Pros: Great nutritional supplement and great taste.
Cons: Pretty pricey; I can't afford to drink one a day.
"If it's supposed to be good for you, it can't taste too good."
As a relatively healthy 40-something-year-old guy, I have become a bit more actively involved in taking care of myself. I have been walking at least once a day for the past 10 years, a habit I acquired since I was given my yellow Labrador retriever puppy, Mary Joe, in late February of 1995 and have tried to retain since MJ's passing in April of 2003. Indeed, until Fountainbleau Boulevard's traffic became insanely dangerous, I sometimes chose to walk to the Miami International Mall when I really wanted to go shopping and didn't feel like waiting for a Metrobus. I also climb up and down stairs at home; we live in a two-story house and our bedrooms are on the second floor, so I'm regularly shuttling between floors to do chores, eat meals, spend time with my mom, watch movies on my DVD player, or get water and snacks for mom when we are watching the same show on her TV. It's not quite as beneficial as going to a gym or playing tennis, but at least I am not totally sedentary.
I also don't eat as much as I used to, either. Rarely do I eat a big "traditional" breakfast of orange juice, cereal, eggs, toast, and coffee; my morning meal now consists of two mugs of coffee (milk, two teaspoons of sugar) and four slices of bread, usually a mix of raisin bread and white bread, toasted and with Smart Balance spread instead of butter. I eat breakfast rather late, so I hardly eat lunch; midday is when I write my Epinions reviews and have my "short" Internet daytime allowance and I hate taking out time to eat, especially when I'm not that hungry. So the only really complete meal is dinner, which we usually have around 5 P.M.; this is followed by an 8 P.M. fruit snack and a 9 P.M. cereal or junk food snack, though as of late the junk food is usually microwave popcorn rather than potato or corn chips.
This is, of course, not quite a starvation diet, but I know I probably am not getting enough nutritional bang for our grocery bucks. I know I should try to eat more and increase my caloric intake a bit, as well as taking in more vitamins and minerals. Yet I no longer have the voracious appetite I had as a younger man, and I simply can't force myself to eat, especially when stress and other emotional extremes rob me of the desire to eat.
Fortunately, the Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories developed Ensure, a "complete, balanced nutrition" drink that not only provides more than 10% of a day's recommended 2,000-calorie allowance (each 8 oz. serving has 250 calories, 50 of them from fat), but an alphabet soup of 24 vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, including lutein, a natural food component that is found in the eye and has the ability to filter some of the damaging light from the sun.
I've known about Ensure for about five years or so, when its TV ads touted its virtues and benefits for people 50 and over; the commercials rarely featured people in their 30s and 40s (in other words, my age group), so I didn't pay much attention to them. I also, based on my experiences with "food that's good for you," figured that it probably didn't taste very good. The ads touted Ensure's variety of flavors, which include chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, but I expected -- if I bothered to try Ensure, that is -- that there would be some unpleasant aspects...such as a too-heavy "malty" aftertaste or chalkiness to it. I still remember wanting to try Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats based on their commercials, only to find that it was like eating sugar-frosted straw; Ensure's commercials made it look yummy, sort of like a supercharged version of Yoohoo or Carnation Instant Breakfast.
Ensure: What it's for...what it's made of:
(From the official Ensure website at www.ensure.com)
ENSURE is complete, balanced nutrition for supplemental use with or between meals. When consumed in appropriate amounts, ENSURE can be used as a sole source of nutrition.
For people on modified diets
For people at nutrition risk
For those with involuntary weight loss
For people who need a low-cholesterol or low-residue diet
For patients recovering from illness or surgery
NowRicher, creamier taste for institutional vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, eggnog, black walnut, and coffee flavors. Complete, balanced nutrition Low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol Excellent source of 24 essential vitamins and minerals Lactose- and gluten-free For oral or tube feeding
Nutrient Profile per 8 fl oz: Calories 250; Protein (% Cal) 14.1, Total Fat (% Cal) 22.0, Carbohydrate (% Cal) 63.9
Ingredients: Vanilla: Water, sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, maltodextrin (corn), calcium caseinate, high-oleic safflower oil, canola oil, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, corn oil, calcium phosphate tribasic, potassium citrate, magnesium phosphate dibasic, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, magnesium chloride, salt (sodium chloride), carrageenan, choline chloride, potassium chloride, ascorbic acid, ferrous sulfate, alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc sulfate, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, cupric sulfate, vitamin A palmitate, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, chromium chloride, biotin, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, potassium iodide, phylloquinone, vitamin D3 and cyanocobalamin.
Chocolate flavor contains 2.4 mg of caffeine per 8-fl-oz serving. Coffee Latte and Coffee flavors contain a trace amount of caffeine.
Vitamin A, IU 1250 Vitamin D, IU 100 Vitamin E, IU 7.5 Vitamin K, mcg 20 Vitamin C, mg 30 Folic Acid, mcg 100 Thiamin (Vitamin B1), mg 0.38 Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), mg 0.43 Vitamin B6, mg 0.5 Vitamin B12, mcg 1.5 Niacin, mg 5 Choline, mg 100 Biotin, mcg 75 Pantothenic Acid, mg 2.5
Yeah, but does it taste good?
I first got a taste of Ensure early in January of 2005; my sister, who's a registered nurse, was visiting and heard me talking about Ensure. We were watching Wheel of Fortune when one of the newer ads -- which features people closer to my age group, aired. I had been feeling fatigued that day and was dwelling on the fact that I don't eat as much as I used to, and it seemed like Ensure might be a good alternative to "force feeding" myself.
"I dunno," I said after the commercial gave way to an ad for GEICO. "That stuff looks good enough on TV, but I don't know if it'll taste any good."
"Oh, some of my elderly patients drink it, Alex, and they say it's delicious. I can get you some from Costco next time I go; would you like some?" my sister asked.
That's my sister for you. We don't always get along, but she does things like that for me.
A week later she showed up after work, a 32-fl. oz. Value Size bottle of Chocolate flavored Ensure. with 4 servings. The bottle was plastic and had an "easy-open, reclosable" lid. I hefted it, looked at it somewhat warily, and placed it in the fridge, planning to save it for my TV watching snack.
To make a long story short, that night I poured myself a glass It looked like regular chocolate milk, which I still drink since I don't like plain milk (a residue of my childhood, I guess). I took a sip, expecting at least some chalkiness.
Oh, man. Was I happy when I took that first sip. While it did not taste like my regular Hershey's-and-2% low fat "moo-juice) mix (it reminded me of well-mixed Ovaltine), it didn't taste bad, either. Ensure doesn't taste chalky or malty; it is delicious and goes down smoothly.
The only downside, from a low-income family point of view, is that it doesn't come cheap. A six-bottle pack of the 8 oz serving size costs up to $6.00 or more, and you have to look for it at the Pharmacy section of your favorite grocery store.