Health & Wellness
15 Easy Ways to Pack More Protein into Your Smoothie
Ditch the expensive protein powders! You can create high protein smoothies with whole foods instead. Dietitians weigh in with some unique ways to boost your favorite smoothies with whole foods and plant-based options.
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.
Make our So-Healthy Smoothies with fat-free milk.
Thick Greek yogurt can pack a powerful punch of protein with 18 to 20 grams per cup. Not all yogurts are created equal, so be sure to read the labels carefully when making your pick. See what Greek yogurt brand won our taste test!
Surprised? It adds a creamy, cheesecake-like flavor along with 25 grams of protein per cup. When you see Greek yogurt or tofu in a smoothie recipe, you can use cottage cheese instead. Sip on this Super Mango Smoothie, which calls for both cottage cheese and flaxseed.
Kefir is a probiotic-rich, yogurt-like drink that gets my stamp of approval, as noted in this piece on clean eating. Simply substitute kefir in place of milk, yogurt or non-dairy alternatives in your smoothie. I like to blend 1 cup kefir + 1 tablespoon peanut butter + 1 tablespoon cocoa + 1 cup spinach and 1 banana.
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 makes for a nutty and slightly chewy texture. Find even more unexpected smoothie ingredients!
Edamame or Tofu
Edamame gets New York City-based Amy Gorin, MS, RDN‘s thumbs up. “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.
In general, 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. Sure, pineapple may be the favored tropical fruit, but try guava next time you crave the tropics.
San Diego based Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT adds flaxseed to smoothies. “Just one 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!” Serve up 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 to a smoothie recipe can boost the protein by almost 3 grams, in addition to adding loads of vitamins and minerals. You can add a cup of spinach to this Peanut Butter Smoothie, which is kid-tested and mom-approved by this dietitian’s family!
Nuts and Nut Butters
San Diego-based dietitian Amanda Hibshman uses nuts for a protein boost in smoothies. Amanda says adding almonds to a smoothie provides great texture, like chocolate chips, but they are full of calcium, protein and healthy fats instead of sugar.
Philadelphia-based dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RDN, CSSD is a big fan of shelled hemp seeds in smoothies. Hemp adds plant-based protein, healthy fats and iron. It also creates a nice, smooth texture. Find all sorts of healthy recipes to eat on the go.
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Lots of fiber, plant-based protein and omega-3 fatty acids make these little black seeds a perfect addition to any smoothie. If the texture makes your skin crawl, blend them up first, then add in remaining smoothie ingredients. Look for more creative uses for chia seeds.
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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 two 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.
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