Snickers Mars Protein Bars Healthy Food

These days, the majority of food products claim to be 'high protein' with big brands like Mars and Weetabix all hopping on the bandwagon. But can a bowl of Weetabix really claim to be 'high protein' if it only has 7.6g per serving? The answer is no, not really. For me as a fitness professional, a product is not 'high protein' unless it has 25g of protein minimum as that's what I could get by eating a chicken breast or by drinking a protein shake, both staples of the high-protein food group. So why are companies doing this? And have you been sucked into their clever marketing ploys?

Once upon a time, 'low fat' and 'low calorie' foods were the big trend. But then everyone finally realised that if a product has zero fat, it probably contains a lot of sugar and is not actually that healthy at all. The high protein fad is just that, a fad. Yes, it's true that most people don't consume enough protein in their diet, but eating a bowl of Weetabix probably isn't going to help and you would definitely be better off just eating a chicken breast or drinking a protein shake. Companies realise that people will buy something just because it has the word 'protein' on the packet and will be willing to pay a large premium for it!

Check Your Facts

Don't just be drawn in by clever marketing and branding: just because a company has splattered the word 'protein' on the packet doesn't mean it's healthy. Let's use Warburton's as an example who have created 'protein' bread. Is no food product sacred? Bread is a staple carbohydrate source, it doesn't need to be high in protein! Let's compare the nutritional information of a regular loaf of their bread to a loaf of their high protein bread, like for like (per 100g, not per slice, because if you look closely their slice sizes differ per product).

First, Warburton's Regular Wholemeal Bread

per 100g
Energy 974 kJ
231 kcal
Fat 2.8g
- of which saturates 0.5g
Carbohydrate 37.8g
- of which sugars 2.4g
Fibre 6.4g
Protein 10.6g
Salt 0.95g

 

Next, their 'High Protein' Wholemeal Bread

per 100g
Energy 953 kJ
227 kcal
Fat 3.3g
of which saturates 1.0g
Carbohydrate 32.0g
of which sugars 2.0g
Fibre 7.8g
Protein 13.5g
Salt 0.98g

 

As you can see, the 'high protein' version actually only has 2.9g more protein per 100g than a regular loaf! As well as 0.5g more fat. Is that really worth going mad for? Is it worth paying nearly twice as much? (A 400g loaf of the regular bread is 75p while the high protein version in the same size is £1.20). 

So how does the marketing work?

Warburton's claim that a slice of their regular bread is 23.8g on average, whereas a slice of the protein bread comes in at 29g. It's a bigger slice, so it's going to have a higher protein content anyway! Always be weary of suggested serving sizes as they are hugely manipulated by companies so that they fit their desired nutritional information. They will do this for fat and sugar content as well, for example they might say that one cookie is two servings so that the fat and sugar content 'per serving' is not as high. It's a very common trick that lots of food companies do.

The bottom line

As always, the best advice is to always eat as naturally as possible. These foods are not naturally high in protein, so chances are they aren't good for you. There are heaps of foods which are naturally high in protein such as chicken, turkey, nuts, seeds, and quinoa. You are far better eating more of these types of foods than highly processed, sugar-filled treats which happen to have a marginally higher protein content than their non-protein counterparts!

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