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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bakery Snacks

    I’m hoping you can help me decipher this.

    One of my co-workers is obsessed with these cookies and brownies made by The Protein Bakery.  He says they’re good for you because they are made with oats and because they’re high in protein and low in carbs.

    What do you think of them?

    — Rob (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    As regular readers of Small Bites know, few things make me as giddy as pulling back the curtains on Big Food and its desperate attempts to make run-of-the-mill treats seem like health food.

    That said, I am an equal-opportunity critic of nutrition nonsense, so when I see a company — whether it’s a corporate giant or an independent family-owned one —  with their hands in the proverbial “focus on one ingredient and call our sugar-laden product healthy” cookie jar, I feel a need to call them out.  Which brings me to The Protein Bakery.

    The company — which has received enthusiastic endorsements from Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell, and Men’s Fitness magazine — offers what they refer to as “healthy” cookies, brownies, and blondies.  Their snazzy website (which, annoyingly, plays music that can only be turned off by scrolling to the bottom of each page and clicking a microscopic “ON” button!) features this confusing claim:

    • “No added flavors, sugars, or preservatives”

    False advertising, much?  Every single product has “light brown sugar” as an ingredient.  That is most certainly an added sugar.  More on that later.

    On their “glossary” page (which describes some of the ingredients but also throws in random words like “balance” and “body building”), they also make the unsubstantiated claim that butter speeds up metabolism.

    Okay, let’s move on to the nutrition facts.  Cookies first!  Each cookie provides:

    130 calories
    10 grams sugar (just shy of an entire tablespoon)
    1 gram fiber
    4 grams protein

    NOTE: Some of the cookie varieties offer 9 or 6 grams of sugar.

    Let’s compare that to a serving size of a junky cereal… say, Lucky Charms:

    110 calories
    11 grams sugar
    1 gram fiber
    2 grams protein

    I don’t see much of a difference.  Sure, thee cookies are made with oats, but at a gram of fiber a pop, you’re not getting much in the way of that ingredient.  And, yes, these cookies aren’t made with artificial dyes.  The lack of heinous ingredients, however, does not automatically make them “a healthy snack”.

    Let’s now take a look at the nutrition facts for the brownies:

    380 calories
    2 grams fiber
    35 grams sugar
    11 grams protein

    This is far from a health food.  You’re looking at a product that is just a few grams shy of the amount of added sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda.  The addition of protein is a moot point, especially when you consider that the average American’s daily protein intake is already well above recommended needs.  The American public has somehow been brainwashed into falsely thinking we all run the risk of protein deficiency.

    I’m particularly tired of sugar-laden calorie bombs trying to masquerade as “health food” by advertising protein content.  Additionally, the fact that these cookies and brownies are available at Gold’s, Equinox, and David Barton gyms simply means the folks at The Protein Bakery hired a qualified individual to handle distribution and sales.

    As far as I’m concerned, The Protein Bakery is a small company that uses a common Big Food tactic to sell a product — hyping up the inclusion of certain ingredients (that have a minimal impact on the overall nutritional quality of the product) in an attempt to seduce a health-conscious crowd.

    Two other groan-worthy claims I came across on the website:

    • “…creating delicious and healthy snacks that make your body’s engine work better.”

    A 380 calorie brownie with as much sugar as a can of soda is going to make my body’s engine work better?  Doubtful.

    • “Each cookie, brownie, and blondie has more protein and a few less carbohydrates than most snacks available.”

    “Most snacks available”?  What kind of vague comparison is that?  Also, a chocolate chip brownie has 41 grams of carbohydrates, equivalent to 6 Oreo cookies.  As you all know, I am most certainly not “the carb police”, but when these sorts of vague claims are spouted off, I feel a need to show how not based in reality they are.

    As far as I’m concerned, brownies and cookies “with protein” are as healthful as Froot Loops “with fiber”.



    1. Lauren said on April 29th, 2011

      Ridiculous marketing garbage.

    2. Lauren Slayton said on May 1st, 2011

      You’re so right. Add fish oil or protein or fiber and you have a healthy product? Nope. These have been around a while. I see them at gyms so you work out and then eat a brownie, hmn.

    3. Andy Bellatti said on May 1st, 2011

      Amazing how the “it has extra protein!” thing continues to lure so many people into thinking a product is healthier. I remember seeing them in Liquiteria when I lived in NYC, reading the Nutrition Facts label, and groaning.

    4. michelle said on May 30th, 2011

      Shameful is the only word I can think of right now. Shame on them.

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