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The portability of snack bars, like Greek yogurt, has been important to their success. “There has certainly been an interest in protein that is more convenient,” said Jenny Peterson, General Mills’ consumer insights director. “We hear that continually from consumers.”
Part of the allure of protein for snacking is its satiety effect. “Protein is a great tool to help you feel full and keep you satisfied longer from meal to meal,” said Katherine Zeratsky, a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. That’s partly because protein takes longer to digest.
Protein’s fullness factor is transforming breakfast for many Americans, said Melissa Abbott, director of culinary insights at the Hartman Group, a food market researcher. Consumers increasingly believe protein at breakfast helps tide them over better until lunch, she said.
“When I’m interviewing consumers, I hear, ‘I used to have cereal or a bagel for breakfast, but now If I don’t have protein, my day starts off entirely on the wrong foot.’ ” That may help explain why the breakfast cereal business has been rather stagnant the past few years.
Dinner is normally prime time for protein. So with more protein at breakfast and snack time, consumers are piling it on.
Too much protein?
The recommended daily amount of protein for adult women and men is respectively 46 grams and 56 grams. For a man, a cup of milk, a cup of dried beans, an 8-ounce serving of yogurt and a 3-ounce piece of meat will meet that 56-gram daily threshold.
But many people get 100 grams of protein a day, said St. Catherine’s Sheats. “We eat a lot of meat, and our meat proportions are a half a plate when they should be a deck of cards.”
All that extra protein doesn’t really help much. In fact, in really heavy doses, protein can be hard on the kidneys, Sheats said. “We don’t store protein. We use it and what we don’t need, we convert to fat.”
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003