The Protein Shake Staple
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
January 4, 2022
To kick off the new year, we want to remind you of the classic staple in a healthy meal plan: the protein shake. Often called a “smoothie”, a protein shake can be just as nutritious as any other balanced meal or snack by blending healthy sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates together in one drinking vessel. Plus, it’s a great option when you are short on time for breakfast, need something to sip on discreetly during back-to-back Zoom meetings, or as an afternoon pick-me-up for the kids before their after-school activities start.
Protein shakes are an easy way to get in extra servings of veggies, using either whole veggies and/or a superfood blend like Key Greens & Fruits to add a boost of nutrients and flavor. Because it’s a sip-able meal or snack, it’s another way to fill your day with nutrients for better metabolism, stable blood sugars, and gut health. Before we share with you our favorite protein shake ingredients and recipes, let’s talk about why the protein part of a shake or smoothie is important.
Why is protein important?
Quality protein is essential for a lot of our bodily functions: metabolism, energy, feel-good-moods, neurotransmitter production, tissue and muscle growth, just to name a few. Here’s a list of why getting enough protein in your daily diet is key:
- Protein makes up all of the tissues in our body!
- It stimulates metabolism by up to 30% for several hours.
- It helps you feel satisfied and helps prevent cravings.
- Protein supports our ability to move our bodies and prevent injury by supporting our bones, tendons, and ligaments.
- It’s essential for healthy immune function.
- Protein is necessary to support feel-good neurotransmitters for a healthy brain.
- Paired with healthy carbohydrates and fat, it keeps our blood sugar stable for good energy and a healthy metabolism.
How much protein is ideal?
For women, we recommend 3-4 ounces of protein at each meal and 1-2 ounces at snacks. For men, we recommend 5-6 ounces of protein at each meal and 2-3 ounces at snacks. While there is some protein found in plant foods, we recommend getting your protein from high-quality animal sources. Protein from animals is better used by the body, plus doesn’t have the high amount of carbohydrates that plant-based sources typically do. There are a variety of animal protein choices to keep meals interesting: chicken, fish, turkey, lamb, grass-fed beef, eggs, pork, protein powder, and some dairy products if you can tolerate them (think cottage cheese or full-fat Greek yogurt). Despite all the options, it can be easy to fall short on getting enough. That’s where protein powder comes in to help fill the gaps!
Our favorite protein powder
The quality of your protein powder is just as important as the quality of the beef or chicken you grill up for dinner! When choosing a protein powder, take a look at the ingredient list and find one without added sugars or a long list of ingredients. One of NutriKey’s bestselling products (and a protein powder we recommend!) is the Wellness Whey Protein Powder, which was formulated with the best ingredients in mind. It comes in creamy vanilla and decadent chocolate flavors. Both options supply bioactive, grass-fed and rBGH-free protein and branched chain amino acids for increasing energy, metabolism and promoting lean muscle mass.
Here’s why we love this protein powder:
- The protein comes from grass-fed cows and is rBGH-free (hormone free), gluten-free, and GMO-free. It mixes well in just water!
- There’s no fructose in the ingredient list as recent research linked excess fructose consumption to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. This powder is only sweetened by a little stevia.
- The product doesn’t contain additives like maltodextrin, carrageenan, or soy lecithin as we believe having fewer ingredients is best.
What if you can’t do whey protein powder?
If you are sensitive to whey protein, there are alternatives that may be easier on your digestion and still give you the flexibility of having a serving of protein on the go in a smoothie or baking with it in a recipe. Our favorite, yummy, dairy-alternative to whey protein powder is the NutriKey Paleo Protein. It is a great-tasting beef protein powder rich in essential amino acids and contains absolutely no lactose/dairy and minimal fat. Because beef protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids, it serves a valuable role in supporting body composition, fitness, and overall bodily function. It comes in two bold flavors of vanilla and chocolate (not a hint of “beef” taste whatsoever!) and it also dissolves easily in a glass of water or coconut milk.
Here is a list of some go-to smoothie combos so you never get bored:
- Peaches & Cream Smoothie Recipe
- Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie Recipe
- Pina Colada Smoothie Recipe
- Cherry Blossom Smoothie Recipe
- Chocolate Peppermint Shake Recipe
- Mint Shake Recipe
- Hot Chocolate Smoothie Recipe
- PB&J Smoothie Recipe
- Elvis Smoothie Recipe
- Coconut Mango Smoothie Recipe
- Strawberry Basil Smoothie Recipe
- Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe
- Warm Apple Pie Smoothie Recipe
Our not-so-secret ingredient
As mentioned above, protein shakes are a great way to sneak in those extra veggies that can be hard to fit in on your plate. Let’s rehash the benefits of eating your vegetables each and every day. Vegetables help you detox your body of toxic estrogens (both men and women have toxic estrogens), balance hormones, establish better gut health, aid with weight loss, prevent high blood pressure and improve blood sugar.
To get an added serving in your smoothies, you can throw in some whole fruits and vegetables like spinach, frozen cauliflower, berries, kale, or other greens into the blender. Another option is to use a scoop of superfood powder – our favorite being the NutriKey’s Key Greens & Fruits. Key Greens & Fruits is a great-tasting, easy-to-mix powder (that comes in six flavors) with whole food concentrates designed to provide an extra veggie and fruit boost to your day. It provides a super blend of 100% natural fruit and vegetable extracts, vitamins, enzymes and symbiotic intestinal flora—high in antioxidants, lignans, and phytonutrients.
Some benefits from just one scoop of Key Greens & Fruits:
- Powerful antioxidant benefits
- Supports immune system function
- Enzymes, probiotics, and fiber for digestion
- Supports detoxification of body systems
- Natural body alkalizer
- Contains proprietary blends of organic superfoods
- No wheat, preservatives, MSG, stimulants, or caffeine
- No sugar added
- Gluten-free and non-GMO
And a container can be used for more than just a protein shake: a big glass of water (helps you up your water intake which is always a good thing), a dash in your coffee (espresso and chocolate flavors work especially well for that), and fun baked or frozen recipes. Here’s a roundup of six delicious ways to use the different flavors to get your taste buds buzzing:
- Berry – Chocolate Covered Berry Smoothie
- Chocolate – Oatmeal Almond Balls
- Pink lemonade – Pink Lemonade Frozen Pops
- Blackberry Tangerine – Creamy Blackberry Popsicles
- Kiwi Strawberry – Classic Protein Shake
- Espresso – Mocha Mousse
We encourage clients who are looking to add protein to their diets, and to enhance their health and well-being, to add a high-quality protein powder to their daily menu. It’s ideal for anyone wanting to maintain optimal nutrition in the midst of a busy day or after a workout, for additional nourishment and support. It’s suitable for all ages, especially those who find it hard to get enough protein into their diets. And the bonus superfood powder is a great addition for picky eaters who don’t enjoy eating a lot of vegetables, but don’t want to miss out on their health benefits.
For more information on protein and greens, check out these resources:
- Read: How to Make the Perfect Smoothie – complete with an infographic on how to layer in the ingredients!
- Read: How to Finally Eat More Veggies… And Enjoy It!
- Learn: 5 Steps to Boost Metabolism – hint: more protein!
- Listen: Muscle Loss vs Fat Loss As We Age – spoiler alert: our muscles need protein
- Try: Banana Muffin Recipe or Protein Cookie Dough Bites Recipe – to get your protein powder in a healthy baked good