you to buy it. Please, read food labels, try to eat as much fresh produce and fresh meats as possible and try to reduce the amounts of processed foods. Don’t buy something based on the claim on the front of the packet, turn it around, have a read and then decide if it meets your nutritional needs. Food marketing is very clever and the terms they can and do use aren’t necessarily regulated.
I am somewhat of a protein bar connoisseur and after trying tons of them these are the protein bars on the market that I can really recommend for post-op bariatric patients. The Nothing Naughty bars that I reviewed here, they are NZ made, so reasonable and their shipping is impressively fast. Tom & Luke’s protein bars that I reviewed here, more that are NZ made and so yummy. Quest Sports Nutrition bars that I have reviewed here and here, these are quite easy to come by now and Honest Food Co’s protein bars which I reviewed here, these should be a bit easier to get soon!
While I’ve found quite a good range of protein bars that suit my needs protein bars do tend to be high in fat by their very nature. Fat and protein really don’t want to break up with one another. It’s this reason that I limit my intake to a couple of protein bars a week. I also don’t want to get too reliant on them instead of real food so I have a few around for days when I’m being lazy with food or when I’m not prepared but I don’t eat them all the time.
I’d love to know if this post has been helpful for you! Do you make a habit of reading food labels for everything you eat? Do you eat protein bars at all after surgery? What are your standout favourites? Comment below and let me know!