Tag Archives: Protein

5 Common Breakfast Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

If you find yourself in line for another iced coffee or nibbling on leftover office donuts at 10 AM, don’t blame your lack of willpower–blame your breakfast. With a little help from a balanced and wholesome mid-morning snack, breakfast should give you the energy to reach lunchtime; but many Americans feel famished and fatigued far before then. Take a look at your breakfast and make sure you’re not making these mistakes:

1. Not eating breakfast at all

According to a report from the USDA, 93% of American believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day–but only 44% of Americans actually eat it! Breakfast jump starts your metabolism; without it, you’re fasting for 15-20 hours, which hinders the production of fat-metabolizing enzymes. But it does more than that: breakfast-eaters have lower cholesterol levels, feel more energized, perform better on cognition and memory tests, and have better blood sugar levels. And if you’re skipping breakfast to cut calories (or “save” them for later), heed this: people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely than their breakfast-eating peers to be overweight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have lost and maintained a 30 pound-or-more weight loss for over a year, 80% of their members eat breakfast every single day. If that’s not enough to convince you to start eating breakfast, consider this: according to a study from the Dairy Research Institute, those who skip breakfast consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soft drinks, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than those who ate their morning meal.

2. Not eating enough protein

Typical breakfast foods are made of refined carbohydrates: processed breakfast cereal, a bagel with jam, a muffin, a breakfast bar. But the convenience of these grab-and-go carbs is overshadowed by their lack of quality protein; at most, you’re likely getting 2-5 grams of incomplete protein. Adding just a little high-quality protein to your breakfast–a handful of nuts or a hardboiled egg, for example–might be the key to boosting your breakfast: research from the University of Missouri found that eating a high protein breakfast increases satiety and reduces cravings throughout the day. And even if you’re increasing the overall calorie content of your breakfast overall, it likely won’t hinder your diet efforts, either: people who eat a high-protein breakfast reportedly eat 200 fewer calories throughout the day. Look beyond eggs: add an ounce of smoked salmon to your English muffin (5.2 grams of protein), serve your cereal over one cup of cottage cheese (28 grams), or add some Canadian bacon to a breakfast sandwich (12 grams per two ounces).

High Protein Breakfasts

3. Not eating enough fiber

Another nutrient that most of those cereals, bagels, and muffins are missing? Fiber. The three most commonly eaten breakfast cereals in America (Cheerios, Special K, and Honey Bunches of Oats) each have less than three grams of fiber per serving (Special K has zero grams!); bagels and muffins have even less. But fiber is just as important as protein in a healthy breakfast: it reduces hunger and boosts satiety by slowing the rate of digestion and maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Fiber has a myriad of other health benefits, too: it helps lower cholesterol levels, boosts digestive and cardiovascular health, and may reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. If your heart is set on cereal, look for brands with at least five grams of fiber. Keeping that in mind, look for naturally occurring or intact fibers, like those found in whole grains or oats. Avoid “isolated” or “functional” fibers, like polydextrose, inulin, oat fibers, or soy fibers, which have been extracted from plants or manufactured in a lab and may not carry the same health benefits. To get extra fiber outside of the cereal box, look to fruits, vegetables, whole oats and other grains, nuts, and seeds.

Fiber Boosters

4. Not eating enough (or any) fat

You might be noticing a pattern at this point: that a healthy breakfast should include all three macronutrients (protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and fat). Besides being absolutely necessary for everyday functioning (it’s a component of myelin, the material that sheaths nerve cells, as well as brain tissue, Healthy Fats to Add to your Breakfasthormones and other biochemicals, and it helps protect our organs), fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But adding a little healthy fat to your diet boosts satiety: in addition to adding craving-crushing flavors and texture (you can thank fat for the creaminess of an egg yolk), it increases the amount of GLP-1, a gut hormone that increases fullness and suppresses appetite, in your blood. In a 2008 study published in the journal Appetite, overweight and obese volunteers who supplemented their diet with 1300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids experienced fewer hunger sensations immediately following and two hours after test meals. If you’re eating skim milk or nonfat yogurt now, switch over to 1 or 2%; the difference in calories is negligible, especially when you factor in the added satiety. Or simply add a handful of nuts or seeds (try flaxseed and chia seeds) to your favorite breakfast.

