Meal replacement shakes are great for curbing caloric intake because they enhance fullness and deliver loads of essential nutrients. When protein is a key ingredient, shakes can fuel your workout and improve muscle recovery afterwards. In other words, healthy meal replacement shakes are a no-brainer for weight loss and workout perks.
But while we’re on a roll… why not keep going? You’re already throwing a bunch of stuff in the blender, so go ahead and amp up the nutrition factor by tossing in a few more healthy ingredients!
Here are seven things you can add to your meal replacement shakes for extra health benefits:
The first time I heard this suggestion, I imagined that it was somebody’s ploy to make my smoothie chalky and disgusting. In fact, adding oats to a shake isn’t too bad — especially with a little ice or frozen fruit to keep it cold and crisp. Toss in 1/4-cup of oats for a long list of health bonuses ranging from an immunity boost and disease prevention to prolonging that feeling of fullness. Oats also give your shake a good protein:carb balance for sustained energy.
Stave off sickness (always a higher risk during the change of seasons!) with a handful of antioxidant-rich berries such as strawberries, cherries or my favorite for chocolate shakes: blueberries. With fiber and water content, berries also keep you fuller longer. (Word to the wise: if you’re adding blueberries, check your teeth before you head into the gym.)
3. Greek Yogurt
A 1/2-cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt will make a shake creamy, while also delivering extra calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. Any plain yogurt will pack nutrition benefits, but Greek yogurt has more protein to keep you feeling full. It also contains probiotic cultures and is lower in lactose than regular yogurt.
True, water is the ultimate calorie-free, sugar-free base for meal replacement shakes. But if you’re looking for more vitamin D in your diet, milk is a great way to get it. That vitamin D keeps your bones strong, immunity up and depression at bay. Milk is also a terrific source of protein, calcium, potassium and more. If you’re not big on milk, but want those extra nutrients, then almond, soy, oat, flax or rice milk (when fortified and without too much added sugar) make nutritious, low-calorie shake bases too.
5. Frozen Bananas
Bananas are a sweet source of potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin C, as well as vitamin B6, which helps with metabolism and immune function. To prevent the shake from getting frothy, I always freeze my bananas for a refreshing kick.
Some studies have found cinnamon to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and even have antioxidant benefits, according to WebMD. While the verdict is still out on the extent of the health benefits of cinnamon, it’s certainly worth a shot — or a pinch — to add a little spice to your shake.
7. Peanut Butter
Adding a scoop of peanut butter is my new favorite shake enhancement. While a two-tablespoon scoop of peanut butter will add about 188 calories, you’re also adding protein, potassium, fiber, magnesium and other nutrients. And because it’s mostly unsaturated fat, the Harvard Heart Letter says peanut butter is a pretty good source of essential healthy fat. (As a lower-calorie alternative, check out PB2!)
Of course, I should add that if you start with a nutritious smoothie like IdealShake, then you don’t necessarily need to add anything — it’s got plenty of nutrients and weight loss benefits and will carry you right through to your next meal. But playing around with meal replacement shake recipes keeps things fun and helps you get a great nutrient variety.
P.S. Want more ideas? Download the Smoothie Recipe Book!