How to Diet: Here are Some Helpful Tips about Protein Claims on Packaged Foods

Protein is hot, hot, hot! It’s one of the latest marketing buzzwords. From shakes to cereals and granola bars, companies are scrambling to market foods that have—or pretend to have—more protein. Don’t let “protein” claims trip you up. Here are a few pointers.

Special K Protein

Special K Protein 110-calorie bars have just 4 grams of protein, less than the 5 grams required to make a “good source of protein” claim. You get more in protein bars from Fiber One (6 grams), Cascadian Farm (9 grams), and Nature Valley (10 grams), but the calorie cost is higher with Nature Valley (190) and Cascadian (250) than with Fiber One (140).

TIP: Always check protein and calories.

Special K Protein

V8 Protein Shake

“V8 Protein blends milk, soy, quinoa, brown rice and pea proteins with rich cocoa and real honey to give you satisfyingly delicious energy,” promises V8’s 200-calorie Chocolate Protein Shake. It’s got more sugar than honey (or anything except water and sweet potato and carrot juice), more artificial flavor than pea protein or brown rice, and more salt than quinoa flour.

TIP: Solid foods delay hunger longer than liquids.

V8 Protein

Cheerios Protein

Without milk, a serving (1¼ cups) of Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein, 220 calories, and 4 teaspoons of added sugar. But 220 calories (2¼ cups) of Original Cheerios has the same 7 grams of protein…and less than 1 teaspoon of sugar.

TIP: Don’t be fooled by protein claims that include the protein in the milk you add.

Cheerios Protein

So Delicious Almond Plus

“5X Protein!” boasts the So Delicious Almond Plus almond milk carton. That’s because a cup of most almond milks have just 1 gram of protein. (So Delicious adds 4 grams of pea and rice protein.)

TIP: Cow’s milk and most regular non-flavored soy milks have 8 grams of protein per cup.

So Delicious Almond Plus

Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus

“30g protein,” crows Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus. That’s for an entire 400-calorie bottle, not the 210-calorie serving (1 cup) on the Nutrition Facts label. Protein Plus is mostly milk, water, agave nectar (which is 82% fructose), sugar, and whey and soy protein.

TIP: You’d get 16 grams of protein (the amount in a cup of Bolthouse) from just 100 calories of nonfat plain greek yogurt…without the sugar.

Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus

Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack

Each 170-calorie Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack—small portions of cheese, almonds or peanuts, and chicken, ham, or turkey—has about 14 grams of protein (good), but each also has nitrites (from celery juice) and about 450 milligrams of sodium (not good).

TIP: Why not pack your own cheese, nuts, and last night’s turkey or chicken in a reusable container?

Oscar Meyer P3 Portable Protein Pack

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