Meal planning requires time. For those busy days, it is sometimes easier to grab something quick, for on the go. For those hectic days, shortcuts may be convenient, but don’t sacrifice nutrition. Smoothies, energy drinks, or bars, are not all created equal. Here is a nutrition guide to these shortcuts.
Smoothies are easily portable and infinitely customizable. Build a balanced smoothie by combining 1-2 cups of veggies, up to 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup milk of choice, 1 tablespoons of healthy fats (like nut butters, avocado, etc.), plus add-ins like chia, flax, protein powder, etc. Use these guidelines with any flavor combination you are craving.
- Shortcut tip: Make smoothie bags. Pack all your smoothie mix in combinations into individual resealable plastic bags and place in the freezer until ready to use. For a quick smoothie, just add the contents in the bag and whatever liquid of your choice (milk, non dairy milk, kefir, water, etc.) and your smoothie will be ready in seconds.
Some popular energy drinks have double the amount of sugar than a soda, excess amounts of caffeine, and use clever marketing to make the ingredients sound “all natural”, but in reality contain a laundry list of unrecognizable ingredients. Those types of energy drinks might give you that boost of energy but end very quickly with a hard crash, craving more. Instead, opt for the more natural energy drink route, including:
- Green tea: Made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea has high concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols and tea flavonoids. Some studies have found that green tea can boost energy levels, most likely due to the caffeine, which contains 24-40 mg of caffeine per cup.
- Coffee: Coffee is a natural stimulant, which activates our central nervous system. Within 20 minutes of consuming caffeine, you start to feel more alert with a better ability to concentrate, focus, and react quickly.
- In smoothies: Add a little coffee or espresso powder to your morning smoothie.
Choose protein bars wisely. Some health proclaimed protein bars are actually almost nutritionally equivalent to a candy bar with just a little extra protein added in.
- Check the ingredient list. Read through the ingredient list and ask yourself “Do I know what most of these ingredients are? Could I reproduce this in my own kitchen?”.
- Make your own! Try these Nutty Protein Bars via fANNEtastic Foods or these Raw Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars via Shaw’s Simple Swaps.
- Is your protein bar equivalent to a full meal? Most of the time they are not. They might be great to grab on to go for part a quick meal, but complement your bar with a piece of fruit or yogurt for a more complete meal.
Gels are meant for high endurance athletes who are physically active for a long period of time. They are designed to replenish carbohydrate stores that are depleted in the midst of vigorous exercise.
- Bottom line: Energy gels are meant to replenish glycogen and calories when endurance athletes are training hard, not for and general energy boost for normal activity. Instead, opt for a quick energy-boosting snack, like trail mix or make a better-for-you version.
Which healthy shortcuts do you subscribe to? Let us know in the comments section and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, Plated, for more nutritious recipes and exclusive giveaways.