If you shun all animal products, including dairy and eggs, for health or ethical reasons, finding a nutritionally complete meal-replacement shake can be a challenge. Many packaged versions are made with dairy proteins, such as whey or casein -- which are no-nos on a vegan diet. Even if you blend together fruits and nondairy milk or yogurt into a homemade shake, you'll be short of a full meal. Among the nutrients you'll be lacking is protein, which helps you feel full. Quality vegan meal-replacement shakes are possible, but be mindful of the ingredients you use for both taste and optimal nutrition.
A meal should include protein, a macronutrient that satiates you and fosters strong muscles and connective tissues. It's a source of energy and supports a healthy immune system. A vegan can get adequate protein through nuts, seeds, beans and soy. Add hemp or flax seeds, nut butter or a vegan protein powder to up the protein content of your shake. Some vegan protein sources, particularly hemp, pea and brown rice, lack one or more the essential amino acids -- particularly lysine. Eat pumpkin seeds, legumes or quinoa at other meals to ensure that you get enough lysine daily. Check the ingredient label on packaged vegan shakes to ensure that they contain protein from soy or another vegan source.
Fruits and Veggies
Vegans thrive on plant foods, namely fruits and veggies. It's easy to get too much of the former and too little of the latter in a meal-replacement shake, however. If you make your own shake with three kinds of fruit and some fruit juice to blend it all together, you'll be loading up on sugar -- albeit a natural kind. Instead, limit your shake to just 1/2 to 1 cup of fruit -- say half of a banana and 1/2 cup of berries -- and add in a handful of spinach or kale, or a stalk of celery. The vegetables provide essential phytonutrients without the high sugar content.
Fatten It Up
Fat is another essential ingredient in a meal-replacement shake, as it also makes you feel full. A tablespoon of coconut oil, ground flax seed or almond butter, or an eighth of an avocado add creaminess to the concoction, while offering healthy unsaturated fats to support vitamin absorption. Flax and hemp seeds help you get adequate amounts of a specific type of fat -- called omega 3 fatty acids -- that fight inflammation and support heart health.
Whip up a vegan shake for any meal of the day. Combine almond butter, banana, spinach, raspberries and flax to create a shake with high-quality fat, plenty of vitamin A, omega 3 fatty acids and a small amount of protein. Blend blueberries with coconut water, avocado, soy protein powder and a squeeze of lemon to get the benefit of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and potassium. A combination of kale, soy milk, strawberries, coconut butter and hemp seeds provides ample protein and omega-3s.