5. Not eating the right breakfast for you

According to a 2008 study, individuals who ate a 610-calorie breakfast shed more weight–and kept that weight off for longer–than individuals who ate a breakfast with 290 calories. But according to a 2011 study, all participants ate the same amount of calories later in the day, regardless of the amount of calories they had consumed at breakfast–meaning that those who ate a large breakfast consumed more calories overall. Either way, it seems like eating the right breakfast for your body is what’s key: just because a study says that a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs–or a light breakfast of blueberries and almonds–will aid in weight loss doesn’t meant that it’s the right breakfast for your lifestyle and body. So if it takes a 600-calorie breakfast to feel energized, go for it: just go for whole, unprocessed foods with a balance of protein, fiber, and fat, and think about downsizing your other meals. If you prefer light breakfasts, just make sure to eat enough to prevent cravings and overeating later in the day. And if you can’t stomach a big enough breakfast to keep you going until lunch, try eating two small breakfasts.

Breakfast

10 Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipes

By now, most everyone knows about the virtues of quinoa: a seed known to the Incas as “the mother of all grains,” it’s high in muscle-building protein and hunger-quashing fiber. And containing all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine, it’s a smart addition to vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets alike. Vitamin E, which plays a role in keeping inflammation at bay, as well as calcium, the phytonutrient betacyanin and antioxidants ferulic and coumaric acids, quercetin and kaempferol round out its nutritional profile. It’s even been recognized by the UN as a potential key player in worldwide nutrition: it has named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa,” calling for foodies and non-foodies alike to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition in the eradication of poverty.”

On its own, quinoa has a nutty taste and chewy texture — but it can be somewhat boring. But dressing it up with vegetables, herbs, spices and dressings makes it not only tasty and filling, but a satisfying and complete meal. These ten recipes have different flavor profiles; but they have in common clean, whole ingredients offering plenty of nutrients. To add more bulk to your meal, double the vegetables in the recipe.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Ingredients
Half a bunch of kale, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 package mint, finely chopped (about ½ cup packed)
2 grapefruits
¼ cup toasted coconut
Salt and pepper

Method
Cook quinoa: bring to a boil with two cups water or vegetable stock; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Massage kale with olive oil; let sit.

Add quinoa, chopped mint, grapefruit segments and their juice, and toasted coconut; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9 Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing from Two Peas and Their Pod

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad from The Talking Kitchen

Layered Quinoa Salad with Beet Vinaigrette from Family Fresh Cooking

Mexican Quinoa Salad from Recipe Girl

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad from Bon Appetit

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Pepper, and Cilantro from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans from Gluten Free Goddess

Spicy Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing from The Year in Food

Tomato Basil Quinoa Salad from The Diva-Dish

Pick the Perfect Pasta

It used to be that you just had to pick between spaghetti or fettuccine, penne or cavatappi. But now, the pasta aisle is crammed with so many varieties of pasta — quinoa! corn! spelt! — that it’s become more of a library (reading all those stats…). So instead of letting smart marketing get the best of you, consult this guide to find the best pasta for you.

Regular pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 7 g protein

Good for: Believe it or not, regular pasta can have a place in a healthy diet. But it’s refined! you say. True; and it is best to eat most of your grains in their whole form. But when a recipe you’re making calls for other fiber-rich ingredients, like white beans, chickpeas, or lots of vegetables, it’s okay to use regular pasta every now and then. The taste of real, semolina pasta is hard to emulate with a whole grain version, and sometimes you just need that chewy, not-grainy texture. The other time to use regular pasta: when you want that perfect, unadulterated bowl of spaghetti, olive oil, and a pinch of pepper.

