Smoothies are a great breakfast when you are on the go, however, if you are not using the right balance of ingredients you can end up creating a big sugar bomb, making them a less-than-ideal choice. Of course, adding fruit and veggies to a smoothie is great, but adding protein to a smoothie is vital as it helps to balance your blood sugar, minimize your cravings and keep you fueled and full for hours to come. Although protein powder is a simple way to add protein to a smoothie, it’s not everyone’s favorite and it is essentially a form of processed food, therefore opting for whole foods is always the best choice. So, in order to help you create a well-balanced smoothie packed with protein, here are 11 ways that you can add protein to a smoothie that don’t involve protein powder at all!
How to Add Protein To Smoothies
Here are 11 different whole-food ways to add protein to smoothies.
1. Plain Yogurt
Yogurt, specifically plain yogurt, is a great way to add protein to a smoothie while giving it a rich and creamy texture at the same time. Whether it’s original, Greek, Balkan, or Icelandic, yogurt contains up to 10-15 grams of protein per cup which can help to increase the protein content of any shake. Regardless of what variety you chose, ensure that you are using real yogurt, made with whole milk and bacterial cultures, and be sure to opt for the plain and full-fat variety to help keep the overall sugar content down.
2. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are the soft seeds from the hemp plant that have a mild and nutty taste. Compared to chia and flax seeds, hemp seeds contain more protein gram per gram with 10 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon serving. In addition to being a source of plant-based protein, hemp seeds are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids and, thanks to their soft texture, can easily be blended into any shake without even knowing they are there.
3. Almond Butter
Although peanut butter is the fan favorite, almond butter provides almost the same amount of protein per serving at roughly 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. Not only do a couple of tablespoons provide some much-needed protein, but they also provide great flavor and some healthy fat which helps to create a well-balanced smoothie. However, if almond butter is not your thing, you can also use cashew, walnut, or pecan butter, although they won’t provide as much protein per serving every little bit counts.
4. Chia Seeds
Similar to hemp seeds, a few spoonfuls of chia seeds can help add more protein to a smoothie. Every tablespoon of chia seeds contains 2 grams of protein, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids and 4 grams of beneficial fiber. Although chia seeds don’t contain a ton of protein on their own, they can easily be paired with another source of protein to help give a smoothie a little boost.
For those who tolerate dairy, using whole milk in a smoothie is an easy way to increase the overall protein content. One cup of whole milk contains 9 grams of protein, compared to almond milk which contains 1 gram per cup, and coconut milk which contains less than 1 gram per cup. Of course, it is important that you tolerate dairy well and that you opt for unflavoured versions, however, cow’s milk can be a great choice and is a great way to add protein to a smoothie.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
If you’ve got a high-powered blender, pumpkin seeds can help to add a little boost of protein to any morning shake. Next to hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds lead the seed family in protein content as they contain 9 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons, as well as a high mineral content from manganese, zinc, and iron. However, if your blender is not strong enough to grind pumpkin seeds you can simply use pumpkin seed butter instead.
7. Peanut Butter
There is a good chance this is already a go-to ingredient in a lot of smoothies, so this is a friendly reminder that peanut butter contains 4 grams of protein for every 1 tablespoon serving. When buying peanut butter, be sure to opt for natural versions, made with only nuts and/or salt, as the conventional versions are really more of a peanut-butter-flavored-icing once you consider all of the added sugars and refined oils that are included.
8. Silken Tofu
For those following a vegetarian diet or who are unable to eat dairy, tofu is a great way to add protein to a smoothie and create a velvety texture at the same time. Although it may sound a little odd, tofu is a great source of plant-based protein and the soft varieties blend up like a charm. Depending on the brand and firmness that you buy, tofu averages about 8 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, and it is a great way to put the leftover scraps from dinner to good use.
9. Flax Seeds
Similar to chia seeds, flax seeds don’t provide a ton of protein per serving, however, every little bit counts. One tablespoon of flax seeds provides 2 grams of protein, as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids. Like all nuts and seeds, flax seeds can help to add a little boost of protein and some healthy fats to create a balanced meal but to really increase the protein intake ensure that you pair them with an additional source of protein in your shake.
In case you have never heard of it, kefir is a fermented milk beverage that is similar to yogurt. While yogurt is made from the fermentation of bacteria in milk, kefir is a combination of bacteria and yeast fermentation and contains a higher amount of beneficial probiotics with a slightly more bitter taste. Much like yogurt, kefir can easily be blended into any smoothie, although it pairs best with berries, and provides up to 8 grams of protein per 1 cup. Cow’s milk kefir is the most well-known, but you can also find goat’s milk and sheep’s milk options in most grocery stores.
11. Sesame Seeds
In addition to hemp, pumpkin, chia, and flax, sesame seeds are an easy way to give a smoothie a little protein boost. At 2 grams of protein per tablespoon, they are relatively low in protein compared to other options, but they do come with the benefit of some added calcium, and opting for their butter version, also known as tahini, can help to provide a rich and creamy texture.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to adding protein to a smoothie, there are a ton of different options to choose from. Although opting for a protein powder is a quick fix, using a combination of whole-food options will always be the best choice. Depending on what flavor of smoothie you are making, you can opt for one, two, three, or more of the options listed above to suit your needs, but regardless of what you choose, always ensure that your smoothie is well-balanced with a source of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to keep you energized, fueled and full for hours to come.