What is the difference between a meal replacement drink and protein shake?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a meal replacement drink and a protein drink? I get this question all the time.  It’s really important to know the difference so you can make the best choice based on your health goals.

A meal replacement drink contains significant amounts of the three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  As the name implies, it is meant to relace a meal.  The balance between carbs, protein, and fat are meant to mimic a small meal (or large meal—depending on which drink you choose).  For a typical meal replacement drink, the carbs can range anywhere from 15-45 g of carbs (the equivalent of 1-3 carb servings).  Protein can range anywhere from 7-40 g (the equivalent of 1-5 protein servings).  The fat content can range from 5-15 g (the equivalent of 1-3 fat servings).  Typically they are fortified with vitamins and minerals too, so it’s like taking a daily multivitamin. 

Which drink you choose is up to your health goals.  The one drawback to meal replacement drinks, is the amount of added sugars, which can range anywhere from 4-24 g (the equivalent of 1-6 teaspoons)!  Here are some ideas:

Boost
Boost Original
  • Boost Original, Ensure Original, or Carnation Instant Breakfast only have about 1.5 servings of protein, a little over 2 servings of carbs, and 3 teaspoons of added sugars.  Because of the added sugars and low protein, I rarely recommend these drinks.  They could be used as a snack replacement if you are trying to gain weight.
  • Boost High Protein, Ensure High Protein, Carnation Instant Breakfast High Protein, Slim-Fast, Special K, etc.  These types of drinks have a higher protein content and provide about 2 protein servings.  The carb amount is around 30g on average.  These drinks are great for meal replacements because of the balance between protein and carbs.

A protein drink is high protein and low carb/sugar.  They contain at least 20 g of protein and at most 40 g (3-5 protein servings).  They have little or no added sugars or fat.  They are meant to add more protein to your diet and don’t provide energy (carbs).  Protein drinks are a perfect supplement for you if you struggle to get adequate protein at every meal.  In fact, I prefer to call them “protein supplement drinks” to remind my clients that they supplement the meal, not replace the meal.  If you rely on protein drinks only at your meal, you might be tired, hungry, and sluggish because you are not eating any complex carbohydrates. 

Some examples of protein supplement drinks that I recommend and my clients love:

  • Premier Protein
  • Boost Max
  • Ensure Max
  • Fairlife Nutrition Plan 30g Protein
  • Fairlife Core Power
My favorite protein supplement drinks

How might you use a protein supplement? 

  • After a hard workout at the gym, drink a protein drink and eat a piece of fruit within 1 hour of finishing your workout.  Your muscles will soak up the protein to start re-building and the carbs will fuel the muscle building process. 
  • Drink a protein drink for lunch when you don’t have time to leave the office.  Eat a banana, box or raisins, whole grain crackers, or an apple for carbs (brain power) and fiber (fullness) with it.
  • Drink one for breakfast to round out your favorite high-carb breakfast (oatmeal, whole grain toast with avocado, whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, etc.)

If I had to choose my personal favorite, it is the Fairlife.  I love to drink one for lunch and eat a banana on my busiest work days.  The combination of carbs, fiber, and protein keep me satisfied and fueled for a few hours until I can eat a balanced snack.

Do you need help with your diet? Check out my Intentional Eating 101 Program.

Now that you know the difference between protein drinks and meal replacement drinks, which one are you going to choose?  Comment below to share your ideas.

Are you addicted to food?

Have you ever felt like you are addicted to food?  I can’t tell you how many of my clients have expressed this belief about themselves.  Is food addiction even a thing?  The research on food addiction is very limited, but I can share with you some of the latest research and what we do know.

First, it’s very important to clarify that food addiction is a process addiction.  That means it is the act of eating and the feelings you have about eating certain foods that is addictive, not the food itself.  As you engage in overeating and eating foods you consider bad or trigger foods, your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel good.  After chronically overeating, the dopamine receptors are down regulated and then you need to eat more and more to get the same dopamine response.  This is the same process that occurs in other addictions like gambling, shoplifting, gaming, and phone use. 

Many people falsely believe that food addiction is a chemical addiction like drugs or alcohol.  That’s not so.  Drugs and alcohol contain chemicals that are physically addictive.  But foods commonly considered addictive (flour, sugar, salt, and chocolate) are not actually chemically addictive.  Sure, they do make you feel good, but you are not dependent on them.  For example, if you find chocolate to be a trigger food for you then when you eat chocolate you feel a hit of dopamine. You have a piece of chocolate and then want more and more.  However, let’s say you don’t find orange juice to be a trigger food and so when you drink orange juice, there is no dopamine hit.  So, it’s not the sugar from the chocolate or the juice, it’s the act of eating something that you feel is forbidden or you have strong feelings about. 

