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I’ve noticed that protein is cropping up everywhere.
Right. The dairy co-operative, Arla Foods, was bang on trend when in 2015, it launched a quark product called, simply, Protein. (Quark for the uninitiated is a cross between soft cheese and Greek yoghurt and very high in protein.)
Skyr, high-protein, strained yoghurts followed soon after and were aimed at active 25-35 year olds. Then Weetabix launched Weetabix Protein cereals and high protein breakfast drinks; high street sandwich chains and supermarkets began to offer salmon-and-egg Fit Boxes (Eat Ltd.), protein power drinks (Pret a Manger) and protein pots (Waitrose). Protein is such a perceived benefit that Tesco is even selling protein water.
What’s behind the obsession?
Sports nutrition has filtered into the mainstream. Personal trainers and nutritionists tell us protein slows the spike in blood sugar levels you get by eating carbs, fat and sugar alone. It builds and maintains muscle mass, promotes satisfaction and refuels muscles between workouts.
Where does the protein in these snacks come from?
Meat, nuts, peanuts, edamame beans, chickpeas, soya beans and eggs. Many products including protein water are enriched with whey protein isolate (from milk. The richest, most sustainable protein source is insects – more of which later.
Whose snacks do you recommend?
We like Men’s Health Fuel Beef Jerky, made with 200g raw beef per 100g of cooked beef jerky; £1.89 per 30g pack, savoury and satisfying. We also like Strive beef biltong. Both are made by the Meatsnacks Group Ltd.
Another snack we love is a nut bar from the US. Moreish Kind bars are both filling and indulgent containing such ingredients as dark chocolate, maple syrup and sea salt alongside whole nuts. £1.29/ 40g.
While the packaging could be improved, Teff Snacks by Tobias Teff UK also stand out. Flavoured with cinnamon and agave syrup or honey, these slim biscuit-like bars are chewy, sustaining and not overly sweet. High in protein, teff contains albumins, the primary protein in blood plasma, making it a good vegan alternative to eggs.
What about conventional energy bars?
You could try vegan-friendly Trek Protein Peanut Power Bars with gluten-free oats and raisins, from Natural Balance Foods. Bounce Coconut & Macadamia Protein Balls should also sell well. They contain two kinds of whey protein and 210 calories in each 40g ball. Clif’s Builder’s Bars contain oats, nuts, peanut butter and cocoa; 20g protein per bar.
How about those insects you mentioned earlier?
Insects contain more protein than beef and produce 99% fewer greenhouse gases. The makers of insect-based snacks such as Jimini’s and Crobar disguise the very faint, dog-biscuit aroma, crunch and aftertaste with clever recipes but overcoming our squeamishness is the real hurdle. Vegans and veggies will be hard sells; for the rest of us, it’s too soon. One London whole food store told us sales were disappointing when they gave an insect-based energy bar four months’ trial last year.
Tell me something that would surprise me
You can buy protein-enhanced ice cream and popcorn. Examples are Wheyhey Banoffee Protein Ice Cream and Protein Works organic popcorn. In future, food technologists may use aerated whey protein gels to cut the calories in desserts. Protein would replace some of the fat molecules that hold together whipped products like mousse.
Will the protein trend last?
Nutritionists say: ‘If you must snack, eat one that contains protein, to keep your blood sugar levels stable’. The science stacks up so, yes, we think it will.
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