Monday, June 22, 2015

Protein Powder vs. Homemade

Being employed as a supermarket dietitian, I meet the full spectrum of customers—those that want an organic, locally-grown, all-natural, do-it-yourself kind of diet and those that want convenient, quick and easy foods.  As such, I explore food options and recipes that will fit the bill of wide variety of tastes and needs. 
Recently, protein has become even more of a hot button topic.  When it comes to protein drinks, there is no shortage of powders available on the market.  Although protein powders can be a very convenient tool when building athletic meal plans, especially when considering post-workout refueling needs for on-the-go individuals, whole foods can provide similar nutrition profiles, if the correct ingredients are selected.   
As mentioned in previous SCAN posts, many dietitians opt for the “whole foods” route, versus relying on supplements.  So, even if a consumer is seeking something “quick and easy,” I still try to provide more natural options because often, it is often hard to beat what nature has to offer.
Not only is consuming a wide variety of foods important to help ensure all nutrients are consumed, variety is the spice of life.  To prevent getting stuck in a rut, I encourage shoppers to try new ingredients in unconventional ways.  Here are a few smoothie ingredients that are worth giving a “whirl” in protein shakes.
Cottage Cheese:  When blended, cottage cheese provides a cheesecake-like flavor while also providing a hefty dose of protein, potassium, sodium and calcium. Nutrient-wise, ½ cup contains 14 grams protein, 1.4 grams leucine, 15% DV of bone-building phosphorus and several B-vitamins. 
Sweet Potatoes: Use the pulp of leftover baked sweet potatoes is a great way to add 14 grams of complex carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, over 400% vitamin A, over 1/3 daily Vitamin C, 15% potassium, 28% manganese, and 16% Vitamin B6 daily needs.  Plus, sweet potatoes provide antioxidants to provide extra protection that athlete’s need. 
Pears: Frozen bananas are an easy option in smoothies, but to increase variety, try freezing ripe pears.  Just like bananas do in smoothies, frozen pears create a creamy, sweet consistency and offer a dose of potassium, fiber and carbohydrates to fuel or refuel working muscles. 
Chia flour: Chia seeds add a hefty dose of antioxidants, fiber, additional protein, calcium, iron and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (alpha linoleic acid).  Preliminary research also shows that including chia seed, as part of a healthy diet may help reduce heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.  Despite the benefits, many are turned off by the texture of the seeds and the fact that they easily get stuck in teeth.  Chia flour is a way around those issues.  Milled chia (sometimes called “chia flour”), provides the same benefits as whole chia but with none of the textural and teeth-sticking issues.  Some research has shown that milled chia is also better able to significantly raise HDL levels, compared to whole chia seeds1.
Almond flour: Instead of almond butter, almond flour is a great option.  It adds a little texture to smoothies, which is nice when creating dessert-like smoothies like Strawberry Shortcake- or Cookie-dough-flavored smoothies.  Two tablespoons contains 80 calories, 4 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.5 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 18% DV Vitamin E and a decent shot of riboflavin, magnesium, manganese, copper and phosphorus.
Here are a few smoothie recipes using the afore-mentioned ingredients.  Feel free to try them yourself or pass along to clients or customers. 
Pear-Ginger Sweet Potato Shake                           Serves 2.
All you need:
1 medium-sized leftover baked sweet potatoes, cooled*
1 ½ cups light vanilla soymilk, divided
½ cup 1% cottage cheese
1/2 cup frozen banana chunks (about ½ banana)**
1 cup frozen pear chunks (about 1 large pear)***
½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 ½ tsp minced fresh ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 - 2 cups ice, depending upon how thick you like your shake
All you do:
  1. Remove sweet potato pulp from potato skin; discard skins. Add pulp to a blender with ¾ cups soymilk and cottage cheese. Puree for 2 to 3 minutes or until completely smooth, scraping down edges of blender pitcher with a spatula, if necessary.
  2. Add frozen banana and pear, remaining soymilk, yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla and maple syrup. Puree until blended and smooth, stopping blender to scrape sides if necessary. Add 1 cup ice and pulse to chop; blend until smooth. Add remaining ice, if desired, to reach a thicker consistency.
  3. Pour into 2 drinking glasses and serve.
*If you don’t have any leftover sweet potatoes, scrub the potato skins with a produce brush. Pierce the sweet potato 5 to 6 times with the tines of a fork.  Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 8 to 10 minutes or until soft, rotating halfway through.
**To freeze bananas:  Peel ripe bananas and slice into 1/2-inch pieces.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet or parchment paper-lined plate.  Freeze until completely firm.  When frozen, transfer to freezer zip-top bags until ready to use.
***To freeze ripe pears:  Rinse, dry and core pears.  Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet or parchment paper-lined plate.  Freeze until completely firm.  When frozen, transfer to freezer zip-top bags until ready to use.
Per serving: 323 calories, 57 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fat, 1 gram sat. fat, 7 grams fiber, 20 grams protein
Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie                         Serves 2
All you need:
1 2/3 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, stemmed and quartered
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup light vanilla soymilk
¼ cup almond flour
1/3 cup 1% cottage cheese
2 tablespoons Truvia
1 tablespoon chia flour
½ - 1 cup ice, optional
All you do:
1.    Add strawberries to the pitcher of a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Add yogurt, soymilk, almond flour, cottage cheese, and Truvia.  Puree until smooth.
2.    Add chia flour and ice, if using, and blend again until completely smooth.
3.    Pour into two glasses and serve.
348 calories, 48 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fat, 1 gram sat. fat, 5 grams fiber, 23 grams protein
Recipes by Kym Wroble, RD, LD
1.    Nieman, D.C., Cayea, E.J., Austin, M.D., Henson, D.A., McAnulty, S.R., and Jin, F. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res. 2009; 29: 414–418

Kym Wroble is an in-store registered dietitian for Hy-Vee (a large, Midwestern grocery store chain).  She completed her undergraduate coursework at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois and completed her internship with Iowa State University.  She has also worked for Scoot County WIC, prior to Hy-Vee. 
Kym played varsity volleyball at Dominican University and also at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She continues to enjoy a very active lifestyle: playing indoor and outdoor hockey, running, weight lifting, taking exercise classes and training for the JDRF Race to A Cure Diabetes century ride every summer. She is extremely passionate about sports nutrition and hopes to one day be the registered dietitian for the Chicago Blackhawks.