Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

1. Nothing compares to whole food and the complex mix of nutrients it provides. 

It is always better to meet your nutrient needs through whole foods first as opposed to a powdered shake mix. Food provides a combination of nutrients, such as calcium, iron, fibre, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

Protein is important for building and maintaining muscle mass, curbing appetite and maintaining blood sugar levels. Shakes concentrate on this important nutrient. However, you do not require a meal replacement shake to meet your protein needs. A well-balanced diet will usually provide enough. If you think you may need more protein, for example if you are an elite athlete, these articles provide more information about when you might need to add a supplement: Do I Need to Use Protein Powder? or Do You Really Need that High Protein Snack?  

2. Developing healthy habits goes beyond drinking a daily shake.

    Drinking a shake in lieu of a full meal will help some people lose weight in the short term by lowering the overall energy intake. It may also help curb appetite. The real question is can you have a shake day-after-day, forever? Eventually you will probably want to get back to everyday eating. Including shakes may not encourage a solid healthy eating habit or maintain weight loss over the long term. As well, it may get tedious to have a shake every day. Variety is really key when it comes to food. It helps you enjoy eating and ensures you are getting a mix of nutrients for good health. 

    To achieve your health goals, consult a registered dietitian to talk about your specific nutrition needs and help you develop daily healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

    3. Be critical of products that make big promises

    When adding a diet product or following a special diet, look for red flags by asking these questions:

    1. Does it make big promises for your health or weight loss? Does it sound too perfect or too good to be true? It probably is. There is no miracle solution. 
    2. Does it provide nutrition advice based on personal testimonials or only one scientific study? While it is great to hear about someone’s successes, personal stories are not scientific evidence. Sound science is a process and is the result of many studies. Study design and type determine the strength of the evidence.  
    3. Does it use experts that may not have nutrition expertise to support claims? Look for advice from registered dietitians and doctors with a background in nutrition. 

      Proceed with Caution

      If you decide to include a shake in your eating plan, do so with caution. Consider where it fits into your diet. It might be best to use it as a snack or recovery beverage after a workout, if you require one. 

       For example, a Chocolate Shakeology®* shake mixed with water contains 160 calories and 17 g of protein, considerably fewer calories and less protein than a typical meal. A typical meal should provide, depending on specific needs, between 300-600 kcal and 20-30 g of protein.

      The bottom line

      Food is meant to be smelled, chewed, tasted and enjoyed, not powdered, shaken and gulped down. If you really want to spend the money on a shake, use it as a snack or, better yet, simply mix up a smoothie with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt.

      *Information from accessed July 28, 2016

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      Jennifer Michaelchuk, RD.

      Registered Dietitian

      Jennifer (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian from Edmonton. She enjoys inspiring others to achieve their healthy living goals and make healthy food choices.

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