A few months ago I thought I’m done with protein powder – it prevents me from losing belly fat. Just a guess based on nothing.
After speaking with a holistic nutritionist, it became clear I need to eat less meat/animal protein and make our diet more plant-based. Regardless whether this switch will make me fat or not (which nothing even close like that has happened or I doubt ever will). A norm is about 2 lbs of meat per week/person. So, plant based clean protein powder is back in my life. I would rather consume organic, plant-based and clean protein powder than conventionally raised meat. Overall, the goal is to eat less meat.
I know there are many opinions out there whether protein powders are good for you, processed or clean etc. My take on protein powder is this:
Because I work out, I need an extra boost and not always have that snack on hand. Therefore, I choose the cleanest and most affordable plant based protein powder, that is made of whole foods, that has a pleasant taste if mixed with water, that I consume in moderation and that prevents me from eating foods not approved by Clean Eating.
Just like my life can’t be perfect, so can’t be my marriage or kids, so can’t be my nutrition. I do my best to eat whole foods and who knows maybe 2 years down the road I will not be consuming protein powder but right now greens, nuts and fruits just don’t cut it for me as a snack – I’m hungry. So, let’s pick the best of the best.
Is Protein Powder Real Food?
No and yes, in my opinion. Not all protein powders are created equal. There are also many “processed real foods”. I know it sounds weird but there is nothing wrong with organic tofu (pressed soy beans), high quality supplements or plant based protein powder.
“No” if it is non organic, GMO, full of artificial flavours, acid processed, stripped of alkalinizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins and lipids whey or soy protein isolate. That is what I avoid.
“Yes” if it is organic, non-GMO, gently cold processed from whole foods vegan protein powder. This is what I use.
My Perfect Protein Powder Is:
- Plant based
- Organic or at least non-GMO
- Without unknown ingredients: colours, artificial flavours and sweeteners, preservatives
- No added sugar
- No stevia aftertaste
- No soy and preferably no organic soy isolate
- It must taste good when mixed with water
- Must be reasonably priced – about $40 per jug. As with many other things in life, you get what you pay for. So, I choose to pay more for something I enjoy and is good for me. Sure thing, I could buy hemp or brown rice protein but I can’t drink that. I applaud you if you can because that is as clean as protein powder can be.
What’s Up with Natural (Vanilla) Flavours
You might have heard or if you Google “natural vanilla flavour” that it can be made from beaver’s anal gland. Yes, that’s correct. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. So, with trembling fingers I typed an email to Orgain about what are their “organic natural flavours” made of. Here is what the company said:
Our flavours consist of a flavour extract and an organic dextrin as the carrier. Being organic – we are forbidden from using ingredients like you mentioned below. We also can’t use MSG, artificial vanillin, colors, etc.
VEGA website states “Made with all natural, plant-based ingredients (absolutely no animal products).” Then I received the following reply to a similar email question I sent to Orgain:
Vega products contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. The natural flavors in our products include a variety of compounds obtained from the natural essence or extracts of plants to produce the desired flavor. For example, vanilla bean is used in French Vanilla Vega One. While the exact blends are proprietary, I would like to let you know that the essences and extracts can be from a spice, herb, leaf or similar plant material, but always exclusively plant-based, and never artificial.
PlantFusion label says “No Animal. Complete protein made only from plant sources”.
Sunwarrior’s products do not contain any natural flavours but rather made with Organic Vanilla Extract.
So, no beavers’ butts in my protein powders. One more time I got reassured that buying plant based, organic or non-GMO products pays off.
Why Not Whey?
I choose plant based over whey protein powder for health reasons: because of dairy hormones my skin was experiencing horrible acne outbreaks. Therefore, I stopped using it years ago. I prefer to consume protein extracted from whole foods. Think vegetables vs. dairy, what’s better for you?!
Most whey protein powders are heavily processed and contain so much junk in them. Some are comparable to a diet coke. Yes, whey has milder taste and food made with it looks prettier but I don’t care. I’m past that stage. America is too hung up on how food looks rather if it’s good for you. I get so many comments on my recipes “This doesn’t look good”, “This is dry and needs a sauce” etc, it’s ridiculous. America doesn’t need more sauce for sure!
