Even with a low thyroid, I do hyperactivity well, and seem to require those small meals throughout the day to keep me going. I try to get some vigorous exercise every weekday, either in the form of soccer or a good gym workout. That being said, I am always looking for the perfect foods to give me energy or help in recovery.
There are obviously many bar options on the market, but these tend to be high in sugars, so I consume them only when necessary. In my few years of dairy consumption, I found the chocolate Instant Breakfasts helped to re-energize me, but likewise, they are high in sugars, and obviously not dairy-free. Come to think of it, most meal replacement and hearty energy beverages contain whey for protein. Luckily, there are a few dairy-free options popping up on the market, one being the Vega “Complete Whole Food Meal Replacements.” I was very intrigued by this brand due to its low sugar content, and its soy-free make-up.
Of course, I knew their must be some type of sweetener, so I scanned the label and discovered Stevia. To be honest, this is the first alternative or “diabetic-friendly” sweetener I had considered sampling. I have never been a believer in consuming artificial sweeteners. However, rumor has it that Stevia is all natural and a decent alternative health wise; so I decided to give it a shot.
Though Vega’s powdered Meal Replacement is available in three flavors, I had the Chocolate and Berry at my disposal to taste test first:
Surprisingly, I wasn’t big on the chocolate flavor, at least not with water. Somehow cocoa and water have always tasted flat to me. So, I trialed a second batch mixed with unsweetened almond milk instead. My taste buds were much happier.
Beyond the “milk” swap, I noticed a few enhancements after my first trial. One, this mix is much better when the liquid that is added is well chilled. Two, it is best to let it sit for just a minute. The various powdered nut and seed ingredients seem to “gel” taking on a more milkshake like texture. Three, stir often! It is quite natural, so the powder tends to settle into a substantial lump on the bottom quite quickly, so some fast drinking, a spoon, or a shakable beverage container would come in very handy.
To be honest, this isn’t a beverage I would crave. The cocoa flavor was a bit strong for my personal taste, and the slightly grainy texture took some getting used to. Nonetheless, it certainly quenched my thirst and appetite after a workout, and the overall all thick and healthy “milkshake-like” behavior tasted good when I was in a more ravenous athletic state. Also, Vega has a nutrient profile that is hard not to love. Loaded with “healthy” Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, tons of protein, and a good dose of vitamins and minerals, Vega’s Meal Replacement is definitely a very well balanced food. The Nutrition Fact label was busy with double digit percentages next to just about every vitamin and mineral that I have ever spotted on a product label.
The Berry version retained all of the wonderful nutrient properties of the chocolate. It had a vitamin and mineral profile so similar to the chocolate that it isn’t worth specifying. However, it was a touch lower in fat (by 2g) and calories (by 30) per serving. It too was rich in protein and very low in sugars.
I immediately noticed the lack of curb appeal when I opened the easy to use and scoop canister to find a green powder. I don’t know about you, but I have always had a slight aversion to liquid green. Salads and whole foods are not a problem, but once it takes a beverage form, somehow, I lose my appetite. Yet, I have trialed many products that tasted far better than they looked, so I decided to give the Berry Vega a shot.
As it turned out, I was glad that I did. In my opinion, this flavor was far superior to the chocolate, and seemed to do just fine when mixed with plain old water. From my lessons with the chocolate, I used refrigerated water, let it sit for a couple of minutes after the first stir, and then stirred it again just prior to drinking. In reality, the whole preparation took roughly two minutes, certainly nothing to complain about.
The berry scent was mild, but just enough to mask whatever not so good smelling healthy powerhouses might lie inside. Likewise, the berry flavor seemed to be a part of the sweetened background rather than at the forefront. Though it did become smoother while absorbing the powder, the overall texture was still quite granular, or sandy for lack of a better word. I couldn’t quite describe it as incredibly delicious, but rather, ‘not bad’ and ‘good for the purpose.’
I would certainly reach for the Berry flavor first, though it will likely stay in the role of post-workout nourishment. The high protein and low sugars are a bad mix for my pre-activity needs, and the texture prevents me from calling this a smoothie treat. Nonetheless, it had definite appeal for when thirst, energy, nutrition, and recovery are my top priorities.
My Extra Notes & Tips:
Where to Purchase: Vega products are sold in natural food stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. See the main website for a store locator in the U.S. and Canada. Vega has a separate website for the U.K. It is also available to purchase online.