Beyond Protein Powder: 5 Ways to Add Protein to Smoothies

Breakfast is a challenge for me. I know, I know. It’s the most important meal of the day. But most mornings I just can’t stand the thought of chewing before 11am.

For many years I would simply skip breakfast. I was the extra-large-coffee-on-the-go kind of person. Which inevitably left me starving and cranky well before lunch. Not a sustainable approach and one that wreaked havoc on my already-sensitive digestive system.

Nowadays I aim to get my day started on a better foot. I drink a small glass of lemon water when I wake up. (FYI, this has been a game-changer for me. As someone with chronic digestion issues, this little addition helps wake up my stomach and gets it ready to do a better job breaking down food for the rest of the day.) Sometimes I manage an egg on whole grain toast for breakfast, but most often I turn to smoothies.

I like drinking my first meal of the day because it’s an easy way to get a whole mess of good stuff in my body right out of the gate. My son also loves smoothies, so I’ve started making a big batch every morning so there’s enough for the whole family.

There are infinite ways to make a smoothie. If you’re just getting started, here’s a round-up from The Natural Nurturer with some delicious options. She also shares some helpful tips on getting your kids hooked on smoothies.

When I build a smoothie, I’m looking for a good balance of carbs, healthy fats and protein because I want it to truly represent a balanced meal and not just a sweet treat.

To do this, I use this BASIC SMOOTHIE FORMULA:

1 part fruit (any kind of fruit works!)

½ part vegetables (frozen cauliflower, avocado, raw zucchini, raw spinach, frozen kale, and roasted sweet potatoes are all good options)

1 serving protein (see below)

1 serving superfoods (I look for ingredients that are super nurtrient-rich like chia seeds, coconut butter, chlorella, reishi mushroom, or maca)

1 cup liquid, plus more as needed (any dairy or nut milk, coconut water, or good-old-fashioned filtered water)

flavor bombs, to taste (try adding fresh herbs, citrus zest or extracts to your smoothies for extra flavor without any additional sugar or fat)

(NOTE: I always try to get some healthy fats in my smoothies, too. They usually come from the protein or superfoods. For instance, hemp seeds and coconut are both high in good fats, while also adding protein and other nutrients. Nut butters are also a good source of healthy fats and proteins.)

Getting enough protein in your smoothie is particularly important because that is what will keep you full until lunch.

Protein powders are an easy, efficient way to add protein to your smoothies. However, I know many folks who are not fans of protein powders for reasons like:

They don’t like the taste or texture.

They don’t want to spend the extra money on a supplement.

They prefer to get their nutrients from whole foods.

They have food sensitivities and have not found a protein powder that works for them.

Can you relate to any of these? Good news! You can make a perfectly healthy and delicious smoothie without protein powder. Here are my top five alternative protein sources for smoothies.

Hemp Seeds: 2 tbl = 10 grams protein

This is my go-to protein for smoothies. Not only does a small amount pack a big punch of protein, but hemp seeds are also rich in the essential fatty acids that our body doesn’t organically produce. They don’t taste like much, so the other flavors in your smoothie will shine through.

Quinoa: ½ cup cooked = 4 grams protein

I love this option because I often have a bowl of leftover cooked quinoa in my fridge. It makes adding protein to salads and smoothies really easy. It will, however, make your smoothie thick so you may want to add more liquid.

Silken Tofu: ½ cup = 10 grams

If you think you don’t like tofu, I hope you will still give silken tofu a chance. It adds the most lovely creamy texture, is virtually flavorless, and provides a lot of plant-based protein. Always look for organic and non-gmo tofu as it’s made from soybeans which are a notorious gmo crop.

Greek Yogurt: ½ cup = 10 grams (or more, depending on the brand)

This is something you probably already have in your fridge that is super high in protein and will give you a nice dose of probiotics. Just be sure you are buying greek yogurt that is plain, sugar-free, and free of any gums or other binding ingredients.

Dairy Keifer: 1/3 cup = 5 grams protein

Think of this as “drinkable yogurt.” It’s tangy and luscious like yogurt but is often higher in probiotics. Look for plain keifer so you are not unwittingly adding sugar to your smoothie.

Let me know about your favorite smoothie recipes over on Instagram and Facebook.

Happy blending 🙂 


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