VRG Nutrition Interns Develop Protein/Calorie Supplement for Vegans

Frequently, people with cancer or other health problems use liquid products like Ensure and Ensure Plus to add more calories and protein to their diets, especially when their appetite has been diminished. We have heard from vegans who are interested in finding a vegan product like the commercial protein/calorie supplements.

Several commercial soy-based smoothies that we have recommended in the past are no longer being produced or may be available only in limited areas. Therefore, we wanted to develop a product that people could prepare at home. Students from the University of Maryland Dietetic Internship Program spent a day at The Vegetarian Resource Group office. One project on which they worked was developing a recipe for a protein/calorie supplement for vegans that would be tasty and simple to prepare. They taste-tested one version and then thought about some adjustments. The following is what they came up with:

Protein/Calorie Drink (Original)

1 cup hemp milk
3 ounces silken tofu
1 cup blueberries
1 packet acai, if desired
1 Tablespoon orange juice concentrate

This combination of ingredients was the first one we tried. Then, we thought the following adjusted recipe would be a little tastier:

Protein/Calorie Drink (Adjusted)

1 cup hemp milk
One 6-ounce container mixed berry soy yogurt (instead of tofu)
1 cup blueberries
1 packet acai, if desired (While the acai contributes very little in terms of flavor, it does provide some calories. Therefore, you may want to include it in the recipe.)
1 medium banana (instead of orange juice concentrate)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This recipe makes approximately 2 cups (or 16 ounces).

In comparison to Ensure, the vegan supplement does not meet all of the micronutrient needs. These nutrients may be obtained from other foods or, if appetite is poor or food choices are limited, from a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. For example, to add some B vitamins, you could potentially stir some nutritional yeast into the recipe, although we're not sure what that will do to the taste. Also, nut butters are frequently good sources of vitamin E and zinc. Please consult with your health care provider concerning what is appropriate for you.

Please Note: This article does not provide personal nutritional advice. Please consult with your health care provider concerning your individual needs.

Nutritional Values of Vegan Protein/Calorie Drinks Versus Ensure

  TOTAL VEGAN SUPPLEMENT ENSURE
NUTRIENTS Original (2 cups) Original (8 fl. oz.) Adjusted (8 fl. oz.) Ensure (8 fl. oz.) Ensure Plus (8 fl. oz.)
Calories 357.5 178.75 382.5 250 350
Calories from Fat 110 55 83.5 50 100
Total Fat (g) 12 6 10 6 11
Saturated Fat (g) 1.5 0.75 0.75 1 1.5
Cholesterol 0 0 0 5 10
Sodium 215 107.5 120.5 190 240
Potassium (mg) 648 324 317 390 500
Carbohydrates (g) 61.5 30.75 57.5 40 50
Fiber (g) 7 3.5 8 1 <1
Protein (g) 11 5.5 11.15 9 13
Vitamin A (5,000 International units or IU) 33% 17% 21% 25% 25%
Calcium (1,000 mg) 59% 30% 53% 30% 30%
Iron (18 mg) 25% 13% 28% 25% 25%
Vitamin C (60 mg) 94% 47% 15% 50% 60%
Vitamin D (400 IU) 25% 13% 13% 25% 25%
Vitamin E (30 IU) 13% 7% 7% 25% 30%
Thiamin (1.2 mg) 1% 1% 2%% 25% 25%
Riboflavin (1.3 mg) 31% 16% 19% 25% 25%
Niacin (16 mg) 7% 4% 6% 25% 25%
Vitamin B12 (2.4 mg) 25% 13% 13% 25% 25%
Phosphorus (700 mg) 45% 23% 23% 25% 30%
Magnesium (400 mg) 21% 11% 11% 25% 25%
Zinc (11 mg) 10% 5% 5% 25% 30%
Please note: Percentages are of the Daily Value given in the "Nutrients" column.