All Shakes Are Not Created Equal

By Dr. Janet Brill via @FitnessTogether

shake_articleConfused by all those health/protein shakes on the market? There are certain basic ingredients that comprise a super-healthy shake and others that you should really try to avoid.

Here’s a simple guide to building your own by choosing from the ingredients listed in the categories below.  At a minimum I suggest choosing a fruit, a lean protein, and a liquid to build your shake:

1. LIQUID

You need to use some type of liquid to thin out your shake. Use more or less liquid depending on the thickness of shake you desire. Rather than using water, why not use a nutrient-packed liquid such as fat-free milk, soy milk or almond milk?

If muscle-building or post-workout recovery is your goal, then you may want to use cow’s milk which gives you the highest concentration of muscle-building whey protein.  Just be sure to stay away from full-fat cow’s milk shakes as these come loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.

2. FRUIT

Fruit is a perfect addition to any shake to boost taste as well as nutrition.  It adds fiber as well as loads of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  Bananas are always delicious and add in a nice amount of the blood-pressure-lowering mineral superstar, potassium. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are spectacular antioxidant-packed fruits that blend well and add color to your shake.

Don’t be afraid to add a frozen fruit when fresh isn’t an option. Just look for frozen fruit in the freezer case that has no added sugar. Simply add in the fruit in its frozen state such as mangos or peaches and blend away.

You might also want to consider making a pumpkin pie shake by using fat-free milk, non-fat Greek yogurt, banana and then adding plain canned pumpkin. Spice up your shake with pumpkin pie spice and a sweetener and you have a delicious and nutritious high-protein dessert shake!

3. PROTEIN

If you want to up your protein intake with your shake, then make sure to use cow’s milk or soy milk as your liquid base. Then try adding in additional lean protein sources such as peanut butter — which is yummy with banana — or ground-up nuts, oats, flax or chia seeds.

Another fabulous and superbly nutritious addition to your protein shake is Greek yogurt. Go for the fat-free, unsweetened version of Greek yogurt because it’s loaded with protein and free from other unnecessary ingredients.  A six-ounce serving of Chobani nonfat plain Greek yogurt contains 100 calories, 18 grams of protein, 20% of the recommended daily value of calcium and seven grams of carbohydrates.

Be sure not to pick up the full-fat versions from the dairy case, which can contain 20 grams of fat per serving, including 16 grams of saturated fat. And while most brands of plain Greek yogurt are made from nothing but milk and bacterial cultures, flavored versions are often very high in sugar and calories.

You should also know that Greek yogurt contains a highly concentrated amount of casein, hence should not be your main source of protein, since whey -— not casein -— contains the amino acids that are crucial for muscle recovery after tough workouts.

4. VEGGIES

Green smoothies are all the rage these days. If your goal is to down those veggies in a few gulps while at the same time getting in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, then this is the shake for you.

Green smoothies are not milk-based.  Instead, the liquid is either water or fruit juice. I suggest making it lower calorie by using water as your base liquid.

Next add in the greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens and parsley, then sweeten it up with your fruit such as bananas, mangos, berries or even add in some avocado to make it creamy. Note that these types of drinks are a great way to down your fruits and veggies but they are not a good source of protein.

Smoothies are an easy and tasty way to ensure that your body gets a healthy variety of lean protein, fruits and even vegetables if you go green. Your healthy smoothie recipe ingredients will vary depending on your health and fitness goals.

By following the ingredient suggestions above, and with the support of nutritional counseling from Fitness Together, you’ll surely be giving your body what it needs!

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