Ingredient Ideas for Better Protein Shakes and Smoothies
Smoothies and protein shakes can be a great way to eat healthy food quickly. After a workout, for breakfast or when you're rushing out the door. The problem is, most shake recipes give you one of two choices. They taste good, but they're loaded with sugar. Or they taste terrible, but they're really healthy.
Because I like how convenient they are, I started experimenting with different recipes to find that elusive mix of good tasting and good for you. After hundreds of failed attempts, I've figured out a few ingredients you should consider the next time you want to make one.
Milk doesn't have to be the basis of every drink. It tastes good, but just one cup can pack a dozen grams of sugar in it. A cup of unsweetened soy milk has only one gram of sugar and seven grams of protein. Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk has only 25 calories and no sugar in it. If you absolutely must have milk, look for low-sugar brands like Fairlife. A single cup of nonfat Fairlife milk has half the sugar (6 grams) and a third more protein (13 grams) than regular nonfat milk.
Don't overload the fruit. If a recipe calls for half a banana, don't toss the whole thing in. A medium 6.5-ounce banana has 14 grams of sugar in it. Half a banana will give you all the flavor you need, and cut out seven grams of sugar. Chop up and store the unused half in the freezer for another day.
Consider alternatives to high-calorie fillers. Peanut butter is a tasty addition to many shakes, but it's really high in fat and calories. Two tablespoons of Smart Balance peanut butter has 190 calories, 15 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein. Try using peanut butter powder. Two tablespoons of Crazy Richard's Pure PB has only 50 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. You get all the peanut butter taste, nearly all the protein and just about a quarter of the calories and fat.
Add high-health impact fillers. Most people won't taste a little ground flaxseed in a shake, but just one tablespoon a day can help fight cancer. If you like the taste of chocolate, a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder taken daily can help reduce your risk of a heart attack by 50%. For people who like shakes on the savory side, a teaspoon of turmeric can help increase blood flow much like cardio exercise does.
Try unconventional combinations. I have a friend that likes to put hot pepper in everything. So I added jalapeno to a shake and came up with a Pineapple Jalapeno Protein Smoothie. To get the taste of peanut brittle I added some sugar-free butterscotch pudding powder and made a Peanut Brittle Protein Shake. For hot summer days, I combined sugar-free honey with fresh mint and made the Cool Honey Mint Shake. (All these recipes and dozens more are available at www.WeCookFit.com under the Protein Shakes link.)
See what you like in other people's recipes, before you start experimenting on your own. Look for ones that include the nutritional breakdown. By using other people's recipes, it's more likely someone has actually tried it and the flavor is good. You can also make sure the nutritional profile matches your particular situation.
Want more protein? Lower sugar? Higher fiber? A meal replacement? A shake for breakfast should usually have more protein and fiber, plus enough calories to carry you through the morning. A shake after you workout needs a little more sugar along with the protein for recovery.
For the ultimate in convenience, you can make protein shakes weeks before you need them. Pour a serving into a glass jar and leave an inch or two of air at the top to allow for expansion of the liquids. Then freeze it. The day before you plan on drinking one, put it in the refrigerator to thaw. Shake or blend before serving.
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