What’s in a Name?

Adam Plotkin
5 min readJun 14, 2021



You’re absolutely correct that I just quoted Shakespeare…bet you didn’t see that one coming in a nutrition article.

This last week I was roaming the aisles of my local grocery store, and I came upon two products that I felt moved enough to write about…and not in a good way. Nowadays, marketing is king when it comes to grocery shopping. As a consumer, we are pressed for time and money, so we tend to be drawn to the flashiest labels, the cheapest prices, and of course several buzzwords.

Over the years, there have been several buzzwords hap hazardously slapped onto food packaging to draw in naïve consumers. Such phrases like: low fat, low calorie, low carb, protein, and keto. The last two really strike me because for the average consumer, they correlate protein to lean/muscular physiques, and keto to weight loss. Even if you know bupkis about nutrition, I am sure you have pre conceived notions about both of those phrases, and I am sure that they are somewhat on par to what I just explained.

Therefore, food companies will use these terms to entice the average consumer to buy their product, knowing that words like “protein” and “keto” make people feel good about their purchases, because they are “healthier” options.

And unfortunately, this works…really really well. We often just read the front of the product, see these phrases, assume all is right in the world, and make the purchase with a big smile on our face, not thinking twice.

This brings me to my two examples. Up first, is the Happy Farms Protein Cream Cheese. This one made me laugh.


As you can see, the front of the label boldly claims that this cream cheese spread has 3x the protein as the original. Wow that is amazing. So the average consumer, will think that this cream cheese will be an enjoyable way to get in their daily protein. Well, when we look at the nutrition label, it turns out that this cream cheese spread has a meager 3g of protein per serving. So, yes, this product does indeed have 3x the protein as the original, but what they fail to let us know, is that the original only has 1g of protein per serving :) To put this into perspective, I eat roughly 35–40g of protein per meal (4 meals). Obviously this would not be a sole protein source, but even if I wanted to get a nice 10g of protein out of this spread, I would be wasting around 180–200 calories on this spread. Whereas, for about 120 calories, I could get around 26g of protein from 3 Oz of chicken breast (1). Of course, if you like cream cheese, this is fine to get. But do not go thinking that this is some magic spread that will help you hit your protein allotment for the day. Instead, it is simply a hyperpalatable spread that will honestly probably make you crave more food, that has only 2g of protein more than the original cream cheese you are probably used to.

Next up is Quaker Oats Granola. I applaud Quaker Oats for masterful marketing techniques, because for some strange reason, we associate granola with HEALTH in every sense. I mean, the average person probably thinks that granola is this super food that will fuel you through your day. What could be wrong with oats, honey, raisins, and almonds…those are all whole food…sounds great. Most people will not even bat an eye, and instead pat themselves on the back for buying this item, as they will gladly shovel it into their mouths to start their day, or have a few handfuls as a mid-day snack. Yet, has anyone even looked at the nutrition label on this one? Or has anyone even looked at the serving size.


One serving, is a measly 2/3 cups, and it is going to set you back 270 calories. Have you ever seen what 2/3 of a cup really looks like? I am guessing that most people just fill up an average sized cereal bowl with this granola, and down it without thinking twice. That serving you just ate, will probably be 2-3x the suggested serving size, and if you add milk and other additives…wow you might have just consumed anywhere from 600–1,000 calories in the blink of an eye. Even if you eat the suggested serving, 2/3 of a cup is such a small amount of food for almost 300 calories and only 7g of protein…not ideal. Instead, watch this:

What if we take 1 serving of rolled oats (1/2 cup- 150 calories, 5g of protein) + 1 scoop whey isolate (25g-90 calories, 21g of protein) + water to your consistency of choosing and you are looking at 240 calories, 26g of protein, and a full stomach for hours on end. You can add cinnamon or other spices, stevia, vanilla extract, sugar free maple syrup, etc… to your liking, and you still would be consuming less calories than the suggested serving size of granola (not that anyone is even eating just 2/3 cups) and you will be starting your day with a huge bolus of protein (see my other articles for why this is crucial).

So bottom-line: don’t fall for the marketing hype. Use what I have taught you and be skeptical of anything that is claimed on a label. It is easy to fall prey, but you now have the tools to fight back.



Adam Plotkin

Post-Baccalaureate research assistant in the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Lab at the National Institutes of Health