Just one for breakfast, thanks: what shake mix should I buy?
August 24, 2012 2:55 PM   Subscribe

What meal-replacement solution will give me the easiest, most tasty breakfast without requiring a second mortgage? It should be something that can either be kept in a file cabinet at work and grabbed at need or something that I can grab out of the fridge on my way out the door.

Special snowflake details: I have always found breakfast difficult, and have been a breakfast-skipper most of my life. This is not good for my blood sugar, my health, or my crankiness level, so I've been trying a variety of things to try to make sure that I get SOMETHING in my system before 1pm. So far, the only things that I have managed with anything approaching success are keep-it-at-my-desk foods like granola bars or peanut butter crackers, or grab-it-from-the-fridge foods like yogurt or string cheese. However, I forget my grab-it-from-the-fridge stuff often enough that I wind up with tons of expired yogurt. Meal bars and crackers are OK, but they are so dry that I sometimes have trouble choking them down.

After some thought I think I would like to try drinking some sort of meal-replacement or protein shake for breakfast on the days that I go in to the office. However, there are about five million different kinds and if you search online you seem to find roughly equal reviews for all of them saying that they are awesome and that they taste like moldy socks. Also, though some brands can be bought in single-serving packets at the health food store, not all can, and I really would rather not pay $40 for a giant tub of something I won't use.

Here are my criteria/preferences:
-Tastiness is the most important factor, but it does need some nutrition/ability to satisfy hunger, or I would just drink Nestle Quik and call it a day.
-I am not trying to lose weight or to gain muscle necessarily, just to find something that will non-offensively sustain me from 9am to noon.
-I would prefer something that would taste fine made with either water or milk, and is mixable using a blender bottle. (I want to be able to keep a tub of the stuff and a blender bottle at work.)
-I prefer something that has a good amount of protein and at least some fiber.
-While I would prefer it not be a liquid candy bar, some amount of actual sugar is fine. In the non-caloric sweetener world, I like stevia best, then splenda. Nutrasweet is a distant third.
-Would prefer products that can be purchased either locally (Costco, Trader Joe's, grocery or drug stores, vitamin stores) or on Amazon. I would consider buying from another web site but NOT if it requires some sort of subscription service where they automatically ship you stuff. I also don't want anything sold through a MLM scheme. (My worst childhood nightmare involved Amway. Long story.)
-I am willing to do some amount of make-your-own if it involves shelf stable ingredients (protein powders, powdered peanut butter, etc.) but I am not interested in anything that needs to be mixed with fruit, yogurt, etc. to taste good/be nutritious.

Previous similar questions all seem to be from some time ago so I wanted to get an idea of the latest available products out there. I am also aware that it would be better if I found a way to eat real actual food for breakfast. This is not going to happen. I'm not seeking to replace real actual food with shakes, I'm seeking to replace NOTHING with shakes.
posted by oblique red to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Designer Whey vanilla, and get some psyllium separately (they'll both keep just fine on your desk at work.) It's fine in water, not awesome but fine, and actually pretty decent-tasting in milk. Designer Whey is readily available and not the most expensive or fancy product - it's just whey protein, no miracle ingredients or concentrated unicorn horn or whatever. (The other flavors may well be tasty too, but I can only personally vouch for the vanilla.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2012

I really like the Boost brand protein shakes, the Glucose Control formulation specifically. Pretty expensive, I usually pay around $14-16 for a six-pack, but worth it. I've only bothered with the vanilla flavor, which is tasty enough.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:12 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I make a bowl of oatmeal as my first task of the workday. You can even make it with coffee, for a bit of a kick (works well with cinnamon/sugar or chocolatey flavors, not so well with fruity flavors).

Even quicker, you can just buy protein bars and scarf one or two down as needed. They tend to cost too much at full price, but they seem to sell slowly (duh, because of the price, Mr. Grocer!) so at any given time, my local store has about half the aisle on about-to-expire clearance. I keep a dozen or so in my drawer for snacking on if I get peckish mid-afternoon.

