Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Grocery store lessons: Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch

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I’ve noticed a proliferation of Greek yoghurt “product” on grocery store shelves recently. Capitalizing on the popularity of Greek yoghurt, the food industry is now making “Greek yoghurt” cereals and granola bars. But do these products provide you with the same benefits (i.e. protein and probiotics) as eating actual Greek yogurt does?

One of these products is Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch. Essentially, this is a flake-type cereal with a smidgen of yoghurt flavouring. “Greek yogurt powder” is the 20th ingredient; not exactly prominent. It’s also important to note that it’s a powder. Even if this “yogurt” still contained any live probiotics (which is highly unlikely) the miniscule amount included in this product is not enough to provide you with any of the health benefits you would obtain from eating actual Greek yoghurt. The same goes for protein. There is only four grams of protein in a 3/4 cup serving of this cereal. In comparison to plain Greek yoghurt which can have as much as 18 grams of protein per serving, and even flavoured Greek yoghurt which generally has 8 grams of protein, this is not a whole lot of protein. To put this in perspective, Shredded Wheat (which consists solely of wheat) contains six grams of protein per serving.

Aside from the yoghurt factor, looking at the overall nutrition profile of the cereal, it’s still not a great choice. The second ingredient is sugar. Keeping aware that sugar is also included in other forms and ingredients further down the ingredient list, it may actually be the most abundant ingredient in this cereal. Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Yogurt Honey Crunch boasts that it’s a “source of fibre”. Um… 3 grams of fibre in a cereal is nothing to boast about.

My advice: don’t fall for these Greek yoghurt products. If you want to obtain the nutritional benefits of Greek yoghurt, eat actual Greek yoghurt.


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Got fortified cow beverage?

I’m getting caught-up on my nutrition article reading. You may have seen headlines all over the news a few weeks ago about how many children are drinking too much milk.

I think that many parents have been convinced, dare I say by the dairy industry (under the guise of Canada’s Food Guide), that children need lots and lots of milk to have strong teeth and bones. Unfortunately for all of us milk loathers who suffered through the dreaded milk program in grade school, this is not true. Yes, milk is a good source of protein (8 grams per cup), calcium (30% of our daily needs as adults), and vitamin D (45% DV – although it’s important to point out that cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D so I don’t really think it should be praised for that). The thing is, there are plenty of other foods that contain these nutrients. If your child suffers from lactose intolerance or a milk allergy they are not going to develop rickets or osteoporosis (yes, it’s a pediatric disease with adult consequences) as long as they obtain enough of these nutrients from other sources. If you’re child just doesn’t like milk, or you choose not to serve them milk for whatever reason, they can still live healthy and productive lives.

One of the reasons that excessive milk consumption in children is an issue is that it tends to lead to insufficient consumption of other nutrients, specifically iron. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia which can be indicated by paleness, fatigue, decreased immune function. There is also the potential for poor growth and development as a result.

Good food sources of iron include: oat bran cereal, clams, spinach, beans and lentils, tofu, egg yolks, beef, and baked potatoes. Using uncoated cast iron cookware (especially to cook acidic foods such as tomato sauce) can also increase iron consumption. Consuming vitamin C containing foods (such as citrus fruits, peppers, and tomatoes) with iron-containing foods can also increase the amount of iron absorbed.

Good food sources of protein include: tuna (and other fish), poultry, meat, beans, legumes, yoghurt, tofu, nuts, eggs, even grains.

Good food sources of calcium include: yoghurt, fortified orange juice, many cheeses, spinach and other dark leafy greens (kale, broccoli, asparagus), tinned salmon (with bones) and sardines, fortified cereals, and tofu.

Good food sources of vitamin D include: egg yolks, fatty fish (herring, eel, salmon, sardines, tuna), and fortified cereals.

There is a huge proliferation of “milks” on the market these days. You’re no longer limited to cow’s milk or soy milk. There’s almond milk, coconut milk, sunflower milk, quinoa milk, hemp milk, rice milk… The choices can be overwhelming. The first thing you should check for is added sugar. No need to consume any more sugar than we already do. Next, check your labels to ensure your “milk” is fortified. Finally, check for unwanted ingredients like added oils. Beyond those tips, go for what you (or your child) actually likes. With all the options available you should be able to find one that will be both pleasing to your palate and provide the nutrients you need.


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Humans cannot live on bread alone

This tweet came through my feed last week: “Whole grains are approximately 10-12% protein. The exact percentage we should be eating. Nature knows best!” I started to respond via twitter but I couldn’t keep it down to 140 characters. Lucky you, you get to read my rant in response.

I’m not sure where the notion that 10-12% of calories from protein is optimal came from. Acceptable Macronutrient Data Ranges put protein needs at anywhere from 10-35% of total calories. The 10-12% is within this range, but it’s at the low-end. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “man cannot live on bread alone”. Even if this is the amount of protein that you’re obtaining from whole grains, they’re not going to be the only food that you’re consuming so you’ll need to eat other protein-containing foods to ensure that you’re getting enough protein.