Pairs well with: high-fiber foods; olive oil and pepper; tomatoes and basil

Whole wheat pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 6 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Whole wheat pasta brings a healthy serving of fiber to the table, a nutrient that most Americans are lacking in. Fiber boosts satiety, which is especially important in a pasta, as it’s all too easy to down a bowl with three times the appropriate serving size. But it also helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, boosts digestive health, and improves cardiovascular health.

Pairs well with: Hearty, flavorful sauces like pesto; robust tomato sauces like arrabiatta; pasta salads

Spinach Pasta (or other flavored varieties)

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 200 calories, 1.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 7 g protein

Good for: Flavored varieties of pasta, be it spinach, tomato, or carrot, are good for one thing: presentation. Unfortunately, these vegetable-hued pastas won’t count towards your daily serving of vegetables. If you look on the ingredients list, you’ll see spinach, tomato, or another vegetable listed as one of the last ingredients; that’s because only a few grams of the freeze-dried produce is actually in the pasta. If you’re looking for vegetables, just add a handful of spinach!

Pairs well with: Thin or clear sauces, so that the color shines through. And serve it with a big salad!

Quinoa Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz, 1 cup cooked): 229 calories, 3.7 g fat, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 8 g protein

Good for: Because it’s made from a seed, quinoa pasta hits the trifecta of satiety-boosting nutrients: fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (don’t let the higher fat content scare you; those are healthy fats!). Quinoa is also gluten free, making this a good option for those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease.

Pairs well with: Anything: quinoa pasta has a mild flavor, so it won’t overpower delicate sauces. Since it offers fiber, you don’t necessarily have to pair it with fiber-rich sides (but vegetables are always a good idea!)

Brown Rice Pasta

Nutrition (2 oz): 190 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 4 g protein

Good for: Another good gluten free option, brown rice pasta offers both fiber and protein. But since it’s lower in protein than other varieties, it’s a good idea to pair it with protein-rich fare like chicken, shrimp, or beans.

Pairs well with: Brown rice pasta can be stickier and chewier in texture than other varieties, so pair it with thick and chunky sauces.

Shirataki Noodles

Nutrition (4 oz): 20 calories, 0.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: These Asian noodles are made from the flour of the Konjac yam and are extremely low in calories. They contain a type of fiber called glucomannan, which may help with cholesterol control; because they’re made with little else, they take on the taste of whatever sauce or ingredients they’re paired with (although some people think their smell is off-putting). These noodles are a good choice for those nights when you want to lose yourself in a big bowl of pasta, or if you have trouble with portion control when it comes with pasta.

Pairs well with: Flavorful sauces likes pesto and marinara. And because Shirataki noodles offer very little in the way of nutrition, pair them with lean protein and fiber-rich vegetables. Or, try Asian flavors: use them as the base in a stir-fry with teriyaki sauce or soy sauce.

Spaghetti squash

Nutrition (1 cup, or about 5.5 oz): 42 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 1 g protein

Good for: Low in calories, spaghetti squash is a good vehicle for hearty, flavorful, chunky sauces — the kind where you really only want to taste the sauce and toppings anyway! It’s packed with fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants. Spaghetti squash also works well in recipes that call for higher calorie toppings, like pesto, alfredo, or meatballs; the extra 200 calories from regular pasta won’t put your dinner over the calorie edge.

Pairs well with: Chunky vegetables sauces; sauces with meatballs; alfredo; pesto

Meatless Monday: Hummus and Tabbouleh Salad

How do you ensure that your Meatless Monday-inspired salad — without chicken or salmon, of course — provides enough protein to rebuild tired muscles? Add two protein-rich vegetarian (and in this case, vegan) foods: hummus and quinoa. The refreshing flavors from tabbouleh and the creamy taste of hummus combine for a truly flavorful meal — with no need for extra salad dressings.