I notice you mention "by 1pm", though... Do you not usually take a lunch, either? If so, you might want to find a way to get something more substantial than the typical liquid-meal shakes.
posted by pla at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2012

i'm a bad breakfast eater too, and here's my suggestion make your own granola. it's the best thing. i'm a caffeine addict, so I always have half and half on hand -- drown homemade gran in that, you got yourself a boost on many levels.
posted by angrycat at 3:19 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like Slim Fast, but it is sweet. Comes in cans, and I can keep it in the work fridge.
posted by feste at 3:24 PM on August 24, 2012

I really like the Vanilla Premier High Protein Shakes (I don't like they way the chocolate ones taste). I get them at Costco for about $25 for a box of eighteen. I keep them at room temperature and drink one after I work out.

I was a breakfast skipper for most of my life. Recently though, I've started grabbing an apple and a slice of cheese on my way out the door every day. It's amazing how much better my mornings go with just that in my belly, and there is such a variety of apples and cheeses to choose from that it still tastes really, really good to me every day. I haven't found a bad combination yet.
posted by Balonious Assault at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2012

Carnation Instant Breakfast.

Some flavors can be bought in a diet version. You can get a canister (instead of a box of packets) and measure how much or how little you want to add. You can mix it with water, especially if you also add some powdered milk to round it out. You can also get premade versions which can go in your desk unrefrigerated, but they taste better cold and are more expensive than the powder version.

You could also get actual boxes of chocolate milk to leave in the desk. Some brands do not require refrigeration. Again, they taste better cold. I am suggesting this as a possible back up plan for when you do not manage to make a shake at home.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:54 PM on August 24, 2012

do you have acess to a kettle or microwave? instant oatmeal comes in a lot of flavours, is very easy to keep in a desk drawer, and can be livened up with lots of other things that can also be kept in a drawer - like a spoonful of jam, some nuts, raisins, maple syrup...
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2012

I am a big fan of Optimum Nutrition's protein. One scoop of whey and one scoop of casein mixed with 16 oz of water.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:27 PM on August 24, 2012

I like to keep mini aseptic soy milk cartons around--they are easy to drink, shelf-stable, have a nice amount of protein, are okay on the sugar, come with a straw, and the fortified ones have a few vitamins. They do taste a bit better when chilled, but I don't know how that will work out with your fridge issues! I also keep instant oatmeal cups in my desk alongside biodegradable spoons.
posted by semaphore at 4:28 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that oatmeal (plus dried fruit or nuts) is probably the best bet if you're moving into "mixing things with liquid things" territory. Carnation Instant Breakfast is OK, but not nearly as good as actual food.
posted by SMPA at 4:56 PM on August 24, 2012

Nthing the Boost, and not sure where you are but in Canada check out Superstore or Shoppers and get a six-pack for as low as $8.
posted by pink candy floss at 5:17 PM on August 24, 2012

I like EAS shakes, and Muscle Milk shakes as well. They are usually about $1.30 each and are sold in packs of four. I like that they are premade and you don't even have to mix the powder in milk or anything. They are fairly small, but they both have lots of protein. You can get them at Target, Walmart, and wholesale stores as well.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:38 PM on August 24, 2012

I'd recommend BSN Syntha-6 Protein Powder. It mixes well with water. Has 22 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of sugar per scoop. It's sweetened with Sucralose (Splenda).