Anyways, if you absolutely must to consume whey, your best option is organic grass fed Tera’s whey.
My Top 4 Picks
I usually buy protein powders in bulk on Amazon because I live in Canada, use American Amazon and unfortunately do not have a luxury of becoming a Prime member. I wish! Therefore, I ship a few protein powders to the nearest post office close to the border and pick them up. So far, I haven’t found cheaper place to buy clean protein powder from than on Amazon.
Image courtesy of Sunwarrior.
Pros: Somewhat Organic, non – GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Made in the USA – Buy on Amazon for $42/2.2 lbs.
Cons: It tastes OK mixed with water.
I tried Sunwarrior clean protein powder in Natural and Vanilla flavours. It tastes OK mixed with water, a bit chalky to my personal taste. Not horrible like hemp or brown rice protein but just not my favourite. However, in baked goods it tastes much better, no aftertaste. So, if you are looking for a protein powder to make pancakes, muffins and smoothies with Sunwarrior is great!
Pros: Price, Non – GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Variety of Flavours, Made in the USA – Buy on Amazon for $33/2 lbs.
Cons: A Bit of Aftertaste, Not Organic.
Last time, I bought about 6 jugs of Plant Fusion on Amazon. Mostly because it was cheaper than VEGA and Orgain didn’t offer vanilla flavour back then which I prefer. It tastes OK mixed with water, not as chalky as Sunwarrior but has a different texture to it. I think it doesn’t dissolve as good as Vega or Orgain. Same with baked goods – a bit of aftertaste but if other powders are not within your budget, Plant Fusion is a very good option. Can’t beat that price.
3. VEGA Sport
Image courtesy of Vega.
Pros: Taste, Somewhat Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Sustainable, Made in the USA with many Canadian ingredients.
Cons: A bit pricey at the store => $60 – $65 but more affordable on Amazon => $49/29 oz.
VEGA Sport is my favourite plant based clean protein powder taste wise. I tried all 3 flavours – berry, vanilla, chocolate and love them all. It tastes phenomenal mixed with water. Great for baking with no aftertaste.
The company says: “We’ll choose organic ingredients for Vega products whenever we can. It’s getting easier every year to find reliable sources of organic ingredients as demand for them grows, but the cost of certification remains prohibitive for smaller-scale farmers. Because of this, some of our ingredients are organically grown, but not certified organic—we think the right choice can include supporting the little guys”. I love that!
Pros: Taste, Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Made in the USA with many Canadian ingredients – Buy on Amazon for $38/2.05 lbs
I first saw Orgain in Costco in the US and couldn’t believe my eyes – $30 for organic clean protein powder, too good to be true?! After the first sip mixed with plain water, me and my husband were screaming “OMG”. It tasted like chocolate milk. Seriously, it tastes phenomenal although I tried only chocolate flavour. Smooth texture, super tasty and even has some tiny crystals that remind me of crumbled Oreo cookies. Amazing in baking too, 0 aftertaste.
Orgain is definitely the winner in terms of price and taste of all plant based protein powders I ever tried. Highly recommended!
How to Use Protein Powder
My first choice is to be able to mix clean protein powder with water and it will taste good. It’s easy and saves calories. Hence, this post. I also like to add it to a smoothie for a post-workout recovery or snack. Quite often it makes its way into my morning oatmeal. I also love to bake with protein powder to make desserts further guilt free. It works best in muffins. You can visit a full category of Protein Powder Desserts on my blog.
As for making smoothies, I use Ninja Ultima blender and absolutely love it! Particularly the small on-the-go cups that have a separate small blade attachment, kind of like Magic Bullet. Whenever I need to make a green smoothie I use a big jug, but for an individual protein smoothie those cups are the best! Overall, Ninja Ultima (I haven’t tried other models so can’t vouch for them) delivers the same results as Blendtec or Vitamix but costs way less. You can read a full review I did on it last year.