The act of overeating causes a similar pathway in the dopamine response.  The more you overeat, the less your body releases dopamine and then you need to eat more and more to get the same response.  Just like gambling and gaming, for example.

So, what does all this mean? It’s good news actually.  It means you don’t have to avoid your favorite foods forever because you think you are “addicted” to them and you have to abstain like you would from alcohol.  It means that you can eat your favorite foods in moderation after learning how to manage cravings, compulsive eating desires, and your feelings surrounding certain foods.   

How do you do that?

1. Keep a food journal where you write down the food you eat, your level of hunger/fullness, and the feelings you have surrounding that meal/snack. 

2. Identify the emotions that lead up to overeating/compulsive eating. 

3. Try to catch yourself when you are feeling those emotions and deal with them in a more constructive way.

This list is very simplified. I know it’s not as easy as that.  It takes a lot of introspection, outside support, and patience with yourself.  And that’s what I am here to help with.  I want you to feel in control of food instead of food controlling you.  Sign up for my Intentional Eating 101 program and you can start your journey to feeling better and getting healthier!

The Best App for Calorie Counting

The Best App for Calorie Counting

With hundreds of calorie counting apps to choose from, it easy to get overwhelmed or waste your time on ones that aren’t very useful.  I know you’ve been there.  Either it’s confusing to use, the data is wrong, or you are distracted by ads.  I have used so many different calorie counting apps over the years with my clients and have never been 100% satisfied.  That is until I discovered Nutritionix Track.  I have started using this app with my clients and so far they and I love it.  

Here is what we love about it:

  • Easy and attractive dashboard and diary
  • Multiple ways to add your daily food: upload a picture, search in the database, add your own foods, scan the package barcode, or use the “freeform box.” 
  • It offers a unique feature that I have not seen anywhere else.  The “freeform” option allows you to say your diary and using advanced technology it accurately determines what you ate.  Just takes a minute to log all your food!  (Watch the video below to see how it works.)
  • If you are trying to NOT think about calories, the picture option is a great way to log your food without worrying about the nutrition.
  • You can add your own recipes.
  • It tracks your weight, fluid intake, and exercise.
  • You can link it with popular fitness trackers, like Fitbit and HealthKit.
  • Shows macro and micronutrients.
  • No ads.
  • You can connect your diary with your dietitian (me!) and I can view your foods from my computer. 

One of my clients said, “My favorite feature is the Freeform box.  It’s so much easier to log my food rather than type it out.”

Have you ever had a financial goal, like pay off your car or save for your vacation?  I bet the first thing you did was figure out how much money you needed to save and then made a plan to save that money.  Part of that plan probably included making a budget.  What does that have to do with nutrition?  Everything!  If you have a health goal, you have to know how to get there.  And what you put in your mouth will move you towards or away from that goal.  That is why I recommend calorie counting, especially with the Nutritionix app. 

Watch the video to see it in action.

For more apps that I recommend, check out my FREE Guide: 25 Best Apps for Optimal Health

Click here to download

How Intentional Eating can Help you Manage Chronic Disease

First, let’s define Intentional Eating since it is the basis of all my programs. By definition, intent is “aim” or “purpose.” So, what is your “purpose” or “aim” with eating? There is no right or wrong answer. Occasionally it might be for pure pleasure, other times for fuel, most of the time to satisfy hunger, or to improve your health. Knowing your intent with food is essential in managing chronic diseases and improving your health.

Now, let’s take you through the steps of Intentional Eating.

  • Know your why. Why do I want to eat? What is my intent with food? Am I hungry? Bored? Sad? Stressed? Getting ready to exercise? Before putting one bite in your mouth, it’s important to identify the “why” so you can make sure you are eating for the right reasons.
  • Know your what. What am I going to eat? This is the most important step in managing chronic diseases. By carefully choosing “what” you can optimize energy, sleep, hormones, blood sugars, blood pressure, etc. The list could go on and on. Choosing the right foods is key to feeling great.
  • Know your how. Am I eating at home? In the car? With other people? Fast? Slow? Standing up? Sitting down? Managing “how” you eat will maximize the food that you put into your body so you can feel your best.

Intentional Eating does not have to be tricky or difficult. It just takes some practice. By paying attention to why you eat, what you eat, and how you eat, you will see how different foods affect you in different ways, You will be empowered to make the food choices that give you the results you want.

