Are high-protein snacks a healthy choice?

High-protein food and drinks are increasingly popular. They include bars, yogurts, yogurt style products containing quarks (a dairy product similar to cottage cheese), dairy drinks and smoothies. Our research shows that high-protein bars are highly processed where:

  • Chocolate is the main ingredient in nearly 38%
  • 77% were high in saturated fat
  • 21% were high in sugar
  • 87% contained medium levels of salt

However a lot of people (37%) buy these bars because they think they are healthy. They also buy them as “on-the-go” snacks or for extra protein. Most high-protein yogurts and quarks surveyed have added sugar in the form of sucrose, syrups, fruit purées and fruit juices. High protein milks and smoothies are low in fat and salt but over half of the products had added sugar. The most common serving size (330ml) is much larger than a recommended serving size (200ml).

So what are high-protein snacks?

There are many products on the market today that claim to be “high-protein”. Foods and drinks can claim to be high-protein” if at least 20% of the energy value (i.e. calories) is provided by protein.

This is called a nutrient claim and is regulated by food law.

Do we need extra protein?

Protein is an essential part of our diet. Most adults consume more protein than they need and there’s no evidence that high-protein diets give healthy people additional health benefits. We should focus on getting the protein we need from foods like eggs, lean meat, chicken fish, beans, lentils and dairy products. You can see this in The Food Pyramid or The Eatwell Guide.

We know very high intakes of protein may increase health risks such as liver, kidney and vascular diseases.

animated gif. chocolate is the main ingrediient