Tag Archives: breakfast

Anatomy of a Protein Shake

Happy New Year!  It’s that time again, when we set our resolutions for the year ahead.  For most of us, that list includes a health-related goal, such as losing weight, getting back in the gym, fitting back in our “skinny” jeans, etc.  Even if you don’t have weight to lose, you may just be ready to cleanse from all the heavy holiday eating.  A great way to detox, shed pounds and feel better all around is starting the day off with a protein shake.

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

When you hear the words “protein shake,” you may picture the big bulky man at the gym who wears MC hammer pants and a big support belt as he strains to bench hundreds of pounds.  But protein shakes aren’t just for weight lifters and those trying to bulk up.  They make a very healthy meal replacement and are a convenient way to pack a lot of nutritional punch.  If you’ve always wanted to try a protein shake, but you feel overwhelmed by all the options out there, this blog post is here to help!

Protein Shakes to Avoid

When it comes to selecting a high-quality shake, the first step is knowing what ingredients to stay away from.  Just because it’s sold at your local health food store, GNC or gym, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.  Avoid shakes that contain the following ingredients:

  • Artificial Sweeteners, Colors and Preservatives – Stay away from dyes, MSG and other additives.   If you see the words “aspartame,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or sucralose on the label, put it down!  Artificial sweeteners are so harmful to your health, and they can spike your blood sugar worse than regular sugar does.  
  • Hydrogenated Oils – Not all shakes contain oils, but there are a few out there that contain soybean oil and other hydrogenated oils that are harmful to your heart.
  • Soy Protein– Many people who are dairy sensitive use soy protein shakes thinking they are a healthier option, but most soy protein is highly processed, containing MSG, phyto-estrogens and other unhealthy ingredients.  Here is some more in-depth information about the dangers of processed soy.
  • Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals – You know all those words that you can’t pronounce on the back of supplement labels?  Well your body has a hard time recognizing them too!  In order to be most efficiently utilized by the body, most of the ingredients in your shake should come from the ground…not the lab!

I won’t name any names, but here is the list of ingredients in a very popular protein shake sold in gyms, GNCs and grocery stores everywhere.  See if you can pick out all the harmful ingredients.

micellar alpha and beta caseins and ceseinates, whey concentrates rich in alpha-lactalbumin, whey isolates, whey peptides, colostrum extract, l-glutamine, taurine, lactoferrin), leanlipids (trans fat free lipic complex consisiting of canola oil, sunflower and/or safflower oil, mct’s, l-carnitine), fructose, cocoa powder maltodextin, cytovite 1 (vitamin and mineral premix consisting of vitamin A acetate, cholecalciferol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, ascorbic acid, folate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hcl, cyanocobalamin, biotin, pantothenic acid, di-calcium phosphate, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, ferrous fumerate, magnesium oxide, copper gluconate, zinc oxide, chromium nicotinate), GCC (proprietary endogenous creatine precursor consisiting of glycocyamine, betaine anhydrous), natural and artificial flavors, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, soy lecithin.

What to Look for in a Protein Shake

Now that you know what to stay away from, here is a list of acceptable protein shake ingredients:

  • High-Quality Protein Source – The main ingredient should be non-denatured whey, brown rice, pea or hemp protein.  A good option should have at least 17 grams of protein per serving. 
  • Natural Sweeteners –  Select a shake that is sweetened with natural ingredients such as stevia, organic coconut palm sugar, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, natural vanilla, etc.  Many high-quality product lines are removing fructose, or fruit sugar, from their protein shakes to make them a better low-glycemic option for those with diabetes and other blood sugar issues.   All the protein shakes at Longevity have less than 9 grams of sugar per serving!
  • Beneficial Fat – If your shake contains oil, it should come from organic coconut oil or another stable fatty acid.
  • Whole Food Ingredients – Some of my favorite shakes contain extra antioxidants, vitamins and minerals  and anti-inflammatory ingredients.  Ideally these ingredients should come from organic fruits and vegetables and other whole food and plant sources.
  • Value-Add Ingredients – Many high-quality shakes contain extra amino acids, digestive enzymes and antioxidants.  To me this is an added bonus and it means I have less pills to swallow!

