How to Choose a Plant-Based Protein Powder, According to a Holistic Nutritionist
Giving your body the right amount of protein helps your body build and repair tissues; it’s also critical for your bones, muscles, skin and blood. Eating protein can help you feel full and help you achieve your fitness goals, which is why it’s totally great to give yourself kudos for making grilled chicken salads, nuts or protein-packed Greek yogurt a part your regular diet. What’s next? Maybe adding in a plant-based protein powder.
Elissa Goodman, a Los Angeles-based holistic nutritionist, reminds us that despite common misconceptions, protein powder can benefit a wide range of people—extending far beyond body builders or fitness models you might see on social media. “Swapping out protein in the form of two eggs for a scoop of protein powder in a smoothie for breakfast would be an extraordinarily healthier choice for the majority of people, for example,” she explains. “When you eat eggs, you’re eating more than just the protein within them; you’re eating the negative food particles as well.”
When it comes to the actual powder she advises eating, Elissa swears by vegan varieties. “I’m a fan of vegan protein powder for a few reasons,” she says. “Some people might find it surprising that, in general, Americans get too much protein in their diet! But on top of that, the quality of protein they’re consuming isn’t always the best: Most people are eating some form of animal protein at every meal. Perhaps eggs for breakfast, a piece of chicken on a salad for lunch and grilled fish for dinner. We often think of meat and dairy as the best ways to get protein without considering the plants can add to our diets in terms of protein.”
Plant protein is fantastic, Elissa says. “It comes with much lower fat content than animal protein, and has absolutely no cholesterol (since plants do not have livers to produce cholesterol). This is especially great for pickier people who might not like the texture of tofu or tempeh, or the taste of beans and lentils,” she says. So how do you begin to choose a plant-based protein powder?
3 Things to Look for When Buying Plant-Based Protein Powder
If you’re ready to try a plant-based protein powder, Elissa mentions three things to look for.
1. Search for a short list. A good protein powder will only have a few ingredients. “Look for protein powders with the shortest ingredient list,” Elissa advises. “If it’s a specific type of protein (meaning it is a hemp-based protein powder or a pea protein powder, for instance), that should be the first ingredient on the list. If you’re looking for a true plant-based powder, skip anything containing whey or casein—they’re derived from dairy.”
2. Ditch fillers and fake sweeteners. You probably don’t need extra sugar in your diet, so be cautious about scanning potential powders to purchase for artificial sweeteners. “Be skeptical of anything with ‘natural flavors’ as this is often just a cover for practically any ingredient a company wants to add,” Elissa warns.
3. Opt for organic. “Since protein powder is in a highly condensed form of protein, I think it is really important for people to be getting it organic—especially if they are going to be eating it frequently,” Elissa shares. “I recommend PlantFusion specifically to my clients; their ingredients are high quality and they are meticulous about sourcing ingredients.”
4 Ways to Incorporate Protein Powder Into Your Diet
1. Make a smoothie or shake. “Adding protein to a (mostly veggie) smoothie is a great way to make the smoothie a full meal,” Elissa offers. “For a shake, I love adding a scoop of protein powder to 1.5 cups of unsweetened almond milk, throwing in a couple pieces of ice (and maybe a teaspoon of spirulina powder for good measure) and giving it a shake. It takes all of 30 seconds and is a delicious way to get a healthy serving of protein in after a workout.”
2. Cook with it. Get creative in the kitchen! “You can include protein powder in place of flour in many recipes, like pancakes.I also love briefly throwing a scoop in a food processor with a couple dates, a little almond milk and some nuts and then molding the batter into protein balls,” Elissa says.
3. Add it to oatmeal. Elissa says, “Getting a delicious serving of fiber and protein at the same time is a great way to start the day off on a fueled foot!”
4. Treat yourself to chia pudding. One of her go-tos, Elissa tells us that chia pudding is a perfect breakfast or snack. She chooses a chocolate similarly flavored protein powder for her pudding. Her easy recipe? “Add a scoop of protein powder and whisk in 2 ½ cups unsweetened nut milk and 1/3 cup chia seeds.”
Curious about what dairy can do in your diet? Two dietitians weigh on what’s the deal with dairy.