Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vegan Protein Powders - A Review

vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based
Finally I have taken the time to try a variety of vegan protein powders and review them individually. I had previously tried Vega Protein Smoothie in the past…and I did not like it. I didn't even finish the small sized bag that I had purchased. So therefore, you will not find a review for that product here.

To help narrow down my choices further, I chose protein powders that had identical protein content per serving and similar calories. Plus, I picked an original or natural flavor from each line to keep the flavor profile consistent. Personally, I do not like “flavored” protein powders because then I cannot taste the wonderful fruits and greens I place into my smoothie….and everything ends up tasting the same. And to top it off, they all had to be organic and gluten-free. Furthermore, these are protein powders that you can easily buy at your local co-op or Whole Foods. 

To keep the study consistent, I blended each protein powder with the exact same, very simple smoothie combo: 1 cup frozen blueberries, ½ cup unsweetened soymilk, ½ cup water, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom, and a pinch of Eden's sea salt. These are staples often found in a typical smoothie recipe (except maybe the cardamom). Then for the last 3 days I made a smoothie for breakfast, using a different protein powder each time, and documented my results. FYI: this is not a sponsored post. This is simply my honest opinion.

vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based
vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based, review
vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based, review

I reviewed the products for the following:

Often protein powders can be expensive, especially those made of high quality ingredients. Highlighting the price per serving can easily change one’s opinion on what protein powder to purchase.

Protein powders can often have a very overpowering flavor. Whether they have too much stevia, too much added flavors, or they simply taste like your eating dirt. So I looked for the following characteristics: is it sweet, earthy, chalky, bland, flavorful, etc? Too earthy or too unpalatable?

When it comes to protein powders, nothing destroys a smoothie more than a gritty, grainy texture. And often plant based protein powders are very gritty...so texture is very IMPORTANT in the big picture.

Total calorie, protein, carbohydrate, and fiber content. Most plant based protein powders are lower in protein compared to a whey alternative. Therefore, I chose those that contained 20g of protein per serving. Plus plant based protein powders often contain added fiber which in addition to the protein, helps keep you full and satisfied for longer.

Special Benefits: 
Now a days, there are so many additional ingredients in protein powders. Digestive enzymes? Probiotics? Greens? Veg or Fruit? Sprouted? Herbals? Superfoods?

How soon did I get hungry after drinking this smoothie? Of course this can vary depending on your activity level prior to and after the smoothie.

vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based, reviewvegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based, review

Price / serv
Special Benefits
Garden of Life Raw Protein & Greens  (vanilla)
Very sweet flavor compared to the other three. Sweetened with stevia only.
A bit of a gritty texture
100kcal/20g protein/3g carbs/3g fiber
Uses sprouted grains/beans for protein blend. Also incorporates 6 types of veggies, as well as digestive enzymes and 1.5 billion probiotics.
Felt hungry 1 hour after drinking this smoothie.
Amazing Grass Protein Superfood (original)
Lightly sweet but not overpowering, more earthy in flavor.
Smooth texture.
110kcal/20g protein/4 g carbs/3 g fiber.
High green/veggie content, as well as some fruits. The color of the powder is naturally green indicating high plant matter.
Very satisfying and satiating. Didn’t get hungry until 4 hours later.
SunWarrior Warrior Blend (natural)
Chalky, dirt flavor. Quite bland. Needs 2-3 drops stevia (or additional sweet fruit) for palatability.
Gritty in texture.
100kcal/20g protein/2g carbs/1g fiber
Just plant based proteins, no additional greens, or veggies. Contains goji berries and coconut.
Felt satiated for 3-4 hours.

vegan, protein powders, greens, quality, nutritionist, dietitian, plant based, review

The Verdict:

My ultimate favorite was the Amazing Grass Protein Superfood. It tasted delicious, not too sweet and not too earthy, when mixed with just the simple ingredients above. Plus it contains 7 different dried greens, 9 different fruits and veg, for a total of 2 full servings of fruits and veg alone with just the protein powder. Blend it with your favorite fruits, veggies, and other smoothie fix in's (flaxseeds, yogurt, nut butters, coconut milk, fresh herbs, etc) to turn this smoothie into a nutrient dense rockstar. In addition, my hunger was curbed the longest with this product. Therefore, if you are in a crunch this is a great morning meal replacement. CON:  Very expensive in comparison to the other protein powders.

How can you perhaps replicate this at a cheaper price? Purchase the Amazing Grass Green SuperFood and add a scoop to another cheaper plant based protein powder.

