Nutrition drinks can be a tasty, important part of your diet. They are a great way to supply the vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants your body needs, especially if your diet leaves something to be desired. Healthy beverages quench your thirst and serve as snacks or meal replacements.
The sky is the limit when it comes the variety of nutritious drinks you can purchase or prepare at home. They run the gamut from plain water to hot teas to pureed soups to cold healthy smoothies. They are easily prepared from scratch or powders. If you prefer homemade, you can juice from whole fruits and vegetables. If convenience is more your style, go for ready-made beverages or powders that you mix with water, juice, or milk.
Powdered nutrition drinks - You really have to be careful here. Not everything claiming to be healthy is. Ignore the hype and read the label. The quality of these products range from poor to excellent. If you are looking for healthy beverages, avoid products that are nothing but super-heated dried milk, vegetable oil, sugar (or artificial sweeteners) and a few cents of vitamin spray.
It is best to avoid soy protein (unless fermented). Soy interferes with mineral absorption and can disrupt your hormones. Protein drinks with whey protein concentrate (not isolates) or pea protein are much better choices. Plant proteins keep you feeling full longer. Whey may be best after a hard workout.
For nutrition drinks that go above and beyond for quality, try Garden of Life raw protein and greens or their raw meal replacement powder. The vanilla flavor is my favorite, and blends nicely with a banana or berries. It's one of my on-the-go breakfasts.
This organic meal replacement powder contains a variety of raw foods providing protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that you would find in a healthy meal of raw foods. Just mix with water or juice and stir.
Tip: A little stevia improves the taste if it isn't sweet enough for you.
Healthy Smoothies - You can have a lot of fun blending up countless combinations of ingredients for healthy smoothies. If your family turns up their noses to anything but junk food, these healthy nutrition drinks make great junk food alternatives that grown ups and children enjoy. They help bridge the nutritional gap without complaint.
For the base, use a good quality whey or pea protein powder, hemp, almond, rice or coconut milk, and/or milk, yogurt or kefir. Raw meal vanilla powder is tasty, too.
Popular add-ins include superfoods such as frozen berries, flax, chia, and greens. Add a small banana, raw honey or stevia for sweetness. You may even want to add a small scoop of powdered greens, a raw egg (from a source you trust) or a heaping tablespoon of organic coconut oil. To make a cold, thick smoothie, blend in frozen fruit and a few ice cubes. If you use ice, make sure your blender is powerful enough to handle it.
One of my favorite recipes is:
Whir in a blender until mixed thoroughly. Pour in a tall glass and sip slowly (if you can!) Yummy.
Coconut Water is the perfect nutritious drink for re-hydrating in the heat, after exercise, if you have a hangover, or have lost fluids due to illness. Coconut water contains five essential electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. You can drink the water out of a coconut or buy prepackaged. Not all brands of coconut water taste good, so experiment until you find one you like. And be sure to get one that is not from concentrate. The bestselling brand on Amazon is Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water.
Watermelon Water is another tasty electrolyte-rich refreshing healthy drink you can easily make at home. Add equal parts cubed watermelon and cold water to a blender. Sweeten to taste with stevia and/or a little sugar. For added flavor, squeeze in lemon or lime juice, berries, or replace plain water with coconut water. Add more or less water for desired thickness. To make it more like a slushie, replace some of the water with ice cubes.
Vegetable Juice - Carrots, kale, spinach, and other greens are popular vegetable juices. If you are making your own, add an organic granny smith apple or some grapes to make them more palatable. Vary the vegetables in your juice to get a variety of nutrients. Some people have trouble with the oxalates in raw kale and spinach and are best to limit how often they include these greens in their smoothies.
V-8 is a ready-made vegetable juice standby. It contains tomato juice and other vegetables. Now it also comes with fruit juice mixed in. Pretty tasty.
Don't go overboard with fruit juices as they spike blood sugar. Two exceptions are grapefruit juice and unsweetened cranberry juice.
Pureed soups - Warm nutritious pureed vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices make tasty, filling, nutrition drinks.
These low-cal, easy to prepare soups offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to boost your health. Best of all, they are very satisfying - perfect if you are on a diet and want to take the edge off your hunger.
Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or squashes are perfect vegetables for 'souping'. Experiment with your favorite vegetables and beans.
Here's a recipe I make often in the winter:
Simmer a pound of fresh or frozen chopped broccoli, a pound of cauliflower, a handful of dried reishi mushrooms and a clove of minced garlic in a quart of water or stock. Once the vegetables are soft, use a stick blender to puree the soup right in the pot or pour the contents into a blender. I like to leave the texture slightly coarse. Add more liquid if desired, and season to taste with a generous pinch of real salt and dried dill. Sip warm or cold from a mug. You can also just use cauliflower or broccoli for variety. These soups keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.
Natural sodas - If you are a commercial soda drinker, try natural soda instead. These may not be nutrition drinks per se, but they are good substitutes for commercial sodas, which are very unhealthy drinks.
Choose brands without high fructose corn syrup. Look for natural root beer or fruit flavored natural sodas. Zevia comes in a variety of flavors and is sweetened with stevia for a zero calorie treat.
Herbal Teas - Tea bag sized serving of herbal tea may not be rich sources of vitamins and minerals, but they are a good source of antioxidants. Try yerba mate if you need an energy lift (contains caffeine) or red rooibos tea for a dose of antioxidants. Add a dash of stevia or a squeeze of lemon to taste.
To elevate tea to the status of nutrition drinks, enjoy herbal infusions of dried nettle or oatstraw leaf for a healthy dose of easily absorbed vitamins and minerals. Delicious hot or cold.
Green tea and coffee also contain antioxidants. Buy organic to avoid drinking unhealthy amounts of pesticides and herbicides. Decaf versions may lack beneficial antioxidants.
Water - Last but not least, drink water. When you are thirsty, and or first thing in the morning have a glass of pure, fresh water on an empty stomach to rehydrate your body quickly. For added flavor, add the juice of half a lemon or lime for Vitamin C or a spoonful of apple cider vinegar with or without a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
Whichever healthy beverages you choose, nutrition drinks are a pleasurable, important part of a healthful diet for life. Drink up and enjoy!