How to Make a Protein Shake

I like to bulk up my protein shake so that it’s nice and filling and holds me over until lunch.  I put a serving of protein (usually two scoops), a cup of frozen berries and about 8 oz of water into the blender.   I also add a beneficial fat (flax seeds or oil, coconut oil), D3 liquid, and something green (a greens powder or chlorophyll liquid).  You might want to use almond milk or coconut milk if you like your protein shake on the creamier side.  Make it your own so that you’ll look forward to having it for breakfast every day!   Protein shakes take about 3 minutes to prepare, and you can drink them on the go.  They are also a great breakfast option for children, especially for picky eaters who aren’t as interested in protein and vegetables.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

Young or old, we all need protein in the morning.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, and if you stick to no other resolutions this year, you should make sure you and your family start the day with a high-protein meal.  Try a healthy protein shake in the morning, and I bet you’ll notice you have better energy, focus and mood all day.  I tend to crave less sugar and starchy carbohydrates on my shake days.


One of my favorite shake brands is the OptiCleanse GHI. This brown-rice protein is gluten, dairy and soy free, and it contains ingredients that mend the gut, support the liver and clear inflammation.

Longevity has several high-quality protein shakes in our walk-in pharmacy, and knowledgeable staff members that can help you find the best one for you.  We each have our own favorite brands we can recommend!  Every shake we carry is gluten-free, and we have both vegan and non-denatured whey options.  We also carry shakes that help mend the gastrointestinal tract, balance hormones and cater to those with blood sugar imbalances.  All our shakes are 15% off in the month of January, just in time to help you jump-start your New Year’s resolutions.  We’re also discounting our healthy oils, hemp hearts, greens powders and chlorophyll liquid, all wonderful additions to your morning shake.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!

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Filed under Rants and Cravings, Working on Our Fitness

Are you Committing the Top 5 Nutritional No-No’s?

Hi, everybody.  I hope you’re having a fabulous week.  I’m so excited that we’re finally getting some cooler weather, and I’m working on some delicious fall recipes to share in the next week or two.  But for now, I want to talk about some common nutritional mistakes that many of us are making in our daily lives.

Over the past year as I’ve completed my nutrition studies (just one more week until my final exam…agh!), I’ve had to evaluate a lot of food journals from my family members, friends, patients at Longevity, and even yours truly.  We’ve spent a lot of time in my course going over sample food journals and learning how to assess them and pick out unhealthy habits as well as nutrients that are most often lacking.  So today I want to share what I’ve learned with you, and hopefully give you some food for thought.

The Nutritionista’s Top 5 Nutritional No-No’s:

1) Too many diuretics, and not enough water. I can’t stress enough the importance of staying hydrated and the many crucial roles of water in the body.  We should all be drinking half of our body weight in ounces every day.  Add 12 ounces to this number for every 8 ounces of diuretics (sodas, coffee, caffeinated teas, alcohol and packaged fruit juices) that you drink.  As you may have figured out by now, I despise soft drinks, and don’t think they have any place in our daily diet.  But I see no problem in enjoying a little coffee in the morning or a glass of wine from time to time, as long as we’re drinking plenty of water to make up for it.  The majority of our first-time patients at Longevity come in with symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, cravings, cramps and headaches, all of which are signs of dehydration, but then are surprised when their lab results reveal that they are dehydrated!  So the first thing I’m going to be asking of each of my clients is that they be sipping water throughout the day (No need to guzzle it.  It just puts stress on the kidneys and has you running to the bathroom all the time!).  So if you don’t carry around a trusty water bottle with you every day, it’s time to start!

You will seldom find me without my Camelbak water bottle. I love that it's sturdy, fits in a car cup holder, and holds 24 ounces of H20.

