Smoothies are probably the most versatile of any type of food out there—you can get a whole meal’s worth of nutrients by throwing a bunch of your favorite ingredients, somewhat haphazardly, into a blender and pressing “Blend” a few times. It simply does not get easier than that, and somehow, it almost always turns out deliciously, even when you forget to measure or run out of a certain ingredient and bring in a last-minute substitution. When you have dietary constraints, however, things can get a little trickier, and it is important to know the right ingredients to throw into that blender so that things come out tasting delicious.
Many of our products and recipes are vegan-friendly, so we wanted to explore the ways that vegans can still indulge in delicious and healthy smoothies without sacrificing flavor. One of the toughest nutrients to get as a vegan or vegetarian is protein. While there are plenty of non-meat sources of protein, it takes a little extra attention to make sure you are consuming enough protein when you are on a vegan diet.
Unfortunately, a lot of protein powders and yogurts, which are often smoothie staples, are not vegan. We have compiled a great deal of research on the best methods for creating protein-rich smoothies on a vegan diet. Keep reading for some great suggestions for substitutions and delicious vegan smoothie recipes to try out!
Things to Avoid
Yogurt, protein powder, and milk—dairy items in general—are often used to add protein to smoothies and shakes. Many protein powders are based with an ingredient called whey, which comes from milk, so any products containing whey will not qualify as vegan. While there are a number of key ingredients to avoid, this does not mean you have to sacrifice taste or texture in your smoothies! Let us discuss some alternatives…
Milk is a great source of protein, but not all vegan milk substitutes are as high in protein as traditional milk. Keep an eye on the labels of your favorite milk substitutes as some—like coconut and almond milks, for instance—have a surprisingly low amount of protein. Despite almonds themselves being high in protein, almond milk may have as little as 1 or 2 g of protein per serving. If you are looking for higher protein, soy milk can be a great option, with about 7 g of protein per serving (as compared to cow milk’s 8 g per serving). One benefit of soy milk is that it will give your smoothie a nice creamy texture and help keep the rest of the ingredients mixed together.
Substitute yogurts are definitely less common than substitute milks are these days, but they have risen in popularity recently. You should be able to find several options at your local specialty or health foods store. You should follow the same rules as with substitute milks, and pay attention to the labels. Yogurts made with soy tend to have the highest protein count as opposed to other vegan yogurts made with nuts. You can follow this rule when it comes to vegan frozen yogurt, custard, or other vegan dairy substitutes—any of these would be delicious as an addition to your smoothie!
You do not have to use specifically “vegan” products in order to get a high-protein smoothie. A lot of items that are naturally plant-based are high in protein as well. Leafy green vegetables are typically the way to go, but you would be surprised how much protein is in a serving of peas (8 g!). Other high protein vegetables include spinach, kale, broccoli and sprouts— spinach and kale are typically the most common go-to greens.
If you are not a big kale or spinach fan, don’t worry—the fruit flavors mask a surprising amount of that vegetable taste you may not love. In our Peaches N Greens Smoothie, you will find a perfect example of how leafy greens like spinach can interact with fruits in a delicious combo. It is healthy and simple with a dash of sweetness to cut the sharpness of the nutrient-rich spinach. Plus, these dark leafy greens are high in fiber content and other nutrients as an added bonus!
Alternative Protein Powders
Though many protein powders on the market are not vegan-friendly, our team at Bob’s Red Mill produces 7 different types of nutritional booster protein powders that are all vegan—including one delicious chocolate option to bring your smoothies into milkshake territory. There are plenty of protein options out there that include pea protein powder, soy, hemp, and chia, just to name a few sources. These powders are extremely easy to use—just pour or sprinkle a serving on top of your smoothie mix, while mixing or slowly blending.
The best thing about our Nutritional Booster protein powders is that they use the flavors found in their natural ingredients to complement all types of flavor profiles in your smoothies. The vanilla protein powder, for instance, is a perfect addition to our Tropical Breeze Smoothie Recipe that is reminiscent of a piña colada and takes you back to the beach with the first sip. The Chai Protein Powder gives this Spiced Pomegranate Smoothie the “spice” in its name. The combination of the avocado, chai, and fruits gives this smoothie a creamy texture and just the right kick behind the sweetness.
Check out our selection of alternative protein powders for vegans, and let us know which one (or ones) are your favorite!
Nuts or Nut Butters
When ground into a butter or paste, nuts actually retain a great deal of their protein, so you can use these as a power booster in your smoothies. You can absolutely put whole nuts into your smoothies, but if you do not have a high-powered industrial blender, you will probably get better results by using the butters instead of raw nuts as the butters are already blended smoothly for you. While we love almond butter especially, you will find similar results with a lot of varieties of nut butter, so try a few to see what works best for you. We recommend pairing nut butter smoothies with bananas or apples for a delicious nut and fruit combination.
It may not be obvious, but oats are a wonderful source of protein as well, containing around 7 g per serving. There are a few different styles of oats including rolled, steel cut, and milled. For a smoothie, you may prefer the more textured and chewy steel cut oats, or you may want to choose Scottish (milled) oats that will mix in a little more evenly with your other ingredients. Oats are typically roasted so they will have a little bit of that toasty flavor to them. They are a good source of fiber and contain magnesium, and potassium in addition to their protein content.We recommend staying away from instant oatmeal packets, though, as they may contain unhealthy additives like oils and sweeteners.
Smoothies are always going to be a staple in our diets—they are easy to make, fast, delicious, and extremely versatile, so they check off a lot of boxes. The health benefits of smoothies as a whole are varied, but if you pay attention to the ingredients that you are adding, you can get a whole meal’s worth of nutrients out of the right kind of smoothie. We always recommend prepping your ingredients the night before, so you can just throw it all together in the blender as you are heading out to work—just make sure you put the blender cap on before you turn it on!
For those on a plant-based diet, navigating the world of smoothie making can be a little tougher, especially if you are an active person who needs a lot of protein in your smoothies. If you experiment with some of the substitutes above, we are confident that you will be enriching your diet with protein-heavy and delightful smoothies in no time!