It's very difficult to know what the right things are to eat. It's not any easier when all around us are advertisements, slogans, and claims on and about packaged foods. Everywhere you look these days among packaged food -- particularly high-carbohydrate packaged food such as cereal, snack bars and the like -- you see protein being advertised as the next great food benefit. What's with this new trend? Is this an earnest effort by these food companies to improve our nutrition?
I don't want to claim that these companies are out to harm us, they're not, but their objectives are exactly what they are required to do to benefit their shareholders. They're out to sell more product. This is not necessarily the same as your objective to eat healthier food.
I think these big food companies are seeing a trend toward paleo, primal, low carb diets and they want to jump on the bandwagon. But they've got a problem. If they were really to embrace this approach, they would develop food that was low in carbohydrate and not lower in fat, but not necessarily higher in protein. If they did that, they'd do two things which aren't in line with their objective to sell more product.
For one, they would scare a large part of their customer base away. That base is made up of average Americans who are convinced, from years of the low fat mantra, that fat is to be avoided at all cost. They avoid any mention about reduced carbohydrates, whether or not their new products have reduced carbohydrates or not. If they mentioned reduced carbohydrate, they fear they would sound like they were suggesting "healthy whole grains" should be avoided. The only safe thing they can say is that they have more protein.
Another likely reason is fear of stirring the wrath of experts in conventional nutrition who would disparage food that is higher in fat or lower in healthy whole grains.
To those who are trying to understand what to eat and what's good for them, particularly those who are trying to follow a low carbohydrate approach, be cautious about buying into the message from these processed food manufacturers. High protein is not necessarily the way to go. You probably are getting enough protein and having more is not going to help you reach your goals.
The list of new Protein-enhanced processed foods I found on a walk through the grocery store;
- Special K Protein Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch Cereal
- Special K Protein Chocolatey Peanut Butter Granola Snack Bar
- Special K Dark Chocolate Granola Snack Bar
- Quaker Select Starts Protein Cranberry Almond Instant Oatmeal
- Quaker Select Starts Banana Nut Instant Oatmeal
- Fairlife reduced fat ultra-filtered milk. (The issues with this product go far beyond the focus on 50% more protein. The shear idea that milk itself needs to improved is hard to believe. See this blog post for more at PrimalPastures.com)
- Rockin' Refuel protein fortified, low fat milk
- Weightwatchers Frosted Shredded Wheat with Protein
- Fiber One Coconut Almond Chewy Bars with Protein
- Nature Valley Mixed Berry Protein Greek Yogurt Chewy Bar with Naturally Flavored Greek Yogurt Coating
- Nature Valley Strawberry Greek Yogurt Protein Chewy Bar with Naturally Flavored Greek Yogurt Coating
- Fiber One Cranberry Almond Protein Cereal
- Fiber One Maple Brown Sugar Protein Cereal
- Special K Protein Cereal (One listing 10g of protein the other with 14g including milk. Other than that I see no difference -- could this be an experiment on their part?)
- Cheerios Cinnamon Almond Protein Cereal
- Cheerios Oats and Honey Protein Cereal
It's interesting that these protein-enhanced packaged foods are almost all foods that are normally high in carbohydrate. (Cereal, snack bars, etc.) There's also no mention of them having lower carbohydrate since I suspect they don't.