At the beginning of August, I hosted a 7-day, online event on Facebook that I called the Smoothie Days of Summer. I decided to do this because over the past 8 months, my breakfast 5 or 6 days a week has become a smoothie that has, as its centerpiece, my preferred brand of plant-based protein powder. I feel like I've become pretty good at putting together a good-tasting, good-textured smoothie, so why not share some recipes? I had also talked to some people who said they lacked the knowledge or the imagination to do much more with their protein powder than to mix it with water or milk. So I hoped that by doing this event, I could share some recipes, and maybe in the process inspire someone to get a little more creative. Here's what we did over the course of seven days:
- Just Peachy Smoothie
- Strawberry Basil Bliss
- Chocolate, Oats and Peanut Butter Smoothie
- Carrot Cake Smoothie
- Super Fruit, Flat-Belly Smoothie
- Tropical Fruit Smoothie
- Anti-Inflammatory Chocolate Smoothie
This event required me to pay closer attention to exactly what I was putting in my smoothies, in order to share the recipes. I kept track of actual amounts of the ingredients, and I really tried to pay attention to nutritional balance--incorporating the protein, a healthy fruit, vegetables (sometimes), fiber, healthy fat, and spices. An unexpected result of that seven days, however, is that I lost a few inches! While I didn't really set out with that as a particular goal, I couldn't be happier that those pants that were too tight last year suddenly fit again! This event proved to me first-hand how a smoothie as a light, healthy, complete meal can really make a difference in a short amount of time.
If you use a protein powder now, take a look at the label and examine what you've got. Does it have sweeteners in it? What kind? Stimulants? Anything artificial? How about other seemingly-healthy ingredients, like greens? Here's the thing--by using a protein powder with minimal ingredients, you gain the flexibility to add what YOU want, rather than be forced the ingredients that someone/some company chooses. Using a clean protein powder as a foundation, you can add natural sugar with a fruit. Add your own fresh greens, in the form of baby spinach or baby kale, and you'll gain natural fiber as well as a load of minerals and vitamins. This, and the addition of a small amount of healthy fat, like a quarter of an avocado or a tablespoon of natural nut butter, maybe some spices, an extract, or essential oil for flavor, and you have a well-balanced smoothie that is apt to keep you satisfied for longer than many pre-fabricated "meal replacement" shake. Yes, I have a go-to source for protein. But, the basic ideas I would suggest to anyone who's looking for a protein powder are:
- Understand that a protein powder on its own should be a supplement, not a complete meal. One that has 14-15 grams of protein per serving is plenty. Combine it with other healthy ingredients to make a light, nutritious meal.
- The source of the protein is important. Whey is dairy. If you have trouble with dairy or don't know what's causing those belly aches, whey could be the culprit (it was with me). Soy, I also stay away from--too many varieties are genetically modified, and the links to cancer are scary enough for me to want to stay away from it. Rice proteins have been linked to arsenic. That leaves "other" plant proteins. The variety I use doesn't rely on just one--it contains pea, hemp, pumpkin, chia and quinoa, and it's silky-smooth to mix easily with water, non-dairy milk, or even coffee or tea.
- Look at what kind of oil goes into your protein powder. If it's sunflower, you might want to steer clear because of the high levels of Omega 6. A better choice of emulsifier will be coconut oil. The emulsifier is what will affect the blend-ability of your protein powder and also the creamy mouthfeel that you get when you drink it.
- Look at what type of sweeteners are used. Are they natural or artificial?
- Where do the ingredients come from? Where is the protein powder made? Are the ingredients non-GMO? Gluten free? These things do matter. And the shorter list of ingredients, the better.
- Finally, I know that everyone appreciates good value. Look carefully at the servings per container on protein powders. You may look at two containers that appear to be the same size, but one is priced lower. Naturally you think it's the better value--but if it's fewer servings per container, then the cost per serving is higher.
Although I will be changing up the ingredients and flavors a bit with the onset of cooler weather, I'll be continuing to include smoothies as part of my diet regularly. You see, I'm already thinking about 2018, and my goal is to START the year in a great place (physically, nutritionally, mentally), not just start thinking about it with the rest of the world on January 1. This nutritional self-care through the fall and winter months is part of my strategy.
If you don't have a protein powder, or if even if you do, and you've found your present brand comes up short in the comparison I've outlined, I would love to give you a sample of Life's Abundance protein powder. Leave a comment, or message me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get it right out to you!