Click here to become an Intentional Eater

Sleep your Way to Weight Loss

Did you know that lack of sleep may be the missing key to your weight loss results?  Let me explain why the right amount of sleep is essential for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Why is sleep important?

It refreshes us physically, emotionally, and mentally.  It gives our bodies time to repair and grow and our minds time to relax and renew. 

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

When we are sleep deprived on a short-time basis, it negatively affects our mood, concentration, performance, and metabolism.  On a long-term basis, it can contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, comprimised immunity, and decreased quality of life. 

What does a good night’s rest look like?

Our bodies cycle through different types of sleep, called REM and non-REM sleep.  About 25% of our sleeping hours are spent in REM sleep, which is an active sleep.  Our eyes dart back and forth and we dream.  The remaining 75% of the time we are in non-REM sleep, which is restorative, relaxing, and restful.  In addition, our body naturally follows a rhythm of energy and sleepiness throughout the day.  From around midnight to 7 AM and 1-4 PM our body becomes sleepy.  (This can vary person to person depending on your schedule and genes.)  But in general, we follow a rhythm throughout the day.  Knowing yours can help with maximizing your energy levels throughout the day.

How does sleep affect my weight?

  • Sleep deprivation may cause the obesity gene to “turn on.”
  • Being overweight may lead to sleep problems which then promotes additional obesity.
  • Not getting enough sleep may increase appetite and cravings, especially for carbohydrates.
  • Some studies show people ate up to 500 extra calories a day when they didn’t get enough sleep.
  • Sleep deprivation can impair glucose tolerance and increase secretions of cortisol, thus increasing our risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What may interfere with my sleep?

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Nighttime exercise
  • Large meals
  • Chronic pain
  • Certain medications
  • Poor sleep environment

What can I do to get enough sleep?

The first thing is to rearrange your schedule so you allow for 7-9 hours of sleep.  Next, turn off the tv and computer 1 hour before bed.  Ensure your room is dark and at a comfortable temperature.  Try to go to bed at the same time each night to develop a good routine that is predictable for your body.  Do something relaxing before bed, such as stretching, yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.  Last, see your doctor if things interfere with your sleep such as insomnia, medications, shift-work, or snoring.

So tell me, what do you do to ensure a good night’s rest?  Do you get enough sleep?  Why or why not?

For help improving your health, click here to become a new client.

Note: I used the following article in preparing this blog post: “The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain — Research Shows Poor Sleep Quality Raises Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk,” By Nancy L. Kondracki, MS, RD, LDN, Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 14 No. 6 P. 48.  It can be accessed here: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060112p48.shtml

How to Properly Sanitize Produce and Groceries

I know everyone is concerned with making sure they don’t get the Coronavirus.  And some people are worried about getting it from their food at the grocery store (or take-out).  I’m here to teach how to properly clean your groceries to reduce your risk of getting any kind of germ from the store.  (All of this is backed by the latest research, by the way.)

  • To wash your fruits and vegetables, rub them under running water in the sink.  The action of rubbing is what removes dirt, bacteria, and viruses from the skin.  Do the same for fruits and vegetables that you don’t eat the skin (watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, etc.).  For small fruits, like berries, wash them under running water in a colander or you can submerge in water and swish them around.  This is also a good technique for leafy greens.  After submerging in water and shaking, rinse them off.   
  • Do not use soap to wash your fruits and vegetables.  Using soap is not necessary to clean your produce and the residue may even upset your stomach.
  • You will not get sick from eating fruits and vegetables and so they do not need to be “sanitized.”  The COVID-19 virus is not transferred from food.  Let’s just say that somehow some virus got on your fruit from someone else in the grocery store (which probably won’t happen).  There will not be enough of the virus on your fruit to make you sick.  The virus is spread by close contact with infected people.
  • Bottom-line: The absolute best prevention is to wash your fruits and vegetables with running water while rubbing them with your hands to wipe off any dirt and germs.
  • As for your other groceries, there is no need to wipe down these foods, even if you are immune-comprised.  Again, the virus does not live on these items and even if it did, there is not enough to infect you.  If you insist on being 100% sure, then leave them in the garage or outside (if they are non-perishable) for 24 hrs.  Research has found that heat and humidity kill the virus.
  • Bottom-line, please don’t stress about your food and waste your time on sanitizing with bleach solutions.  The best thing you can do is wash your hands.  There is no better way to keep you healthy than to wash your hands after coming home from the grocery store, after putting your groceries away, before preparing food, and before eating. 

I hope you are all enduring this pandemic well.  I want to remind you that I and my other dietitians are here for you.  To schedule your telehealth session from the comfort of your own home or office, please click here.  We are here to help you navigate your new normal and how to adapt your eating and exercise routines.

