You can hear the taunts across schoolyards, cafeterias and supermarkets across the nation: Mine’s got more protein than yours! How many grams? How many grams does yours have? What percentage of your daily allowance? Hey, high protein is not just for body-builders anymore! Gone are the days of needing those horribly flavored protein powder shakes. Nowadays, everything from chips to bread to dessert is being stuffed with the stuff.

As a vegan eater, meaning constantly on my toes and ready to debate protein content, the pendulum has definitely now swung far too far in the wrong direction. Time and time again, I’ve explained how a balanced plant-based diet provides plenty of protein without any extra effort, but now the discussion is completely out-of-my-hands and has begun to resemble something similar to a news broadcast:


Unlike the population’s general lull in the RDA of fruit and vegetables, there has been no evidence that people consume too little protein, yet here we go stuffing the grocery store aisles with protein-enhanced products that make absolutely no sense and can actually have a negative outcome.

So, sit back, grab a vegan cookie (no protein added) and enjoy this list of signs that the protein craze has gone too far.

1. High-Protein Lunchables


Lunchables were a weird idea to begin with, and they still are. It only ups the ante that the already horribly processed collection of lunch junk is now on the protein bandwagon. Seriously, do we need to feed our children—do we need to feed ourselves—what essential amounts to a normal Lunchable with nuts. Shouldn’t we actually shoot for healthy, balanced lunches as opposed to a laundry list of factory food with “Portable Protein Pack” written across it?


2. Cheerios Protein


First of all, cereal is usually consumed with milk or yogurt, so even if it’s soy milk or vegan yogurt, the bulk of the protein was there—and still is—to begin with. Secondly, the new protein packed Cheerios has over twice the calories and way more sugar. Again, the food hasn’t gotten any healthier. It just has more protein, and in all likelihood, it is an unneeded addition. Basically, Cheerios has added granola to the normal cereal. Why not just have a homemade granola, or even one from the store?

3. The Cantina Power Menu


Taco Bell has jumped on the bandwagon yet again (I still remember the 90s low-fat menu, with special cheese and no fat refried beans). When fast food joints have had time to get with the program and join the trend, you know it has gone too far. Taco Bell is now offering bulked up burritos and bowls for those drive-thru customers looking for more protein. Once again, it seems folks might have missed the mark here. Drive to the next window.


4. Protein Fortified Milk


Traditionally, high in protein products like milk are beginning to be fortified with even more protein. That’s right. Dry milk proteins are now being added to milk in order to beef up the already questionable dairy protein folks are ingesting. Rather than noting how troublesome casein is and finding healthier sources of protein, companies have decided to just jam a bit more in there and see what happens. When companies start changing milk, you know something is up.


5. Cricket Cookies


I got it

Now, eating bugs is nothing new in the world at large, but when crickets find a place in mainstream American shopping carts, not for apocalyptic survival but for added protein, then something is askew. Consuming insects used to have a worse reputation than the vegetable plate, but now companies are making cricket cookies to create a new “high protein” angle. And, people are buying in and still not buying vegetables! Holy jumping Jiminy!

I must note for sure that we vegans are not without blame. Due to its protein prowess, quinoa is in such demand now that Bolivian farmers have been put in the horrible situation of starving themselves to meet their quotas, and we are a big part of that. But, the point is that this is all for not because most of the population is getting more than enough protein, including vegans of good practice. The advertising quandary for more protein is nonsensical health-wise, just like Fox News. So, spin on that ad guys.


Image source: Ali Al-Hadidi/Wikimedia