how lockdown permanently changed the way my family eats for the better

I need to get something off my chest. The truth is I’m not a smoothie person. There, I said it.

I do feel guilty about this since I often extoll the virtues of blended breakfasts. There are lots of good reasons to love homemade shakes at any time of the day. You can’t beat them for a speedy, nutritious morning meal, lunch, or post-workout refuel. You can pack protein, fat, fiber, fruit, vegetables, and nutrient-dense extras all in one tasty meal with minimal cleanup. Portions adapt easily from one serving to many. High-speed mixing accomplishes much of mechanical digestion, with improved absorption, and you can sneak vegetables in for picky eaters.

Despite all these fantastic upsides, I generally avoid smoothies due to a simple quirk of my physiology – I don’t love icy cold food or drinks. Especially for breakfast. If there was such a thing as a hot smoothie, I’d be all over it. Oh, wait. I guess that’s called soup.

Anyway, my kids love smoothies, as most kids do. My teenage son makes one with mixed berries and peanut butter that tastes like PB&J in a glass. For this reason, I have always kept protein powders in the house for the kids’ sakes. However, as the pandemic lockdown descended in March of this year and I endeavored to make no trips to the grocery store, I started to look at those tubs differently.

I quickly realized that having high-quality, non-perishable protein in the house would help us buy groceries less often. If we ran low on meat or eggs, we could always find a way to make a satisfying, balanced meal with ingredients on hand. Since protein supplements boost many recipes’ nutrition content, I felt a lot better about the snacking situation. When the self-isolation blues called for comfort food, I gave a favorite brownie recipe a protein tune-up and the results were outstanding (see recipe below).

Homeschooling highlighted the need for optimal concentration. Protein in the morning helps stabilize blood sugar, which is a key to maintaining focus. Protein powder got mixed into muffin recipes, baked it into “breakfast” cookies and stirred into pancake mix. Extra protein pancakes got frozen for quick reheating in the toaster oven.

Protein Powder Primer

There are many options when it comes to protein supplement sources. The two most common are whey based or plant based.

  • Whey is that watery liquid that appears when your yogurt separates. It is a natural by-product of cheese making. Whey protein is said to have a high “biological value,” meaning that a high proportion of the amino acids in whey is absorbed and utilized by the body for things like building muscle. A single scoop of a whey protein supplement typically provides a generous 20 g of protein. One shopping tip when choosing a whey supplement is to watch out for artificial sweeteners which are prevalent in the body-building type products.
  • People who are sensitive to dairy products or simply looking for alternative protein sources have a growing number of choices from the plant kingdom. Plant-based protein products have come a long way since the early days when they could be heavy on the stomach and have a characteristic “earthy” taste. Protein-providing plants include pea, rice, hemp, chia, and others. These are best used in combination since no single plant offers the full range of amino acids for complete protein, but combining them can achieve that. Be aware that it often requires a larger portion, like two scoops, to achieve 20 g of protein from plant sources. Factor in the price per serving, not just the price of the tub, when doing comparison shopping for the product you are buying.
The New Normal

While pandemic adjustments didn’t quite turn me into a smoothie person, it got me incorporating protein supplements into family meals regularly. Along the way, I did develop one smoothie recipe that even I can’t resist and enjoyed throughout the summer – my Lively Lemon Berry Smoothie. On days so hot that you don’t really feel like eating, this refreshing afternoon pick-me-up qualifies as a light meal, or at least a super-nutritious snack. It’s an after-school favourite of my younger son as well.

In the long term, less frequent grocery shopping is another practice I intend to stick to, as it simplifies life. Keeping a protein supplement in the house helps me do that.

Decadent Raspberry Protein Brownies

(gluten free)

  • 1 scoop Whey Factors®
  • Double Chocolate flavor
  • ⅔ cup almond flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ⅔ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten (preferably at room temperature)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup raspberries, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 176 °C (350°F). Line an 8-inch square pan with greased parchment paper.
  2. Mix Whey Factors, almond flour, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Place chocolate chips and coconut oil in a medium bowl and microwave for 30-second increments until melted, stirring in between. Add the coconut sugar to the melted chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well by hand. Combine almond-protein mixture with chocolate mixture and stir to mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour half batter into the prepared pan. Dot with half of the raspberries. Cover with remaining half batter. Place remaining berries on top, pushing them into the batter slightly.
  5. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Lively Lemon Berry Smoothie

  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (plain, vanilla, or berry)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 scoop Natural Factors® Vegan Protein, Vanilla Bean flavor
  • 2 tsp SeaRich™ Fish Oil, Lemon Meringue flavour

Blend until smooth. Makes one serving.