8 Nutritionist-Approved Ways to Add Protein to a Smoothie (Without Those Expensive Powders)
Protein shakes are a great post-workout snack, but pricey powders can be filled with sugar and other additives. Try one of these easy-to-find ingredients instead.
You might already use yogurt as a base, but upgrading to a thicker Greek-style version will make your smoothie a protein powerhouse. One six-ounce cup of plain Greek yogurt packs in a whopping 18 grams of protein. Flavored versions can be surprisingly high in sugar, so stick with plain, says registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary specialist Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You can control the sugar,” she says. “If you want something a little sweeter, add a little honey or fruit.”
Dairy-free smoothie drinkers rejoice: Tofu is an amazing substitute for yogurt when you’re looking for a creamy texture. With half a cup of silken tofu, you’ll pack in 4 grams of protein per serving. And just like how tofu is known for taking on the flavor of other ingredients when you’re cooking, it won’t overwhelm the taste of your smoothie fixings either. Check out these other vegetarian protein options.
Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast choice on its own, but it can also help transform an unsatisfying smoothie into a full-fledged meal. “You get a couple more grams of fiber, a couple grams of protein, and a serving of whole grains,” says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With just 1/3 cup, you’ll load up your drink with 3.5 grams of protein and 2.7 grams of fiber to leave your tummy full and happy.
Just like how companies will roll oats flat to make hot cereal, quinoa seeds can also be pressed down into flakes. They have about a gram more protein per third-cup serving than oatmeal, giving you an even bigger bang for your buck. Plus, you’ll get that same great texture. “It can add some thickness to your smoothie,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Peanut butter is a classic favorite, but two tablespoons of any type of nut butter will add about 7 grams of protein to your smoothie. Rumsey suggests mixing things up to keep your smoothie recipes interesting. “I always recommend a variety,” she says. “If you usually do peanut butter, try almond butter.” But if you’re worried about fat content, check the label. Cashew butter, for instance, is higher in unhealthy saturated fats than peanut and almond butter, says Passerrello.
Throw a scoop of mild-tasting flax, chia, or hemp seeds for a couple grams of protein that won’t affect your smoothie’s flavor. “In just a tablespoon, you’re adding a couple grams of fat, fiber, and protein,” says Rumsey. “It helps that smoothie stay with you longer.”
The healthy unsaturated fats in avocados typically get all the glory, but half an avocado will also boost your smoothie with a couple grams of protein. And if you haven’t blended avo into your morning drink before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the smooth texture and barely noticeable taste, says Haas.