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‘Come on, lets get you some protein for breakfast!’ a young mother exclaims to her 4 year old son. As I sat enjoying breakfast with my best pals at our Mexican resort in Puerto Vallarta this past March, we couldn’t help to notice the tantrum that was about to erupt.
‘But I don’t want protein!’ the boy wails. ‘I hate protein!’ he screams and throws his tiny body to the cool, tiled floor.
My girlfriends and I do our best to avoid bursting into laughter as we are all aware that ‘protein is part of a complete breakfast!’
These days you will find protein-injected cereals, high protein fibre bars and even protein cookies on the market. As you have likely noticed from the recipes I post, I use protein powder a few times a week in my cooking to help increase my intake of the powerful macronutrient. BUT, before you rush out to purchase a Costco sized package of protein bars, there are a few things you should know.
Without a doubt, real food will always net the best results. Real food snacks on the go that are high in protein (and fibre!) can include a boiled egg and an apple, turkey jerky and some fresh cut veggies, or a quinoa salad.
Real food includes minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. These foods net the best results as they cost our body calories to break down, help to balance our blood sugar (when choices include adequate protein & fibre) and have a high accessibility of vitamins and minerals.
The thing is, I want you to live in the ‘real’ world, not the world of perfection. You likely live a busy life that includes work, exercise, a social calendar, family, hobbies and trying to eat healthy at the same time. It may not be possible for you to eat a 100% whole foods diet. So, when a packaged product is on your radar, this is what you need to know:
Developed by the company Metabolic Effect, the label rule is an easy to follow tool that helps to determine how effective a product will be at balancing blood sugar and keeping you fuller for longer.
How to follow the Label Rule:
Determine the total grams of carbohydrate in the product, deduct total grams of protein and total grams of fibre. A general rule is to keep the total under ‘10’.
Here is an example that would net a ‘3’ when following the label rule:
This rule is not perfect, but it works for quick decision making in the grocery aisle. It works when your next best option is a snickers bar or bag of chips. This matters because even if a seemingly healthy 100 calorie granola bar finds its way into your purse, if it lacks significant protein content, you will be hungry again soon!
Some examples of protein bars that follow the label rule are Clif Builders, Quest Bars, Simply Bars, Lara Uber bars, Vega Sport Protein Bars, Solo GI and Think Thin bars.
At the end of the day, the decisions you make have to work with you and your lifestyle. I tend to avoid bars with lots of chemical ingredients or soy protein because they do not digest well for me. I also try to eat a maximum of two protein bars each week and focus on a diet of mostly ‘real’ food.
You are still responsible for what goes into your mouth. Eating three protein bars each day just because they follow the label rule certainly does not mean you will see fantastic results with muscle definition. As always, find balance and what works for you personally.
Thanks for listening,