I’m so excited to be doing my first official product review and giveaway with Garden of Life! I met some Garden of Life reps at this year’s BlogHer conference in San Jose, and I learned about their very generous product review program. In exchange for a little PR from bloggers, Garden of Life shares full-sized samples with the writers AND the readers! I’m stoked to be giving this stuff away to you! Stay tuned, because a few more giveaways are in the works!
Background: My Past Life in Retail
Before I launch into this review, I wanted to share that I used to pedal these products (and many others) as the Supplement Buyer and Specialist at Whole Foods Market back on the East Coast. In that role, I was in charge of choosing what went on the shelves and how they were displayed. Part of my responsibility in selling all the products in the Whole Body department was to actually know what I was talking about when customers asked me questions. We were lucky to have vendors from so many supplement companies come and tell us about their products and why it might be beneficial to include them in a healthy lifestyle plan. In truth, these little vendor sessions are the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today. I was inspired.
All this is to say that I have learned about and tried a number of Garden of Life products over the years, and I understand where they sit in comparison to competitors on the shelves of natural food stores. I recognize that these products are not cheap, and I assure you that there’s a reason for that. Garden of Life offers high quality, organic, sprouted (when possible) whole food dietary supplements. They emphasize improved bioavailability of all the ingredients in their products and push for the biggest “bang for the buck” whenever possible, cramming in as many phytonutrients and boosters as they can.
Food vs Supplements
I’ll be the first to say that I’m more of a “food eater” than a “powder mixer” or “pill-popper,” so when Garden of Life offered these product reviews to me, I was hesitant. I hope that knowing I rarely take supplements will actually bolster your opinion of the products I review — if I’m going to bother reviewing them, it’s because I think they’re worth using. Take that for what it’s worth. 🙂
When you have a look at the ingredients panel of most Garden of Life products, you’ll likely notice things that aren’t included in your typical bottle of vitamins or vat of protein powder. You’ll see sprouted grains, beans, and seeds, sea vegetables, green powders and juices, enzymes and probiotics. Basically, you’ll see things that you might buy in the bulk section of your grocery store condensed into supplement form. I like that. I think that supplements like these can play two potential roles in a person’s life.
- Training Wheels: If you’re just starting out on a new healthy lifestyle plan and need to on-ramp, so to speak, supplementing could be a good idea. They can help you bridge the gap between your old way of life and your slowly improving lifestyle.
- Next-level Booster: If you’re feeling like you’ve made all the changes you can make and are doing the very best you can with your diet and lifestyle but still feel like you need a boost (whether it’s a boost for fat loss, energy, muscle gain, digestive support, immune support, etc), then taking a few supplements could do the trick here as well.
Typical Protein Powders
There are 2 main reasons I don’t tend to use protein powders all that much.
I don’t like to advocate that people force themselves to stomach nasty products in the name of health. I believe that enjoying what you’re eating and doing is an integral part of being healthy, and I choose to live that way. Most protein powders taste chalky or chemical-y, or just gross to me, so I don’t use them. I do have a few favorites (check out my online store to see some of them), and I’ve just added a new favorite to the list with this Raw Meal product.
Supplements are just like food when it comes to quality, in that where and how the ingredients are sourced will impact how your body responds to them.
- Organic ingredients in supplements are superior to conventional ones for the same reason organic foods are superior.
- If you’re dairy-intolerant, whey won’t work for you.
- If you have digestive or hormonal challenges, you probably shouldn’t be consuming massive amounts of soy.
- If you’re trying to avoid GMOs, then you probably shouldn’t be consuming whey or soy, because chances are those cows were fed GMO corn and the vast majority of soy grown in this country is of the GMO variety.
- How thoroughly these ingredients are processed makes a a great deal of difference in how they affect your system (just like with processed foods).
- Protein isolates (the most common ingredient in most protein powders) are taken out of the context of their whole food constituents and can sometimes create digestive upset or put stress on the liver and kidneys.
This product contains zero whey, zero soy, and zero protein isolate. Rather, the proteins are sourced from sprouted grains, beans, and seeds. Also included are enzymes and probiotics to support the digestive process along the way. This product really is a “meal” in that regard, and I love that about it. I chose to review the chocolate one so that I wouldn’t be tempted to turn it into the base of a smoothie, my typical use for protein powders.
As for flavor, my review is a little more nuanced. If I’m going to use a protein powder, I literally NEVER mix it exclusively with water. Every time I’ve tasted a protein powder mixed with water, I’ve found it completely disgusting. This is just me, but it’s an absolutely across-the-board truth for me, even with my very favorite protein powder of all time. Because I was doing this review however, I decided to try it a few different ways, including the way the product indicates — with water. Gross. I wasn’t surprised.
Then I tried it with unsweetened plain almond milk, and it made a world of difference. I could drink it like that for sure!
My final addition was 1/2 a banana (with a “meal” serving.Use 1/4 a banana for the “snack” serving). This was delicious! Granted, adding a bit of banana does add some sugar and calories to your drink, but a chocolate banana version of this Raw Meal was absolutely the way to go.
And it was thick and creamy too, which can sometimes feel more filling than a thin, liquidy drink. If you think it’s too thick with the banana, add a bit more almond milk or maybe even a little water to thin it out some.
I drank a “snack” serving of the Raw Meal this morning, had a muffin around 10 am, and wasn’t hungry for lunch until about 1pm. I’d say that’s a pretty good fill and would imagine that a full “meal” serving would keep me full well-past 10am.
So there you have it folks. My first Garden of Life product review! What’d you think?
Do you want to try Raw Meal for yourself?
As I said at the beginning of this post, I am giving away some Raw Meal to my readers, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! You could be one of the 5 lucky winners of a FREE full-sized jar of Raw Meal! Simply enter to win with this awesome little raffle tool below! The more entries you have, the better your chances of winning!
If you win, I’ll contact you directly to find out where to ship your winnings!