Ditch the Protein Powder for Real Food!

By Michele DiCristofaro, RD

 

Smoothies are a great way to get your daily dose of fruits and vegetables, but they can get mucked up quickly depending on the ingredients you use. Balancing your smoothie with some protein and healthy fat, will lead to a more nutrient dense and satisfying meal or snack. 

Sure protein powders may feel easy, but they tend to be highly processed, contain unnecessary ingredients and can be expensive. Here are some great high protein, whole food options that you might just have at home!  

Yogurt: 

Greek (6 oz.) = 20 grams of protein 

Regular yogurt = 9 grams of protein 

Yogurts can have a lot of added sugars so it is best to stick with plain (not vanilla!) and let your fresh or frozen fruit do the sweetening! 

Nuts: 

1 oz. = 5 to7 grams of protein. 

Use whatever you have on hand such as almonds, cashews, walnuts or pecans. Nuts are a fantastic source of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and fiber – all great for blood sugar control. 

Nut Butters: 

2 tbsp. = 7 to 8 grams of protein  

Be creative!  There are different types of nut butters you can try: peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini (made from sesame seeds), almond butter, sunflower butter or hazelnut butter.  You can even use peanut butter powder, but make sure there is no added sugar. 

Seeds: 

2 tbsp. = 3 to 7 grams of protein 

Check out these little powerhouses!  There are so many other fantastic benefits in addition to protein. 

Chia Seeds: 

Rich in fiber and anti-inflammatory fat. Add them raw or soak in water for 30 minutes prior to using to create a softened, more gelatinized texture. 

Flax Seeds: 

High in omega-3 fats, these seeds may also help regulate blood pressure control.  Try to buy ground flax seeds or use a powerful blender.  Flax needs to be pulverized to release their natural oils that are oh-so-good for us.  

Hemp Seeds: 

These beautiful seeds contain 7 grams of protein (!) and have a mild, nutty flavor. Hemp seeds are also rich in iron, omega 3’s and magnesium.  So definitely give these a try. 

Spirulina: 

1 tbsp. = 4 grams of protein 

This algae is rich in minerals and contains 4 grams protein, a slew of antioxidants and vitamin B12. 

Maca: 

2 tbsp. = 6 grams of protein 

Maca root is part of the cruciferous family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. This powerhouse family contains a healthy serving of cancer-fighting properties and antioxidants. 

Oats:  

½ cup = 13 grams of protein 

Oats contain the most protein of all whole grains.  In addition, it’s rich in fiber, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. 

Now that we know how to load our smoothies up with protein sources in our pantry, let’s put this into perspective.  One scoop of protein powder can have 23 grams of protein – depending on the brand, of course.  Let’s make a smoothie with some of the ingredients mentioned above and of course we’ll add some other good stuff like a banana and some spinach.  

Greek yogurt 20 grams 

Peanut butter 2 tbsp. 8 grams 

Chia seeds 2 tbsp. 4 grams 

Almond milk 1 cup 2 grams 

This smoothie contains 34 grams of protein without adding protein powder! 

Added bonus – these plant-based foods are packed with that good fiber we need to keep our gut healthy.  So save your dollars and create your own high protein smoothie without the powder!  

Here are some tasty smoothie recipes to try! Enjoy! 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie 

1 banana 

1 cup of almond milk (or cashew, oat, etc.) 

1 tbsp. of peanut butter powder or 2 tbsp. of any nut or seed butter 

½ cup blueberries, strawberries or mixed berries (fresh or frozen) 

¼ cup oats 

2 tbsp. chia, flax or hemp seeds 

Strawberry Banana Smoothie 

2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen) 

1 banana 

plain yogurt, 4-6 oz. container 

1 cup almond milk 

2 tbsp. chia, flax or hemp seeds 

Creamy Tropical Smoothie 

plain yogurt, 4-6 oz. container 

½ cup mango 

½ cup pineapple 

¼ cup shredded coconut flakes (unsweetened) 

1 cup coconut water 

2 tbsp. chia, flax or hemp seeds 

Unite for HER and author are not responsible for any specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision and are not liable for any damages or negative consequences from any treatment, action, application or preparation, to any person reading or following the information in this article. References are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute endorsement of any websites or other sources. Readers should be aware that the products listed in this article may change.