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped parsley
½ – 1 cup chopped mint
1 ½ cups chopped seedless cucumber
½ – 1 cup chopped tomato
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
Hummus
Mixed Greens

Method:

1. Rinse the quinoa to remove any saponin, which can make it taste bitter. Add quinoa and two cups of water to a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add salt; reduce heat and cover for about 15 minutes.

2. Turn off heat; let quinoa stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Let cool.

3. Add quinoa, parsley, mint, cucumber, and tomato to a mixing bowl; mix until combined.

4. Add olive oil and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Chill until serving.

5. Toss mixed greens with olive oil, if using. Top with tabbouleh and hummus.

Why Should You Eat This?

Going meatless – even if it’s just once a week — has major health and environmental payoffs (it can reduce your saturated fat intake by 15%, enough to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and obesity; in terms of the environment, it greatly reduces our carbon footprint).

By replacing the typical bulgur used in traditional tabbouleh recipes with quinoa, the protein content is boosted dramatically: quinoa contains 8 grams per serving, compared to bulgur’s 4 grams. Quinoa also contains more copper, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, and iron; it’s also gluten-free. (But don’t discount bulgur: it contains about half the calories of quinoa, cup for cup, and boasts more fiber).

What quinoa lacks in fiber, hummus makes up for: chickpeas are rich in slow-digesting complex carbohydrates that help maintain steady blood sugar levels, reduce hunger, and promote satiety. And even with its rich, creamy taste, almost all of the fat it contains come from healthy sources, like olive oil and tahini, that provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat Your Breakfast: No Excuses!

Breakfast is far too important — and delicious! — to skip. Yet around 25% of Americans regularly skip what most nutritionists call the most important meal of the day! Breakfast is vital for providing energy at the beginning of the day, boosting cognitive performance and jumpstarting the metabolism, but also plays a huge role in weight loss and control: a study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 450% more likely to become obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. In addition, skipping breakfast may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors later in the day: studies have found that breakfast-skippers consume 40% more sweets, 55% more soda, 45% fewer vegetables, and 30% less fruit than breakfast-eaters.

So now matter what situation you’re in — you’re not hungry in the morning, you don’t have time — there’s a breakfast for you. No excuses!

I don’t have enough time.


If time is always an issue in the morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy bars to grab on your way out the door. Look for bars with at least 3 grams of protein and fiber, as well as healthy fats from nuts and seeds, which have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal and stabilize blood sugar. Because most healthy bars clock in around 200 calories, it’s a good idea to supplement the bar with a fiber- and nutrient-rich serving of fruit or a protein-rich latte. Some good options are KIND bars, which have at least 5-7 grams of protein and fiber, Regeneration USA bars, and Zing bars. If you still want a homemade meal, take some time on Sunday to whip up freezable burritos (made with a whole wheat tortilla, eggs, beans, and salsa) or frittatas, and grab one on the way out the door.

I’m not hungry in the morning.

Many adults complain that they have no appetite in the morning; for some, even the thought of breakfast can bring on nausea. Since breakfast literally “breaks your nightly fast,” it’s important to get something into your system. Try a smoothie: since you’re drinking it — not eating it — it may be easier to hold down. Break away from the typical sugar-laden smoothies, though; add ingredients like Greek yogurt for protein, oatmeal for fiber, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Try these smoothie recipes from Women’s Health Magazine (including “The Hunger Killer,” made with strawberries, mango, flax seed oil, and tofu) and Shape Magazine.

Also, try to start training your body to be hungry in the morning. If you eat dinner late (say, after 8 o’clock), move it up a few hours. If you like to treat yourself to a midnight snack, start scaling back that habit. It’s okay to go to bed a little bit hungry!

I work out in the morning.

