It can be challenging to know how to choose a protein powder, especially when there are so many to choose from at the health food store. When it comes to protein, some of our go-to sources include eggs, chicken, fish, quinoa, lentils, nuts, and seeds. We also love a nourishing, balanced smoothie with a fantastic protein powder. Getting a bulk of your nutrients from a variety of real, whole foods is a must for healthy eating. However, for the sake of convenience and creativity, certain supplements like protein powders can really enhance your diet! If you are a DIY Cleanser, you know many of our smoothie recipes call for a protein powder. People also bake with protein powders, make fabulous protein pancakes, add it to yogurt – you can even add it to soups and salad dressings! It’s a great way to bulk up any food. Because protein powders are processed and packaged, it’s important to make smart, informed decisions about which powder you will use.

The most important thing you can do is READ THE LABEL. If you can research the product, that’s great, but if you’re at the store and need to make a quick decision, check the nutritional facts and ingredient list. Here is how the DIY Cleanse crew checks their protein powder labels:

Ingredient list:

How many ingredients?
“The fewer ingredients, the better” is a general rule when it come to buying packaged foods. However, plant based proteins often have many sources of protein, and they’re all listed on the ingredient list. That’s not necessarily bad, and can actually make for a great product with a variety of protein sources. Just make sure you read the long list to determine what’s really in there.

Do you recognize the ingredients?
If you’re not exactly sure what’s in there, you have a few options:
– Do a quick Google search on your phone!
– Download the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Healthy Living app. You can scan or search for your item and get the low-down on ingredients, as well as nutrition and processing concerns.
– Put it back on the shelf, and take a look at the next one.

Be wary of…
– Sugar content. Is sugar (or some form of it) one of the first ingredients? Probably not a good sign. Watch out for artificial sweeteners too, like aspartame or sucralose.
– Flavoring: artificial or natural. Even natural doesn’t have much regulation and could come from almost anything. Best to just avoid it.
– Food dye or coloring: Typically a no-no in our book, especially anything artificial.
– Soy: unless it’s organic, you will want to go with a product that’s made with higher quality ingredients.

Nutrition facts:

Does it have at least 15 g of protein per serving?
Sources referenced in stated that 50% of women don’t know if they get enough protein, which is about 50-60 grams per day. So, if you spread that out amongst 3 meals, 15-20 grams of protein is ideal in a serving.

Here’s a tip: How many grams protein do you need?
Sedentary: Weight (lbs) x .4
Active: Weight (lbs) x .6
Competitor/Athlete: Weight (lbs) x .75+

How many grams of sugar?
The World Health Organization recommends no more than 25 g of free sugars per day for the average person. The lower sugar content in general, the better, and it’s best if there is 0 added sugar.

Our favorite plant-based protein powders:
Below you will find a list of our favorite protein powders. While there are many great non-plant based powders (there are some goat and whey powders we love!), all the powders listed below are plant based, aside from the last powder listed, Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate.

Warrior Food Natural Vegan Protein
Why we love it: We think this one is the “total package,” as everything from the organic ingredients down to the package is carefully considered by the “hardcore herbalists” behind this company to deliver one of the highest quality products on the market!
Things to consider: Don’t stop here. Check out the rest of their line for green protein powders and protein for endurance and recovery.

Note: Despite some controversy this company has had, we stand by it based on our experiences and research. We encourage all our clients to check labels, research, and know what they’re putting in their bodies to the best of their ability.

Vega One Nutritional Shake
Why we love it: This is just one of Vega’s many versatile prodcuts – protein, vitamins & minerals, greens, healthy fats, fiber, and probiotics all in one? What more could you ask for?! That it be available at Costco?? Well, it totally is!
Things to consider: Occasionally the texture can be a little grainy. This won’t be a problem for baking, but be sure to blend well otherwise.

Tone It Up Perfect Fit Protein
Why we love it: This is a quality, plant based protein powder with fun flavors like coconut and vanilla latte!
Things to consider: Monk fruit, a natural calorie free sweetener, can be an acquired taste. Blend in smoothies and or make a yummy protein pancake to get accustomed to the flavor.

Garden of Life RAW Protein
Why we love it: It’s made with a variety of quality, organic, vegan sources of protein processed at low heat levels for optimal nutritional value.
Things to consider: We tried the RAW Protein line, but Garden of Life offers a variety of products for your protein fix, so it’s worth experimenting to see which works best for you! We also think the Garden of Life tastes a little better too.

Nutiva Hemp Protein
Why we love it: Hemp is one of the highest quality plant sources of protein, and this powder contains all 20 amino acids.
Things to consider: Variety is key, and this product is solely based off of one source- hemp. We like to keep a container of this on hand, and alternate between using several different products.

Non-Plant Based BONUS:

Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate 
Why we love it: Blends into anything without strong flavors or textures. Plus, it comes with so many other amazing benefits for your digestive system, skin, hair, and bones!
Things to consider: A serving (1 tablespoon) only as 6 grams of protein. You will have to triple the serving size to get the bulk you’d want in a meal.

Other BONUS: Om Organic Mushroom Nutrition Fit Matrix
Though this isn’t a protein powder, this is on our list of goodies to enhance the reason many people seek protein powder – for fitness! Om has a variety of products, and their Fit Matrix is designed to increased energy and reduce recovery time in workouts.

*Emily was recently published in this fun Well + Good article about these amazing mushrooms, and even created a fun recipe (below) for the company. We wanted to share it with you too.

Beauty + Vibrance Juice

6 carrots
1 green apple
4 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1 lemon, peeled
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 tsp OM Beauty powder

Juice carrots, apple, celery, cucumbers, ginger, and lemon. Once juiced, stir in 1 tsp of OM Beauty. Serve chilled.

When using protein powders, it’s great to find brands you love, but keep switching up brands and sources to allow for variety in your diet. We shared our tips and favorite products with you, now it’s your turn! Tell us what you look for in a protein powder, and what protein source(s) are you currently using in your morning smoothie??