One of the many great things about smoothies? There are a million ways to drink them, and it's fun to experiment with different recipes and flavors. What's more? You can boost protein count by adding weird smoothie ingredients that you wouldn't normally think of, all of which happen to blend seamlessly and can even improve taste and texture. Plus, as long as you add some other sweet notes, like fresh fruit or vanilla almond milk, you'll be sure to balance out these less-sweet, protein-packed foods.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on maintaining their overall wellness. Often, smoothies are a great choice anytime of the day, as they are super easy to whip up and are versatile. Plus, if you're making a breakfast smoothie, you'll especially want to go heavy on the protein, as getting a high dose in the a.m. can help you feel mentally and physically alert for the day ahead. Another reason to drink up? After a tough workout. Smoothies can offer immediate protein for muscle recovery and growth. Of course, the standard protein powder and milk combo can get boring at times, so throwing in other ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, and these uncommon protein sources, can keep your tastebuds surprised and happy. Here, seven weird things to put in your smoothies that actually contain a ton of protein per serving.
1. Powdered Nut Butter
There's nothing wrong with adding peanut or almond butter to your smoothie, as nut butter is incredibly high in protein and tastes great. Yet, most people know about the actual nut butters. Instead, you can also get the same protein from powdered versions, explains Pamela Nisevich Bede, RD, sports dietitian with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition, over email with Bustle. “Almost anything can work in a smoothie if it’s combined with the right ingredients (and taste-masking ingredients like banana or pineapple!), so don’t be afraid to experiment. I always start with a high quality protein powder like EAS Myoplex blend and then add powdered peanut butter," Bede recommends.
A green colored smoothie that's not from kale or spinach? It's probably spirulina — a blue-green algae that has concentrated levels of protein, iron, and copper. "A single one-tablespoon serving contains only 20 calories — and about 80 percent of those calories come from protein, making it a good choice for those looking to maintain both muscle and metabolic health," says Bede. "Plus, since it contains all nine of the essential amino acids, which is rare among plant-based proteins, spirulina can be helpful to anyone reducing or eliminating their intake of meat, eggs, or dairy," Bede adds.
3. Beans & Lentils
Bede recommends adding beans and lentils, as they are high in plant-based protein and have a pretty neutral taste that can be masked by other, more flavorful and sweet foods, like fruit or dark chocolate. All you have to do is throw in a blender, as they're easy to mash up.
You might be used to adding romaine or cucumber to smoothies, but those aren't that high in protein. Instead, try broccoli. "Broccoli (and spinach) have 3 grams of protein for each ½ cup (cooked)," says Benjamin White, PhD, MPH, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian at Structure House, over email with Bustle.
A type of grain that is really high in protein (a 1 tablespoon serving has about 4g of protein), it also blends well in a smoothie and can make for a thicker consistency, if you're looking for something to fill you up for hours. Plus, the flavor profile is pretty bland, so it won't interfere with the other smoothie ingredients.
6. Egg Whites
According to Rebecca Gahan, Kick@55 Owner and Founder, over email with Bustle, egg whites, and egg white powder, are a great source of protein and don't really have much flavor, meaning it can easily complement bolder ingredients. Here's an idea though: Try adding egg whites to your smoothie for more protein. Along with a protein powder or nut butter and some fruit, and it'll make for a great post-workout shake. If you're going raw eggs route, try Davidson's, which are safe against salmonella risk, as the eggs are pasteurized in the shell. Or toss, hard boiled egg whites in the blender or opt for a dried or liquid egg white substitute for extra safety.
7. Hemp & Chia Seeds
Adding seeds to a smoothie is a great way to amp up the protein count, create some texture (making it more filling, especially if you're looking for a "meal" shake), and get a serving of heart-healthy, inflammation-fighting fats, as well, explains Gahan. What's more, "these seeds offer a complete protein count, as they contain all nine of the essential amino acids the body cannot produce on its own," Gahan explains.
If you're looking to get adventurous in the kitchen, try including some of these strange, but nutritious foods in your morning smoothie routine. You're bound to find a few awesome recipes you'll want to keep on hand.