Since you need fuel before a workout and muscle-repairing protein after one, it’s best to split breakfast into two parts. Since most of the energy from dinner the night before has already been used up, your blood sugar is likely low. Pick a mini breakfast with carbohydrates, which will top off glycogen (the fuel you use for exercise) stores, as well as some protein or fat, which will both enhance the lasting power of those carbs. Try whole wheat toast with almond or peanut butter, a banana with almond or peanut butter, a small bowl of oatmeal, or Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal. After your workout, pick another mini breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will provide energy, and protein will help repair muscles. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes after your workout; the small window is when protein is maximally absorbed. Some post-workout mini breakfasts: two scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast; Greek yogurt with berries or whole wheat cereal; chocolate milk and whole wheat toast; or a peanut butter sandwich.

I need something to last me until lunch.


For lasting power through lunch, pick protein-rich eggs and high-fiber oatmeal. According to a study from Louisiana State University, the specific proteins found in eggs help keep us full more than other common breakfast foods. In the study, those who ate eggs instead of a breakfast of cereal (with equal amounts of protein) had lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and higher levels of PYY, a hormone that boosts satiety. Oatmeal, which is loaded with fiber, provides energy and keeps blood sugar levels stable. Add some nuts as the final punch to your hunger: the monounsaturated fats reduce feelings of hunger and also boast cardioprotective benefits.

I eat breakfast with my kids and don’t want to make two breakfasts.

Don’t settle for sugary kids’ cereal — for you or your children. Many brands pack more sugar than a cookie, says the Environmental Working Group. For a breakfast that takes just as little time to prepare, but is much more nutritious, whip up some wafflewiches: toast a whole grain waffle, smear it with almond butter and sliced apples, and fold. With far less sugar, more fiber and healthy fats, it’s a better breakfast whether you’re headed to elementary school or the corporate office.

I don’t like breakfast foods.

If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast foods — eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies — but you’re still hungry, just treat breakfast like you would a healthy lunch. It’s not convention to have a turkey sandwich or stir-fry for dinner, but if it works for you, go full speed ahead! Just keep it between 350 and 400 calories of high quality protein and belly-filling fiber, and throw in some nuts, seeds, or avocado for healthy fats.

I want to lose weight.

First, say goodbye to the much-believed but mythical mantra that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight. Members who belong to the National Weight Control Registry, who have successfully kept off 30 or more pounds for over a year, regularly eat breakfast. And because breakfast-eaters are satiated early on in the day, they tend to consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. Pick eggs: since they keep you satiated for longer, you’re less likely to binge or snack on high-calorie treats. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, participants who ate eggs lost 65% more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories from bagels. Add a slice of whole wheat toast for sticking power, and sip on green tea; compounds in the brew have been shown to rev metabolism.

I love breakfast and my appetite is in full force in the morning!

As long as you stick to a reasonably sized breakfast, you’re in the clear. Even if you love breakfast foods, it’s important to keep portion sizes in check: a study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate large breakfasts — around 600 calories — did not reduce their calorie consumption for the rest of day, leading them to eat around 400 calories more overall than those who ate a small breakfast. Choose a breakfast with around 350-400 calories (or split it into two smaller 200-calorie portions), and make sure it contains protein and fiber.

The Healthiest Snack Bars

My friends joke that I could probably live out of my purse for at least two days. But it’s probably true…in there you will find at least one apple; my own “trail mix” made of high fiber cereal, almonds, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds; Justin’s Nut Butter packets; a slice of my favorite yeast whole wheat pumpkin bread; a ziplock bag of sugar snap peas and carrots; and around three snack bars. I don’t necessarily eat all of this every day, but I like to be prepared. Once I exhaust all of my “whole food” resources (i.e., the fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole wheat bread) and I’m hungry, I often resort to one of the bars. I don’t really like to eat snack/meal/protein bars, because they’re processed and often contain too many ingredients and sugar; but I will eat one to tide me over until I can reach my refrigerator.