Runner Up: I preferred the Garden of Life Raw Protein & Greens over the SunWarrior Warrior Blend, due to its high quality extras including 6 additional veggies, use of sprouted grains and beans, and additional digestive enzymes and probiotics. However, it was very sweet in flavor (too much stevia) and it didn't keep me satisfied for the long run. So, between these last two, it is a wash. If I were to purchase the Raw Protein & Greens, I would add more satiating ingredients to my smoothie (coconut milk, peanut butter, etc). If I were to purchase SunWarrior Warrior Blend, I would add some greens (maybe the Greens SuperFood or a handful mixed greens) and additional 2-3 drops stevia to increase palatability.

I haven’t tried all the vegan protein powders out there. Do you have a favorite that you would like to share??

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Southwest Chipotle Chick'n Salad

vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy

We are nearing the end of August already. I just cannot believe how quickly time flies by….especially if your having fun. I have been working on multiple projects and finding a few special days here and there to get out and play in the summer sun. Most recently, I went on a beautiful overnight backpacking trip with some truly amazing ladies. There really is nothing better for mental rejuvenation than spending time in the wilderness with friends. No phones. No computers. Simply just epic beauty, intimate conversations, and this overwhelming sense of peace. If you have not tried it…you must. You may never want to come back to the real world again.

Now, because I have been so busy, my blog has taken a wee break. And I am sorry. However, today I am back with a FLAVOR EXPLOSION that everyone can enjoy. It is vegan and gluten-free. This recipe was inspired by a wonderful trip to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. A cute 100% vegan restaurant became a staple during my stay. The food was amazing and the local wine superb. I couldn’t have asked for anything more satisfying than Mike’s Wine Bar. Truly a nice surprise. So my friends, please enjoy this uber delicious, screaming of summer, Southwest Chipotle Chick’n Salad. I promise it will not disappoint.

Although, I do eat animal protein, I also enjoy vegan protein options. Usually, I stick with sprouted extra firm tofu or tempeh, and of course other beans and legumes. But this time, I wanted to try something new and exciting. I have never been one to like meat alternatives, especially because they are often made of vital wheat gluten. However, recently I came across Gardein Scallopini Chick’n Filets, which are gluten free and very tasty. So, for this recipe, I decided to use this product. Feel free to swap this vegan choice with real chicken breast, or simply enjoy the salad without. You can even top this dish with seasoned fried tempeh or an extra serving of beans for more plant protein. Either way, you cannot go wrong.

vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy
vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy
vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy
vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy
vegan, gluten-free, salad, summer, chipotle, easy, zesty, southwest, corn, black beans, healthy

So I hope you fill up and fuel up with this Southwest Chick’n Chipotle Salad. With 25g of plant protein, and 17g of fiber, this meal will keep you fueled and satisfied until dinner.

Creamy Chipotle Dressing
Serves 4 (2 tablespoons each)

1/3 cup Vegenaise (original)
1 lime, juiced (~2.5 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, grated using microplaner
¾ teaspoon chipotle powder
½ teaspoon Eden’s sea salt


Mix all the above ingredients together using a whisk. Store in jar and refrigerate.

Southwest Chipotle Chick'n Salad
Serves 1

1/3 cup canned sweet corn, rinsed and drained (or better yet, freshly grilled corn)
1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons Creamy Chipotle Dressing
1 Gardein Scallopini Chick’n Filet
1 corn tortilla, thinly sliced**
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls mixed greens (I used a Spicy Greens mix from the Farmers Market)
A few slices avocado


In a medium bowl mix together the first 6 salad ingredients. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the Gardein Chick’n filet per package instructions and slice into strips. If you want to use regular chicken you can do that as well. You will need to season it with some spices (cumin, paprika, garlic powder), salt, and pepper and cook until done.

**Optional Step: In a small separate pan, heat a little bit of olive oil over medium heat until sizzling. Toss in the sliced corn tortilla strips. Fry until crispy and lightly browned. Season with sea salt and optional lime zest if desired.

Finally, stir in the 2 handfuls of mixed greens with the other salad ingredients. Top with sliced Chick’n, avocado, and crispy tortilla strips. Enjoy immediately.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Enlightened Skordalia

Ahhh summer oh how I love The….with the abundance of local produce, the blue bird skies and outdoor adventures, and the gentle warm breeze that dances through my wind chime….However, my love affair only lasts if the temperatures do not get too hot. Luckily we have not had much 80-90 degree weather yet here in the PNW, and I continue to keep my fingers crossed that the mid 70’s summer days are not too far and few between. Last summer, I nearly melted in my bedroom…and hid amongst the shadows and forested areas, because simply put, I just don't do well in anything higher than 80 degrees + humidity.

So in the heat, and with the lazy summer days, room temperature meals, or a few things heated on the grill, is all my body craves. Fresh. Zesty. Flavorful. Light and easy. And course as always DELICIOUS. The body knows what it wants, and what it needs….to some extent that is…as long as we really, truly……listen.