How to Avoid the Quarantine-15 (aka How to NOT gain weight while stuck at home)

I know you’ve seen them: the memes about how much weight we are going to gain while stuck at home, the pictures of food all over social media, comfort-eating, and baking galore. How else can we release some energy while stuck at home?  Cleaning out our closets is no fun.  And you can only take so much news.  My clients are starting to ask, “How can I stop gaining weight?”  

Step 1: Have a plan.  “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  If you just plan to eat whatever you have around, it might not the best thing for your body.  But if you have a loose plan, then you will most likely go for the planned meal.  I try to have a list of about 7 dinners that we have all the ingredients to make.  That way when dinner comes we are not tempted to order take-out.  Having a plan also keeps you from making more frequent runs to the grocery store.

Step 2: Designate only one area in your house for eating.  If eating locations become a free-for-all, you might start finding crumbs in your laptop, on your couch, and in your bed.  Limit eating to just the kitchen or dining room table and you will eliminate a lot of mindless eating.

Step 3: Make a list of positive things to do when you want to reach for food and are not hungry.  Now that you are working from home, do you find yourself drawn to the kitchen when you need a break or are bored?  You’re not alone.  Everyone does it!  Instead, keep a list on your fridge or pantry door with other enjoyable tasks.  Here are some examples: go outside for fresh air, stretch, call a friend, write in your journal, put on your favorite music, work on a hobby, write a letter or card, play a game, pray, meditate, do something creative, clean out a drawer, organize your files, etc. 

Step 4: Set regular meal and snack times.  Make a realistic eating schedule for everyone in the family.  After each meal or snack, clean up, turn the lights off, and “close” the kitchen until the next meal or snack.  With children of various ages, this is a work in progress for me.  But I’m trying.

Step 5: Embrace it.  You know what, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you gain some weight over the next few months? We are all going through an experience we’ve never been in.  It’s OK if you eat more than usual, stress-eat, or boredom-eat.  This is a learning experience.  Be patient and compassionate with yourself.  Take it one day at a time (one bite at a time) and you’ll get through this.  Give yourself a hug and keep this in perspective.  There are a million things worse than gaining weight.

We are OPEN and happily seeing clients virtually!  All insurance companies have temporarily allowed telehealth and we are so pleased to be able to still meet with our clients and help you through this difficult time.  Go here to become a new client.  Or, if you are a returning client, go here to schedule an appointment.  I look forward to “seeing” you from the comfort of your home or office.  We are here for you. 

How to Boost your Immunity (the REAL Way)

Of course, everyone is anxious about getting sick right now, thanks to the coronavirus.  My clients have started asking me what they can do to keep their immune system in top shape.   Your immune system is an amazing and complex microorganism-fighting machine.  It defends your body from harmful virus and bacteria that enter your body through mouth or nose.  Because it is so complex and involves other systems in your body, there is no guaranteed way to ensure that some microorganisms won’t get past your defenses and cause a cold, virus, or infection.  However, you certainly can do some basic things every day to give it the best shot possible.  There is no magic bullet on this list (sorry).  There is no strange concoction of herbs and fruits mixed together in a drink (thank goodness).  Or no pill you can take (save your money for more exciting things). It’s the basic (sometimes boring) things that will give us the best chances:

  • Get enough sleep.  Your body cannot fight off sickness if it is tired and weak.  Make sleep a top priority.  The recommendation is 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  (To learn more about sleep, attend my Masters Group class on May 12th or May 14th: The Healing Power of Sleep).
  • Take a multivitamin as “insurance” if you eat very few fruits and vegetables.  Don’t waste your money on super- or mega-vitamins.  The extra vitamins and minerals don’t provide extra benefits.  A simple, multi-vitamin and mineral supplement is all you need.  Make sure it is certified by an independent lab or you might be wasting your money.  (If you need a good one, I offer Opurity vitamins in my office.)
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating and preparing food.
  • Eat yogurt with live and active cultures daily.  The probiotics in yogurt feed your immune system.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  Make sure to get a variety of colors to ensure you are eating a wide range of immune-boosting nutrients.
  • Reduce stress by taking on less projects and tasks, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or prayer.  (I’ll be teaching about this at Masters Group on July 12th and July 14th: Implementing Mindfulness into your Busy Life.)
  • Eat protein with each meal to meet your minimum recommendation of 0.35 grams x your body weight.  Protein is found in dairy foods, meat, seafood, nuts, beans, and tofu.
  • Don’t age.  (I had to throw this one in there.)  The older you get, the weaker your immune system becomes.  There is nothing we can do about that, though.