The market for energy bars is a multi-billion dollar industry. Hundreds of brands cater to individual niches, including those for professional and elite athletes, cyclists, children, women, body builders, the gluten-free (or vegan, no-sugar, or soy-free) crowd, and even those wanting to support alternative causes (check out Two Degrees bars). Some are no more nutritious than a candy bar, with vast amounts of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, while others pack decent amounts of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. I’ve been on the lookout for years for healthier bars: those that contain under 200 calories, minimal added sugar, and at least 3 grams each of fiber and protein.

NuGo Slim Raspberry Truffle (170 calories, 6 g fat, 9 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 15 g protein)
Taste: Rich, dark chocolate with bits of raspberry. These are for chocolate-lovers!
Nutrition: The NuGo Slim bars, which also come in Roasted Peanut and Brownie Crunch, are made with real dark chocolate but only contain 2 grams of sugar – and even better, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. With 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, these bars have staying power without a sugar crash.
Tags: Low Glycemic, Diabetic-friendly, Gluten-free, Kosher

Regeneration USA Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar Original Goji Flavor (210 calories, 8 g fat, 9 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 9 g protein)
Taste: Berry, nutty flavor; crunchy-meets-soft texture
Nutrition: In the energy bar world, these would be considered the “superbar.” They contain a smattering of superfoods with flavanoids, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and antioxidants: sprouted flax, almond butter, cashews, chia seeds, quinoa, sprouted buckwheat, blueberries, and cocoa nibs (all of which are organic). The bars also contain resVida™ trans-Resveratrol, which gives them the resveratrol equivalent of 30 bottles of red wine and a certified antioxidant capacity of 7,800. While the sugar content seems high, most of it is from dried fruits and raw honey.
Tags: 100% Organic, Raw, Sprouted, Vegan, Kosher, Gluten-free, Low Glycemic

Smart For Life Green Tea Protein Bar (180 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 18 g protein)
Taste: Like a slightly denser rice crispy treat. Bonus: unlike other protein bars, these aren’t chalky and hard to chew.
Nutrition: These bars, with a “balanced amino acid blend,” pack a lot of protein without going over the 200-calorie mark. This bar cuts hunger and cravings, but it also increases your metabolic rate: studies show that a high-protein meal can elevate your metabolism by 35% for the following 12 hours. The Green Tea Protein Bar has further metabolism-boosting powers: it is supplemented with green tea extract. Green tea extract has also been shown to help decrease LDL cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar metabolism, and, according to a recent study, enhance protein metabolism (in other words: green tea extract enhances an enzyme that helps break down protein, helping you to feel fuller after a high-protein meal and allowing your body to efficiently utilize protein).
Tags: Gluten-Free, No Artificial Ingredients or Preservatives, No HFCS or Sugar Alcohols, Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids

KIND Fruit & Nut (180 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 5 g protein)
Taste: Like melted trail mix with a fruity tang
Nutrition: KIND bars have won all sorts of awards since the launch of their first bar, including “Healthiest Packaged Foods of 2011” from Prevention Magazine, “Best Snack for Women” from Women’s Health Magazine, and “Best Snack Bar” from Health Magazine. These bars, which come in 11 flavors and highlight different nutritional benefits on the bars (+ protein, + omega-3, + antioxidants, + calcium) are nutritionally dense with ingredients you “can see and pronounce.” If you’re worried about snacking and weight gain, KIND bars won’t pack on the pounds: a 2010 study found that participants who added two KIND bars to their daily diet maintained weight, BMI, and waist size. These results indicate that nutritious snacking can be a part of a healthy diet.
Tags: Gluten-Free, Low Glycemic, Whole Foods

Thanks to Smart For Life, Regeneration USA, and NuGo for sending samples!

How To Think About Food + A Guide to Milk and Non-Dairy Alternatives

A few days ago, I was at the grocery store with my friend. She was scanning all the labels of the different kinds of milk. When I asked her why she doesn’t want to drink regular milk (as she has been for years), she said that “regular milk just has so many more calories than the others, and I don’t even like the taste of it.” While this is true – other versions, except soy milk, have about half of the calories – dairy milk has more to offer in terms of functional nutrition.

