This time of year, as we start into the holiday feasting season, it is way too easy to overlook the fundamentals of good nutrition. It is always important to start your day with a healthy, clean, sustaining breakfast, not just for the health benefits, but also because it makes it easier to bypass the not-so-healthy “treats” that pop up everywhere this time of year!
Many health experts advocate having a good meal before going out to holiday parties, too. Why not have a healthy, complete, balanced protein shake to curb your appetite and make yourself resistant to overdoing the other offerings of the season? But how do you know what is a healthy choice protein shake?
There are so many to choose from, and unless you have a degree in nutritional science, they pretty much look all the same. Here’s a quick checklist so that you know what to look for and what to avoid.
Be you vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant or able to eat anything, you can navigate through this time of year healthily and still have some of the treats of the season without sacrificing your waistline. A protein shake for breakfast and before you go out can help you maintain and not gain.
If you take animal protein, the best shakes use whey protein. However, you must get a product that sources the whey from specific suppliers. You want to ensure that the high-quality product you seek is from animals that are treated humanely, and that graze naturally on clean, un-sprayed grass.
Whey from cows that eat GMO treated corn produces GMO whey. Corn is also not well tolerated by cows as their natural food is grass. Feeding corn to cows, GMO or not, produces intestinal upset in the animals which is then treated with drugs which also goes into the milk.
When cows spend the time grazing naturally on pastures rather than being confined, they are well-exercised and healthier. This means less use of antibiotics. You want a whey-based protein powder from a manufacturer who ensures that no antibiotic treated milk is ever used in the production of their product.
As well as antibiotics and GMO in milk, the other big question of concern is the use of hormones. Look for a product that does not use bovine growth hormone.
Firstly, you don’t need to ingest cow hormones but it is also not good for the cow either.
The use of hormones is strictly to have the animal grow bigger faster and produce an inordinate amount of milk. This leads to inflammation of the udder and you guessed it — more drugs including antibiotics to treat the inflammation.
As well as what happens with the whey as the cow is producing, it you want to search out a whey-based protein powder that is produced in a fashion that maximizes it digestibility, and its bio-availability. This process would naturally include flash-pasteurization and un-denatured ultra-filtration methods. This process kills potentially pathogenic bacteria and yet keeps the milk proteins intact.
This is an important aspect to protein shakes being viable as a healthy meal. Denatured proteins have lost their biologically active shape and therefore are not as assimilable as un-denatured proteins.
Finally, in the search for perfect nutrition you want to deal with a company that has a rigorous testing program in place that tests for potential contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides or microbes and further sends their product to an outside third-party site for finished product verification testing.
You don’t get this level of safety and security buying protein powder off the shelf and simply doing a comparison of price rather than value.
This holiday season prepare yourself for the onslaught. Don’t go partying hungry, it is like going food shopping hungry — nasty stuff ends up in your basket and in your body! Fill up on high-quality protein that will keep you satisfied and save yourself from the holiday weight gain.
Dr. Jane Riley, Ed.D., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser, and behavior change specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She can be reached at email@example.com, 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com