This is a guest blog post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.
Protein and yogurt are still big marketing draws for “energy” bars, despite protein being one of the worst things you can eat for quick energy, and fresh yogurt (and its beneficial bacteria) being almost impossible to put in a shelf-stable bar.
Powerful Yogurt Bars reel in protein fans on the package by stating that, “An active life requires a superior source of protein and a bar that gives you the energy to tackle any challenge.”
The bars, which come in three flavors, contain more protein than carbohydrate (20 g vs. about 14 g), plus 5 g fat, and as such they aren’t going to provide quick energy. Protein and fat are slow to digest and can lead to stomach upset if too much is consumed during physical activity. The protein here is mostly highly-processed isolates from milk and soy, and the fat is from palm kernel oil, which is high in saturated fat.
Most of the naturally-occurring fiber has been stripped from the peanuts and soybeans, and there is too little cocoa powder to contribute any fiber. Without fiber, all that protein and fat will sit in your GI system longer, whereas carbohydrates are more easily digested and used for energy.
Yogurt is in the brand name of these bars, but there is no yogurt in any of them, including the Yogurt Creme flavor. Likewise, the Peanut Butter and Jelly contains neither ingredient as a whole food. The Chocolate Coconut flavor contains only a small amount of cocoa powder and coconut, but has the best flavor description and taste. As with most “yogurt” coated bars and treats, the coating is sugar and palm kernel oil, mixed with powdered milk… but no yogurt.
The “yogurt” apparently refers to the added bacillus coagulans, a strain of bacterium (not one that is used in yogurt) patented as a probiotic by an Ohio biotech company. It’s a bit counter-intuitive to create a bar with little or no fiber, a substance that acts as a “pre-biotic” to help colonize healthy gut bacteria, and then insert designer bacteria to do the same thing.
As for “20 grams of protein never tasted this good,” there are other options: 2/3 cup roasted soy nuts, 2/3 cup of almonds, ½ cup peanuts, or a mix thereof with some dried fruit and seasonings (cocoa powder and coconut, perhaps). Actually, half those amounts would provide plenty of protein (10 g) for one snack , especially if your body is expected to work hard at more than just digestion. These simpler options also provide a variety of minerals, fiber, etc. along with the protein.
Under the Coating
Can these be called yogurt bars, or even yogurt-coated? There is no specific regulation prohibiting it, but if something is misleading or untruthful there would be a basis for action against it. While this kind of labeling (“yogurt coating” when there is no yogurt, etc.) is fairly common, it does seem to fail the truthfulness test.
In addition, the PB&J bar shows 3.4 g saturated fat, which is not rounded properly. While it seems trivial, this is a red flag that all the data on the labels should be suspect.
Another inconsistency – all three bars show the same amounts of protein and sugars, but one bar (Yogurt Creme) shows the “yogurt coating” lower on the ingredients than the “protein blend,” meaning that it not only has less “yogurt” (such as it is) but seemingly less sugar from the coating (the main sugar source), so one might expect this bar to have slightly less sugar. However, it shows the same sugar content, and they even have added stevia to sweeten it more, whereas the other flavors don’t show stevia in the ingredients.
Also on the labeling compliance checklist… when a “high protein” claim is used, as here, the Nutrition Facts label must (but doesn’t here) show the %Daily Value for protein that is in the product, not just the grams of protein. The Daily Value (DV) for protein is 50 g, so each bar has 40% of the DV.
And the taste of 20 grams of protein? …More than just a hint of powerful food science.
Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.