I’m not sure when I grew to be suspect or dubious about claims made on food packages, but it’s definitely not a new thing for me. As far back as 2006, I wrote a massively controversial blog post about Fig Newtons (blog comments: zero), which had just released their “100% Whole Grain” version of the finest mass-produced cookie ever known to humankind. In case you didn’t click that link, here’s the Cliff’s Notes: when comparing the “regular” Fig Newton package and the 100% Whole Grain Fig Newton package, there was NO difference other than 1 gram extra of dietary fiber in the Whole Grain version and that the Whole Grain version contained more saturated fat than the regular Newtons.

Through the years, I still pick up and examine packages of food in stores to compare how healthy they make it *look* on the front of the package to the actual measurements and ingredients on the back. Sizzle vs. detail, if you will. It’s safe to say that food manufacturers are still playing games with us. Their use of colors (green = healthy!) is occasionally misleading and if something is high in fiber, but contains 28g of sugar, you can be sure that the front of the package will contain some sort of wheat-like image that says “80% of daily fiber requirements” or something. A lie? No. Looking out for your health? Uh, no.

So I read yesterday’s New York Times story about protein bars with great interest. These bars always fascinate me. It seems like every store now has hundreds of them, all neatly lined up next to each other in a dizzying array of “healthy” colors and life-saving claims of all the protein you’ll ever need. Don’t be too fooled by them. These are perhaps some of the most egregiously labeled food packages put forth by our money-grubbing food processors, yet the Times points out that they are now a $2 billion dollar business. And they are essentially candy bars.

“You can put ‘keto’ or ‘protein’ on a candy bar and sell it, and people don’t even question it,” said Janet Chrzan, an adjunct assistant professor of nutritional anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

New York Times, January 26, 2023

So yes, protein is good for you. But not when it’s packaged up with enough sugar to make a grizzly bear dance for hours on end (sidenote: I cannot wait to see Cocaine Bear!). The Times also points out that a chocolate chip Clif Bar contains 16 grams of added sugars, more than what’s in a serving of girl scout Thin Mints. Candy bars with more protein. Sounds healthy!

So if I’m picking a protein bar, it’s these because I am encouraged (or suckered?) by the simple ingredients posted right on the front of the package!

And guess what, they are pretty tasty. And the ingredients on the front are exactly what is in it. And there are indeed no added sugars, though there are 15g of naturally occurring sugars. Maybe try one, I like them. Or don’t. But be careful out there, hardly any of these companies really care about you.