Those 86 calories in a cup of skim milk contain 8 grams of high-quality, muscle-building protein. The alternative milk drink she was eyeing – almond milk – has 45 calories, but it only has 2 grams of protein. Between the two, 86 calories and 8 grams of protein, or 45 calories and 2 grams of protein, the former has way more health benefits to offer you. Protein is satiating, so it will keep you fuller for longer; drinking 45 calories with nearly no protein probably won’t satiate you at all – so you might end up reaching for more food or another drink and eat more calories overall. In addition, if you’re drinking a milk drink after a workout, the protein in dairy milk can help rebuild and strengthen muscles; almond milk will not do the same.

The takeaway message: calories are important to look at, but so are other pieces of nutritional information like protein, fat, fiber, and sugars. If you just look at calories, your decision is skewed: of course you’ll pick the choice with fewer calories. Taking into account protein, fat, fiber, and sugars, however, will help you determine how a particular food will serve your body: will the protein help you build muscle and keep you satiated? Will the fiber keep you full until lunch? Will the fat lower the glycemic load of the meal? Or are you just eating 45 empty calories that do none of these?

Because my friend got me thinking about the different kinds of milk, I’ve written a guide with all of the pros and cons to all the milk alternatives.

Most people grow up drinking regular cow’s milk. With the introduction of soy milk, followed by almond, oat, coconut, and hemp milk, the choice – which milk should I drink? – became more complex. Each milk has their own niche, but if you’re not lactose intolerant, I would recommend sticking to regular dairy milk. Depending on what you’re looking for in a milk, though, each variety can be a healthy choice. Just be sure to grab unsweetened and unflavored versions of milk – the sweetened kinds can contain more than 180 calories per cup.

All of the nutritional information below is for unsweetened versions; sweetened versions contain more calories and sugars.

Dairy Milk, per cup, skim: 86 calories, 0 g fat, 12 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 8 g protein
2%: 122 calories, 4.8 g fat (3.1 g saturated fat), 12.35 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 8 g fiber

Pros: Dairy milk, a mix of 80% casein and 20% whey, is a great source of high-quality, muscle-building protein. With 8 grams of protein per cup, it’s an easy way to drink your protein without relying on processed protein shakes. In fact, it may even beat out such shakes in terms of muscle recovery: a study from the University of Connecticut found that chocolate milk is an ideal post-workout drink for refueling and building new muscle.

Dairy milk is also a natural source of calcium, whereas other milks are calcium-fortified. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, among postmenopausal women, those who got their calcium from natural sources, rather than supplements, reaped the most benefits. Calcium, when ingested in combination with dairy, may also help with weight control: a 2002 study found that the combination of calcium and a certain amino acid found in dairy products increases muscle mass and leads to fat burning.

Cons: There are several studies that show a high correlation between consumption of dairy products and the risk of cardiovascular disease, although such studies have been challenged. In addition, some doctors believe that milk may contribute to the development of prostate and ovarian cancers – but other studies show that the vitamin D in dairy milk actually protect against cancer.

In terms of the issue of antibiotics and hormones used to treat cows, there are no studies that prove that ingesting dairy milk leads to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the hormones that are used do not stay in their active form when ingested. If you’re worried or if you think the practice is unethical, you can buy antibiotic- and hormone-free milk.


Soy Milk, per cup, unsweetened: 80 calories, 4.3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 1 g sugar, 1.5 g fiber, 7 g protein

Taste: Varies by brand; while some are “neutral-tasting,” others describe it as “planty” or “chalky.” Sweetened varieties, like vanilla and chocolate, often mask unpleasant flavors – but add lots of sugar.