2) Skipping meals, and going long periods without eating. Even though they beat it into our heads from a young age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you wouldn’t believe how many people are still skipping it.  Don’t do it ya’ll!  Even if you can’t do a full meal, try to at least eat a little something within an hour of waking to get your brain and metabolism going for the day.  Many food journals reveal that people are going as long as 12-14 hours between meals, and then they wonder why their metabolism is sluggish and they have no energy!  Try to eat every 3-4 hours…that means three balanced meals and nutritious snacks in-between.

3) Too many starchy carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat and protein. Many people who are making a point to eat breakfast are choosing simple carbohydrates (scones, donuts, cereals, pancakes, toast, etc.) that turn straight to sugar in their bodies, leaving them starving again a couple of hours later.  When comparing low glycemic index breakfasts to high glycemic breakfasts eaten by 9- to 12-year-old children, research shows that children who eat high glycemic breakfasts (sugary, starchy carbohydrates) tend to eat more at lunch.  When it comes to breakfast, it’s all about the protein.  Go for an egg, some turkey sausage or even a protein shake, and it will keep you going so much longer than the simple carbs do.

This breakfast isn't getting the job done.

And it’s not just at breakfast that we’re overloading on carbs…it’s lunch, dinner and snacks too.  If you have cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta or baked potato for dinner, plus cookies and cracker-type snacks, that’s way too many starchy carbs for a single day.   Don’t forget that in the 40-30-30 model, starchy carbs should only make up 10-15% of our total diet, and healthy proteins and fats should make up 30% each!   Many people get on a low-fat diet, and as a result they are deficient in the healthy fats and proteins that fuel our muscles and provide long-burning fuel, and they’re eating more fake, processed and starchy foods.

4) Eating the same foods every day. We’re all creatures of habit, and as a result many of us have been eating the exact same foods every day for years!  Our bodies like variety, and when we overload on the same types of foods time and time again, food allergies and sensitivities can develop as our system works to keep processing them.  One way to keep things fresh is to eat what’s in season.  As we move into fall, it’s a great time to start eating sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, pears and brussel sprouts, while spring is the time for berries, melons, corn and asparagus.  If you eat salmon every week, mix it up and get the tilapia or mahi mahi from time to time.  You get the point.  Try to incorporate at least five colors of food into your diet each day – red peppers, purple cabbage, green onions, blueberries, lemons, sweet potatoes – the more colors the better.  Hint: WHITE IS NOT A COLOR, so refined breads and pastas and french fries don’t count!

Taste the rainbow, people!

5) Focusing on quantity, and not on quality. It’s really easy to get focused on the amount of food we’re eating, especially when we’re trying to lose weight.  I’m all about portion control, but we have to remember to also pay attention to the quality of our foods.  Remember, our goal is to eat a properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole food diet.  We Americans are the worst about taking a highly nutritious food and cooking all the life out of it.  By the time we fry it up in hydrogenated oils or process it with all kinds of chemicals, like high fructose corn syrup and MSG, it’s of no nutritional worth whatsoever!  Eat your foods in the most whole form possible, and buy organic, hormone and antibiotic-free, grass-fed and non-GMO foods whenever possible.

If you’ve never kept a food journal, I challenge you to do so for about 3-7 days.  Don’t just write down what you’re eating and drinking, but record the time of day as well as how you feel afterward.  Every time I complete this exercise I’m able to see patterns of how certain foods affect my energy, mood and digestion.  Be as specific as possible, writing down both the quantity as well as the quality of your food choices.   Then step back and take an objective look at your diet, and look for the nutritional no-no’s I’ve mentioned here.  You might be shocked to see how long you’re going between meals, how often you’re consuming starchy carbohydrates, or how little quality fat you’re getting on a daily basis.  Or you might be happy to see how well you’re doing with drinking water and selecting higher quality eats.   Either way, I think it’s a valuable exercise that can only improve your diet and overall health.

As always, I’d love to hear from you!  Did any of these common mistakes resonate with you?  What would I see if I looked at your food journal?


Filed under Healthy Tips, Rants and Cravings