15 Ways to Add Protein to Smoothies
Ditch the expensive protein powders! You can create high-protein smoothies with whole foods instead. Dietitians weigh in with some unique ways to boost the protein in your favorite smoothie.
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Smoothies are one of our favorite breakfast options. They taste great, are so simple to make, and are an easy way to sneak in your daily vegetable and fruit intake, which can mean plenty of fiber and vitamins. But did you know smoothies can also be a great way to get protein? Blend in an extra ingredient or two, like the high-protein options below, for a protein-packed healthy smoothie recipe you can take on the go!
Adding a scoop of protein powder is a quick way to up the protein in your favorite smoothie, but there are so many other options—and many of them will add a flavor boost, too. These natural ingredients are also cheaper than protein powder, though if protein is your only goal, you might want to reach for a protein shake.
If you’re looking to fuel up before a workout, toss in one of these ingredients the next time you whip up an energy smoothie recipe.
Cow’s milk is the protein winner over any dairy-free milk alternatives and boasts 12-grams of protein per cup. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN opts for milk in smoothies because it provides calcium, vitamin D and potassium, three nutrients that many folks lack in their diet. Try adding fat-free milk into our So-Healthy Smoothies.
Thick Greek yogurt can pack a powerful punch of protein with 18 to 20 grams per cup, creating a filling snack or meal. Switch out your regular yogurt for Greek yogurt in this blueberry banana smoothie.
Not all yogurts are created equal, so be sure to read the label when making your pick. See what Greek yogurt brand won our best yogurt taste test!
When you’re looking for the best option for protein for smoothies, think cottage cheese! It adds a creamy, cheesecake-like flavor along with 25 grams of protein per cup. If a smoothie recipe calls for Greek yogurt or tofu, you can swap in cottage cheese instead—like in this mango smoothie.
Kefir is a probiotic-rich, yogurt-like drink that gets my stamp of approval. It adds an extra 9 grams of protein per cup and is perfect when you’re trying to eat “cleaner.” Simply substitute kefir in place of milk, yogurt or non-dairy alternatives in your smoothie—or smoothie bowl—to create a high-protein smoothie.
Next time you blend a smoothie, start by whirring up 1/4 cup raw oatmeal. Once the oats look like fine flour, add in your remaining ingredients and you’ll be surprised by the cookie-like taste! This pumpkin pie smoothie is my top pick when you want to add oats.
If you feasted on quinoa the night before and have some leftover, try blending 1/4 cup into your smoothie. This protein-packed grain adds a nutty and slightly chewy texture, perfect for a peanut butter and jelly smoothie.
Edamame or Tofu
Edamame gets a thumbs up from Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. “This vegetarian protein offers 17 grams of satiating protein per cup, and has a neutral flavor in smoothies,” she says. Don’t have edamame? Make a Berry Nutritious Smoothie with tofu instead.
Fruits don’t typically boast much protein, but 1 cup of this tropical fruit actually has 4 grams. Guava is also high in vitamin C, vitamin A and folate. Try switching out the pineapple it for guava the next time you crave the tropics, like in this Pineapple Sunrise Smoothie.
San Diego-based Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT adds flaxseed to smoothies. “Just 1 tablespoon boosts omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein in a smoothie,” she says. “Flaxseeds contain lignans, a plant compound that has antioxidant proprieties that can improve one’s total health!” Give it a try with this nutrition-dense Berry Delicious Smoothie.
Much like fruits, the protein content in most vegetables is relatively small. However, adding a cup of kale or spinach can up the protein for smoothies by almost 3 grams, in addition to adding loads of vitamins and minerals. You can sneak a cup of spinach into to this peanut butter smoothie, which is kid-tested and mom-approved by this dietitian’s family!
Nuts and Nut Butters
Dietitian Amanda Hibshman uses nuts for a protein boost in smoothies. She suggests almonds for a dose of calcium, protein and healthy fats. Or try peanut butter, like in our Peanutty Strawberry Banana Smoothie.
Dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RDN, CSSD is a big fan of shelled hemp seeds in smoothies. Hemp adds plant-based protein for smoothies, plus healthy fats and iron. It also creates a nice, smooth texture. Add it to this refreshing cucumber-melon smoothie.
Lots of fiber, plant-based protein and omega-3 fatty acids make these little black seeds a perfect addition to any smoothie. If you don’t love the texture, blend them up first, then add in the other smoothie ingredients. Replace the whey protein powder for chia seeds in this Brain Food Smoothie.
Here are more creative uses for chia seeds.
Like edamame, other beans can be disguised in a smoothie. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN and author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy says adding 1/4 cup of beans is a great way to boost protein and fiber. Try blending 1/4 cup white beans into a peach smoothie.
Wheat germ doesn’t get the love it deserves! By adding 2 tablespoons of wheat germ to your favorite smoothie, you can boost the protein by over 4 grams, plus add fiber, folate, phosphorous, magnesium and manganese. Add it to this chocolate banana smoothie for protein-packed sweet treat.