8 Sneaky Ways to Add Protein to Your Smoothie–Without Protein Powder

An unsurprising fact about me is that I have always loved smoothies. Regardless of the time of year, I can be found blending one up for breakfast or a post-workout snack. I love knowing that I can not-so-secretly add in full servings of fruits and vegetables while creating something that tastes akin to a milkshake. My rule of thumb when it comes to smoothies? I always want to make sure they’ll actually keep me full, and I rely on a combination of carbohydrates (like fruits), healthy fats (chia seeds and nut butter), and protein to do just that.

There are many ways to boost your smoothies with ingredients that support your overall health; however, adding a protein source is key to promoting satiety and muscle and hormonal health. Many people opt for protein powders in their smoothies as a way to provide ample protein in one easy scoop. Though convenient, protein powders can be expensive and aren’t suitable for everyone, depending on your individual dietary needs. If you’re looking for other options to increase your protein in smoothies, there are plenty of plant-based and animal-sourced foods to choose from. Keep reading for protein smoothie hacks, or ways to add protein to your smoothies that don’t involve using protein powders.

1. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has had a renaissance, and social media has made it clear that it’s here to stay. While adding it to your morning smoothie may seem unconventional, once it is blended with other whole food ingredients such as berries, it turns into a creamy, almost dessert-like drink. Plus, it provides an additional 14 grams of protein. Good Culture is a brand I always turn to because of its minimal ingredients and live and active cultures to support gut health. This brand also offers a lactose-free option for those with dairy sensitivities (and you can’t taste the difference!).

2. Red Lentils

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Though commonly used for savory dishes, you can easily blend a serving of lentils into your smoothie for a cost-effective, plant-based protein boost. Mixed with some banana and nut butter, you won’t even notice the lentils in your smoothie. Red lentils also offer additional health benefits, such as boosting energy and digestion (thank you, fiber!). Red lentils can easily be prepped ahead of time (only require 15 minutes in boiling water), so you can keep them on hand for your next smoothie fix.

3. Greek Yogurt

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When it comes to yogurt, I recommend opting for one that has around 15 grams of protein per serving, no added sugar, and probiotics. Trader Joe’s Plain Greek Nonfat Yogurt fits the bill with 17 grams of protein in a serving and zero added sugar. Greek yogurt is especially beneficial to add to smoothies because you get the double benefit of probiotics (good bacteria) to support your gut health, in addition to protein.

4. Hemp Heart Seeds

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With one serving delivering 10 grams of protein, hemp heart seeds prove that good things come in small (plant-based) packages. They’re also a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can benefit skin and heart health along with reducing inflammation (which is good for overall disease prevention). Blend them into your smoothie for the added health benefits or sprinkle them on top for a subtle, nutty flavor.

5. Tofu

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Tofu is a plant-based protein source and also a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs to create protein but can’t make on its own. Since tofu has a mild flavor, it can be used in a variety of ways, including you guessed it—blended into a smoothie. Silken tofu is ideal for smoothies because it has a creamy and soft texture; however, you can use regular tofu as well. Try tofu blended with your favorite fruit or follow this recipe here.

6. Almond Butter

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I’m not biased when it comes to nut butter—I love them all! But since we’re talking smoothies, I reach for almond butter most often for both the flavor and added nutrients. Almonds contain heart-healthy fats, vitamin E (which has been shown to reduce inflammation), and iron. Since one serving has 7 grams of protein, I’d recommend pairing almond butter with another protein source from this list to help reach your daily protein goal.

7. Kefir

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Like yogurt, kefir is a fermented beverage made from cow, goat, or sheep milk. Due to the fermentation process, kefir has up to 60 strains of good bacteria that can help support gut health. One serving contains 10 grams of protein, and since kefir is thinner in consistency than yogurt, you can use it to substitute milk or juice as a liquid base for your smoothies, while still reaping the benefits of added protein. Similar to yogurt, I like to stick with plain kefir to keep the added sugar in my smoothies to a minimum.

8. White Beans

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In case you haven’t noticed, I’m all about budget-friendly protein options. Canned beans, particularly white beans, add additional protein (9 grams per serving) to your smoothies without breaking the bank. Plus, beans are another good source of fiber to keep you satisfied for longer. Like most other plant-based protein sources, white beans are mild in flavor, so they won’t be competing in flavor alongside your favorite fruit and other smoothie additions.

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