Pros: Soy milk has roughly the same amount of calories and protein as skim dairy milk, but it also contains healthy unsaturated fats and a small amount of fiber. Some of the fats in soy milk are omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease and enhance cognitive development. In addition, research has shown that the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in soy can help reduce blood levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Soy milk also has the added benefit of being vegan: it is derived solely from plant sources and thus contains phytochemicals – specifically, isoflavones – which have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. In addition, it is free from hormones and antibiotics as well as lactose, making it a good choice for protein-craving lactose intolerants. Soy milk provides additional benefits for those over 50: it can prevent negative symptoms associated with menopause in women and reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Cons: Unlike dairy milk, soy milk does not naturally contain calcium or vitamin B-12, but some versions are fortified with vitamins and minerals.There has been some controversy regarding the possible negative effects on high soy intake in men. Because soy (a phytoestrogen) mimics estrogen, it may affect hormone production in men. Specifically, high amounts can reduce the production of testosterone, thereby affecting reproductive abilities and sperm production.


Almond Milk, per cup: 45 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 g sugars, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein

Taste: A subtle almond/nutty flavor; slightly sweet

Pros: Almond milk’s biggest benefit is that it contains the least amount of calories of all non-dairy alternatives to dairy milk. In that respect, it’s a good choice for those looking to lose weight as well as those who don’t like the taste of milk but just use it on cereal or coffee drinks. While it doesn’t have a lot of protein, it still offers the same healthy fats found in almonds.

Cons: Unlike dairy and soy milk, almond milk contains very little protein; it also contains very little calcium (2 mg compared to the 300 mg in cow’s milk).Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is relatively processed: it contains a number of preservatives and additives that make it shelf-stable and contribute to its texture. Most of the nutrients (except vitamin E) found in almond milk are added in, and research shows that natural dietary sources of vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed than those added.


Oat Milk, per cup: 130 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 19 g sugars, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein

Taste: Mildly sweet, thin, watery. Not surprisingly, many think it “tastes like oatmeal.”

Pros: Oat milk is naturally low in fat and cholesterol. It is relatively high in fiber – some brands carry up to 4 grams – so it comes with the benefits of added satiety, stable blood sugar levels, and reduced cholesterol levels.

Cons: Even with the fiber, you’d be better off eating a bowl of oatmeal. Compared to oatmeal, which is one ingredient in itself – and contains more fiber and far less sugars – oat milk is very processed. It also contains two controversial ingredients: carrageenan, which has been linked with inflammation and irritable bowel disease, and vitamin A palmitate, which may lead to brittle bones.


Coconut Milk, per cup: 50 calories, 5 g fat (5 g saturated), 0 g sugars, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein

Taste: Sweet, creamy, rich, thick

Pros: Although all five grams of fat in coconut milk are saturated, these fats are medium chain fatty acids – different from the long chain fatty acids found in animal products – and are metabolized differently. Medium chain fatty acids are sent directly to the liver, where they are used (and burned) immediately as energy. Numerous studies show that these saturated fats are actually beneficial: they may increase metabolism, slow digestions, improve the immune system, and boost cognitive development.

Cons: Coconut milk is low in protein and doesn’t contain nearly as much calcium as dairy milk. Some brands contain added calcium, as well as other added vitamins and minerals. But this makes coconut milk relatively processed: most drinks contain more than just coconut and water, including preservatives and additives like carrageenan and vitamin A palmitate.


Hemp Milk, per cup: 70 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 0 g sugars, 0 g fiber, 2-4 g protein

Taste: Earthy, nutty, grainy

Pros: Hemp milk can be a good alternative for those with nut and dairy allergies. It’s lactose- and cholesterol-free, and is low in saturated fat. Most of the fats are polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha linoleic acid. Several studies have found that hemp seeds can improve immune system functioning, promote healthy skin and hair, and boost cognitive performance – but again, you’d be better off with unprocessed hemp seeds.

Cons: Hemp milk isn’t very high in protein. It also separates in coffee, making it unsuitable for lattes and chai drinks.