By following these steps as best as you can, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your immune system performing at its best. 

If you’ve got nutrition concerns or questions, apply to become a client with one of our highly knowledgeable dietitians here.

Pros and Cons of Grocery Pick-up

If you haven’t tried grocery pick up yet, you may be wondering if it’s worth it.  I tried it for my first time a few years ago, right after I had my 5th daughter.  I’ve been hooked since.  (Despite the “cons.”)  I love the convenience and time-saving.  But don’t let me my experience influence you.  If you’ve known me for a while, you know that there is no one right way to be healthy.  I’ll give you the pros and cons of both so you can decide for yourself.

First, if you’ve never tried it, I want to explain how it works. 

  1. Sign up on the app or the website.
  2. Search for the items you need and add them to your virtual grocery cart.
  3. When you’re all done, “check out” and pay with your credit card.
  4. The next day (or later that day), you will get a text when your order is ready.
  5. If any item was not available, via the app or an email you will be notified if is was left off or substituted.
  6. Head to the grocery store and follow the signs to grocery pick up. 
  7. Call the number on the sign and let them know you have arrived.  (Some apps allow you to check-in instead of call.)
  8. Wait for the friendly staff to bring you your groceries and load them up.
  9. Voila! You are done!

Pros:

  • Helps you stick to a budget.  I find that I don’t make impulse buys because I have my list and just order what is on my list.
  • You can look through your fridge, pantry, and freezer as you’re making the list so you can see exactly what you need.
  • The apps or websites save your favorite items and prompt you to buy them.  It helps you to not forget your essentials.
  • It saves time waiting in line or wading through crowds. 
  • You can add to your online cart all throughout the week.
  • Other family members can get on the app or website and add to the list as needed.
  • You can do it anytime of the day: in bed, while waiting in line somewhere, at the doctor’s office, etc.
  • If you don’t like grocery shopping with your kids (or spouse!), you don’t have to.

Cons:

  • You may forget certain items that you would have remembered if you had walked the aisles of the grocery store.  (I inevitably already have a new list started before I even go to pick up my items because I forgot something!)
  • You are less likely to try new foods and see new items in the store.
  • You may get stuck in a rut of ordering the same things.  (Last summer I realized I had forgotten all about the summer produce because I was so used to my winter list.)
  • You won’t see any special deals or sales the store is offering.
  • Some stores charge extra money for the groceries or a pick up fee when ordering online.
  • Some moms/dads/grandparents like shopping with kids/teens as a learning experience.  You miss out on that when doing online shopping. 

As you can see, there is about an equal amount of pros/cons.  If you’re wondering what I do, as a mom and dietitian, I do grocery pick up about every 6 days.  And about once per month I try to go in person to see what foods I may have forgotten about and give my kids a chance to come and learn about shopping.

Now, you may be wondering about grocery delivery…. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m sure it’s great.  If you have tried delivery, please share your experience.

PLUS, if you need help deciding what to put into your cart, please join me for my next monthly Masters Support Group where we are doing part 2 of my Virtual Grocery Store. We meet on March 10th @ noon or March 12th @ 5:30 PM. Reserve your spot by emailing kelli.worley@intentionaleating.net.

AND, if you’ve got shopping down, but need help deciding what to cook and prepare, check out my EatLove meal plans where you will get menus, grocery lists, and recipes in your inbox every week made just for you.

Easy, Healthy Weeknight Dinner: Sheet Pan Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables

Easy, Healthy Weeknight Dinner: Sheet Pan Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables

Here is one my family’s new favorite dinners: Potatoes, Sausage, and Vegetables roasted on a sheet pan. 

Why I love it:

  • Versatile
  • One dish meal
  • Can use leftovers
  • Inexpensive
  • Super tasty!
  • Everyone loves it (one of the few meals we all love)

Here’s how to do it:

Wash and cut into bite-size pieces your favorite potatoes and vegetables (white potatoes, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, green peppers, red peppers, broccoli, asparagus, onions, etc.). Toss the potatoes and vegetables with olive oil in a large bowl.  Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray.  Spread vegetables and potatoes evenly on the pan.  Sprinkle your favorite seasonings on top: kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc. Dice your favorite sausage (deer sausage, chicken sausage, pork sausage, etc.) into bite-size pieces and sprinkle over the vegetables.  Roast in the oven at 425 degrees until the potatoes are soft.  Serve with fruit and a glass of milk on the side.   Yum!

Please share: What’s your favorite easy dinner?