I looked at the protein content of a few whole grains. 3/4 cup of cooked rolled oats contains 2.85 grams of protein. That means that of total calories in a serving, about 8% come from protein. About 9% of calories in long-grain brown rice come from protein. Quinoa fares better, coming in with 14.6% of calories from protein. Multi-grain whole-grain bread actually has about 20% of calories coming from protein (although this amount is likely to vary considerably depending on the recipe). My point here is that not all whole grains consist of 10-12% protein.

The last point that I want to make is that not all proteins are created equal. Proteins are made up of amino acids of which there’s a recommended pattern of consumption (we need more of some than of others). Grains do not generally contain the pattern of amino acids that we need, making it necessary for us to consume other sources of protein to ensure that we get all of the amino acids we need.

Sure, nature knows best. Nature also knows that grains are not our best or only source of protein.


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Home made protein bars!

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After trying many expensive and decidedly less than delicious store-bought protein bars, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own. I wanted to make ones using only whole ingredients and I didn’t feel like shelling out a whole lot of cash on protein powder when I wasn’t convinced that they wouldn’t be made unpalatable with that addition. All of the ingredients I used were purchased from my local grocery store. Feel free to try different nuts, nut butters, and cereals (just be aware that this may change the nutrient profile).

Each of these bars will give you a serving of protein (7 grams). If you want to increase the protein you might want to try adding protein powder. If you do, I’d love to hear how successful that is (feel free to share samples with me!).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars

1 cup honey dates

1/4 + 4 Tbsp skim milk powder

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

1/4 cup tahini

1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yoghurt

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts

1 cup crispy rice cereal (I used whole grain rice cereal, you might want to try puffed quinoa or Kashi puffed whole grain cereal – the intent was to add volume without many calories, additional protein and fibre is an added bonus).

Directions:

Dump the first seven ingredients into a food processor. Process until smooth. Mixture will be quite thick and sticky. Scrape into a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Grease an 8 x 12″ baking pan. Put mixture into pan, spread evenly, and press down firmly. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Cut into 16 bars. Wrap individually and store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Nutrition Info for One Bar:

167 kcal

8 g fat

1 g saturated fat

7 g protein

17 g carbs

8 g sugar

3 g fibre

7 g iron

37 mg sodium

69 mg potassium


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Picking protein

I get a lot of questions about protein. Hopefully this post will address at least a few of them.

Protein is a part of every cell in your body. It’s important for growth and cellular repair, as well as satiety. Protein is composed of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids. These amino acids cannot be produced by your body and must be consumed through dietary sources.

Most of us consume more than enough protein in our diets. The average person only needs about 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That would mean an average man, weighing 182 lb, would need about 74 grams of protein a day. The average woman, weighing 153 lb, would need would need about 62 grams of protein a day.  Despite the perception that protein comes only from meat and alternatives, we actually get protein from nearly all of the foods we eat. Although the amounts will vary, as will the ratio of the essential amino acids.

If you aren’t getting enough protein from food you may wish to try protein supplements. People who are most likely to be lacking sufficient protein in their diets include: athletes, vegetarians, vegans, women, those who are injured or ill, people who are dieting or attempting to lose weight, people suffering from anorexia or alcoholism. How do you know which supplement is best for you? If you’re going for things like protein bars check the labels. Make sure that the calories are appropriate for your daily needs. Some protein bars provide the appropriate number of calories for a snack while others serve more as a meal supplement. You should also check other nutrients that are of concern to you, such as fat, sodium, and sugar as these can vary widely.

As for protein powders, there are a lot of different types available. From ones with added probiotics to fibre and varying amounts of protein. Check the manufacturer out online before you buy to ensure that they’re reputable. Unfortunately, these products are not well-regulated in Canada so you should know that you may not be getting what you’re paying for.

I took a recent trip to the grocery store to check out a few. I did a comparison of vanilla flavoured products (Proteins+, Vegan Proteins+, and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein). Initially, it appeared that the hemp protein was inferior to the other proteins as it had more calories and sugar but only a third the amount of protein. Then I realised that there was another hemp protein product (70) that contained the same amount of protein as the Proteins+. Which one is the best? It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you prefer. The Proteins+ contains slightly more protein than the other two (25 grams per serving, versus 20). The serving size for the Proteins+ was also slightly smaller so you’re getting more bang for your buck. It also contained the least number of calories, 110 versus 140 for the hemp and 118.5 for the Vegan Proteins+. However, it was also the only one that contained a caution stating: “Do not use if you are pregnant”. That makes me a little nervous. All three products contain all the essential amino acids. Although I was unable to find the exact ratios for any of them so one might be superior to another in that regard. Beyond taste, another factor to consider is digestibility. Despite the addition of digestive enzymes to the whey protein (i.e. Proteins+) some people find whey protein hard to tolerate. You might fare better with a vegan formula if that’s the case. One thing I did find a little confusing about the Vegan Proteins+ was that one scoop was 30.7 grams but the nutrition information was based on 35.5 grams. Make sure you read the label carefully before you make your choice.

Here’s my little comparison chart for the products I was referring to above:

Protein Powder Brand Serving size (g) Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Sugars (g) Protein (g)
Proteins+ 28.3 110 0.2 ? ? 25
Vegan Proteins+ 35.5 118.5 1.5 ? ? 20
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro 70 30 140 4.5 0.5 2 20