Last week I wrote about smoothies, and received several questions about prepared beverages such as Ensure, Boost and Slim Fast. They are sold as “complete, balanced nutrition for everyday health”, but should you believe the hype?
Premade nutrition shakes promise lots of protein and nutrients, but take a good look at what is in them. Among the top three ingredients you will usually find sugar, a non-nutrient already over-abundant in our diets. Continuing down the list, you will find additional forms of sugar (such as fructose), as well as oil, water, milk or milk protein, and corn maltodextrin, a processed food additive used to thicken. The next 10 or so ingredients read as an alphabet of vitamins and minerals.
Now imagine taking a clear glass or jar, filling it halfway with water, and adding sugar, oil, corn starch, and powdered milk, topped off by a ground up vitamin/mineral supplement. Yum.
It’s understandable that you may want extra calories and fluids after a hard workout. For an active young adult, this is a valid concern, and I recommend you look for a premade beverage that is low in sugar and contains more natural ingredients (read more here). Even better, make you own with a high quality, low sugar protein powder and a variety of flavorful ingredients such as fruit, nuts, oats, and/or spices (20 recipes here).
But unless you are an active young adult, you likely do not need the extra calories that come from these bottles. If you want a snack, eat a cup of plain yogurt, a fresh nectarine, or a handful of nuts and your body will appreciate the healthful boost.
Just One Thing to do: Make your own protein shake with a base of water, milk or nondairy substitute, then add a scoop of protein powder and a banana or other fruit.