Sometimes you just can’t avoid eating on the run. You don’t have time to sit down to a relaxing breakfast, but skipping the first meal of the day is a healthy-diet no-no.
So how can you make sure to have a nutritious meal on the go? Try adding a tasty protein shake to your a.m. routine. “Often protein shakes are used as meal replacements for breakfast or lunch, and then you can eat a meal for dinner,” says Robin Rood, RD, registered dietitian for Teladoc. “Prepackaged protein drinks are convenient and available at drugstores, supermarkets and online.”
Types of protein powder
Most filling protein shakes start with protein powder. Both animal- and plant-based protein powders are extremely popular. “There are many types available, including reduced-glucose powders for people who are watching their glucose intake,” says Rood. Here’s a quick who’s who of the protein-powder players:
- Whey protein is made from the byproduct of the cheesemaking process. It’s a good protein source and also contains the full range of amino acids that help build muscle mass and strength. It can also reduce your appetite by keeping you feeling full for a long time. Although whey can be digested quickly, it does contain lactose, which some people can’t tolerate, so talk to your doctor before adding to your diet.
- Casein protein is similar to whey in that it is also made from cow’s milk. However, casein is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey, so some report it’s easier on the tummy.
- Another animal-based powder, egg protein, is made from albumin (egg whites). Like whey and casein, egg protein has the full complement of amino acids. For people who have dairy allergies or sensitivities, egg protein is a good alternative.
But what about vegetarians, vegans and people who can’t eat dairy or eggs? No worries! Plant-based protein powders exist as well:
- Made from the yellow split pea, pea protein is high in fiber and has all but one of the amino acids found in animal proteins. And it’s absorbed slower than whey but faster than casein.
- Hemp protein is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Although it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, it is easily digestible.
- Other plant-based protein powders are made from brown rice or combinations of ingredients such as alfalfa, artichoke, chia seeds, flaxseed and quinoa and vary in nutritional density. Talk to your Teladoc dietitian about what powder may be right for you.
The best way to select a protein powder is to try it and see how well you tolerate it and whether you like the properties such as flavor, texture and mixability. Although powders are usually sold in large bags and jars, some stores sell small sampler packets.
Different ways to mix protein powder
Protein powders are available plain or flavored. All you need to add is water or milk. And when it comes to milk, just about any type will work—including cow’s, almond, rice and soy. The key to selecting a liquid is reading the labels on the powder and the mixer to meet your personal nutritional guidelines for calories, fat, carbs and protein. Talk to a Teladoc dietitian if you need help determining which protein powder or milk is right for you!
Making your own protein shake
Grabbing a ready-made protein shake is a good solution to the time-crunch problem. When you have time to make your own shakes, though, you can dial in the nutrient and flavor profile and make something that tastes absolutely delicious and keeps you full throughout the morning.
Rood adds, “There aren’t any ingredients to avoid, aside from those to which you’re allergic. Also, be aware of brands on the FDA recall list.” Some are no longer marketed because they contain steroids.
Use this guide to concoct your own customized protein shake:
Fruity, spicy protein shake
Makes about 2 servings
- 1 scoop protein powder, or the amount recommended on the label
- 8 oz liquid (water, milk, diluted fruit juice), or the amount recommended on the protein powder label
- 1 cup of frozen fruit (any combination of banana, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries or other favorite fruit)
- 1 large handful of fresh baby spinach leaves
- 2 Tbsp nuts/seeds (your preference of almond butter, chopped almonds, ground chia seeds, ground flaxseed or peanut butter), if desired
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- Optional: sweetener (agave syrup, Equal, honey, monk fruit powder, Splenda or stevia)
- Optional: cubed or crushed ice
- Place all ingredients except sweetener and ice in a large blender and use a high setting to mix until the powder is dissolved, and all ingredients are puréed until smooth.
- Taste and add sweetener, if desired. Blend again until sweetener is fully incorporated.
- Add a handful or more of ice cubes, and blend on high until mixture thickens and cubes are completely crushed.
- Drink immediately.
Have fun experimenting with types of protein powder and taste-testing liquids and fruit until you come up with a tasty shake that doesn’t upset your tummy and tastes great. If you experience gas, bloating, nausea or stomachache, call Teladoc. Our U.S. board-certified doctors are available 24/7 to diagnose a wide variety of non-emergency conditions and recommend treatment.
We can help you feel better faster, whether you have tummy troubles, seasonal allergies, muscle aches, fever or even a headache. Use the app to schedule a visit quickly and easily.