Right now, I crave potatoes. Which is somewhat odd considering most people crave potatoes in the winter. But right now….potatoes are coming up…fresh and local, tender and very flavorful. And guess what…they are pretty amazing! Do not doubt the simple potato any longer….especially for a summer evening meal.

Potato Goodness

So why the potato? Well, not only does it provide the most complimentary base to any unique combination of spices or herbs, but it also shines simply on its own. My grandma’s favorite meal (and she was an excellent home cook by the way), was simply steamed Yukon gold potatoes with a little pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt on each bite. Now that is basic my friends. Of course as a nutritionist, I would say where are all the other veggies?…but back in the day…you took what you could get.

Besides the fact that everyone loves potatoes (unless you have a nightshade intolerance I suppose), they are very nutrient dense! Yes, the simple potato, that has been shamed for all these years, can be an awesome part of a whole foods based diet. So here it goes.

Fiber & Resistant Starch

One medium boiled potato, with peel, has about 4 grams of fiber for every 35 grams of carbohydrates. That's pretty good! A simple rule I like to follow when choosing foods is to make sure that for every 10g of carbohydrates there is at least 1g of fiber. So the potato exceeds that benchmark. But more interestingly…if the potato is cooked and then cooled…its forms some resistant starch.

What is resistant starch? It is a type of starch that is not digested by humans! Therefore, it does not impact blood sugar levels or insulin after ingestion. Actually, the friendly bacteria in our colon, enjoy it much more than we do. In fact, they feed on it, and produce short chain fatty acids (especially butyrate) as by-products fueling the colon cells and supporting overall health. Studies have even found that resistant starch can aid in weight loss. However, if you heat the potatoes up again to over 130degrees Fahrenheit, the resistant starch starts to transform to “usable” starch again.

Vitamins & Minerals

Potatoes are a great source of potassium an electrolyte that along with sodium helps balance fluids within the body. When we sweat a lot in the summer, playing as we do, we lose some salt, and to a lesser extent potassium. If we don't have enough potassium or too much, we can stress our heart to the point of death. However, most people are getting plenty of sodium, but not enough potassium (found in veggies). One medium potato provides about 25% of what you need!

Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant that supports skin health) and vitamin B6 (supports brain health and reduces inflammation)….and a lot more.

The big take away…enjoy potatoes as a part of a whole foods diet…they are just as nutrient dense as any other vegetable that you have on your plate!

As inspiration I am sharing with you one of my favorite ways to prepare potatoes in the summer…. my take on SKORDALIA. Traditionally skordalia comes from Greece where they blend potatoes (and sometimes bread and almonds) with olive oil, garlic, and vinegar. Often it is served as a dip. However, my version is a blend of both potatoes and cauliflower with lemon juice in place of vinegar…for a lighter and more refreshing version that is perfect as a side. I especially love to serve skordalia with pan seared sockeye salmon or curried chicken drumsticks, but grilled shrimp skewers, sautéed tempeh strips, or even with a fried pastured eggs are a great addition. And as always served with a large salad on the side.

The trick for this recipe, to keep as many nutrients locked into the potato, is to peel the potato after it has been steamed. This way water-soluble nutrients will not all leach out into the water and stay in the potato!

Enlightened Skordalia
Serves 6

1 medium head of cauliflower, base and leaves removed**
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes**
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Finely ground fresh pepper to taste
Optional: finely minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives, etc)


Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Place a steamer basket inside and top first with potatoes and then with the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium low and steam the cauliflower for about 12-15 minutes or until tender all the way through.  Remove the cauliflower and place onto a plate to cool, add an extra cup of water to the pot (too make sure the steam water doesn't get too low), and once again cover with the lid. Continue to steam the potatoes another 15-20 minutes until they are tender all the way through. Set the potatoes aside and allow to cool 5-10 minutes until they are cool enough to handle.

Peel the steamed potatoes, cut in quarters, and throw them into a large bowl along with the cauliflower, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender or handheld mixer, puree the mixture until mostly smooth. You want to be careful not to blend it too much as the potatoes can become glue-like if pureed too much. See notes below. Season with additional sea salt, pepper, and lemon to taste. Garnish each serving with freshly minced herbs and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. You can serve this dish immediately or chill in the refrigerator and bring to room temp prior to serving.

**Note: I usually aim for about equal weights of each. Ex: 1½ lbs of both cauliflower and potatoes. It doesn’t need to be exact, but close enough. This helps prevent the skordalia from becoming gummy. Also make sure to use Yukon Gold potatoes as they contain less starch than russets.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...