I've tried the Chocolate Milkshake, Strawberry Milkshake, and the Vanilla Ice Cream flavors. Strawberry is the best as it tastes great with both water or milk. I prefer the chocolate with water and the vanilla with milk. I'd say they're on par with Nestle Quick.
posted by zinon at 6:09 PM on August 24, 2012

I try to keep granola bars, dried apricots, rice crackers, peanut butter, and tea at my desk. Maybe you could keep some pints of milk or yogurt in the freezer at work or home? Take one out 1st thing in the morning, and 2 hours later, it should be defrosted enough to have with muesli or oatmeal. Real oatmeal is miles better than instant, and can be made in a thermos; will be ready in 2 hours when your appetite is kicking in; I make it with extra water.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 PM on August 24, 2012

I like Ensure, the vanilla flavor. All the other flavors taste too sweet to choke down. (Though the vanilla is still plenty sweet, I think it's doable, and it does give a fair amount of energy, in my opinion.)
posted by dysh at 8:18 PM on August 24, 2012

You have a fridge at work? I do too. I keep a large tub of plain yogurt in the work fridge and a large container of my homemade granola (of course you can buy this) in my office. I bring 5 bananas to my office on Monday.

Make up a bowl each morning at work and eat at your desk. Tasty, healthy, good for your gut, and you can mix it up with your fruit choices.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 8:51 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a reformed breakfast-skipper and realized recently how much I need protein in the morning, so protein shakes have been my friend for a while. I use a Magic Bullet blender to do this almost every morning -- it's quick (about 5 minutes) and easy:

frozen banana
milk (maybe a third of a cup?)
vanilla Greek yogurt (2 or 3 big heaping tablespoons worth)
peanut butter (tablespoon)
chia seeds
protein powder from Costco
baby spinach crammed in the rest of the space left in the cup

The spinach makes the shake green, but I find it also makes it sweeter -- you can't taste it otherwise. I'e tried kale but can taste the bitterness.

Refrigerator oatmeal is also a good grab-n-go breakfast too that you can prep the night before.
posted by pised at 8:55 PM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

The Lean Body High Protein meal replacement shakes fit all your criteria (except that I'm not sure about their availability at Costco or whatever). The strawberry flavor in particular is delicious, the chocolate not quite as much, I don't know about the vanilla.
posted by shivohum at 7:46 AM on August 25, 2012

A friend gave me this recipe and I love it... You can make a whole bunch of these on a weekend or whatever, and then throw them in your desk at work. Whenever you're hungry, boil a kettle, pour water in a bowl, stir and eat!

You can get all of these ingredients at a bulk food store, or in the bulk food section of most supermarkets.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets

What You'll Need:
- 1 Minute Oats (make sure oats is the only ingredient, check cook times)
- Splenda (not packets) or sugar
- Small sized plastic zip baggies

Oatmeal Base:

1. Put 1/2 cup oats in a blender and blend on high until powdery. Set aside in a small bowl and repeat procedure with an additional 1/2 cup oats. If you're using a food processor, you can do 1 cup of oats in one batch.

2. Put the following ingredients into each baggie: 1/4 cup un-powdered oats, 2 TB powdered oats.

3. Keep doing this until you have packaged all of the oatmeal.

4. Add the flavors as indicated below.

To Serve:
Empty packet into a bowl or mug. Add 3/4 cup of boiling water (more or less depending on how you like your oatmeal. I don't even measure it, I just pour it in until it looks like a good consistency!) Stir and let stand for 2 minutes. Add more sugar, if needed.

Flavor Variations:

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal with Pecans: To each baggie add 1 tsp Splenda, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 TB chopped dried apples, and 2 TB chopped pecans.

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon with Raisins and Pecans: Add 1 TB raisins, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 TB chopped pecans and 1 small pinch of nutmeg.

Fruit Oatmeal: 2 to 4 TB dried fruit + 1 tsp Splenda

Coconut-Pineapple Oatmeal: 1 TB finely shredded unsweetened coconut, 2 TB chopped dried pineapple and 1 tsp Splenda

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal with Pecans: 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice + 1 tsp Splenda

Optional: To each baggie, add 1 to 2 TB of wheat germ (high in protein and iron!)
posted by Eradicator! at 6:48 PM on August 25, 2012

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