The supplement store may have a huge selection when it comes to protein shakes -- but it’s likely your kitchen does as well. Many of the protein-rich ingredients you already have in your cupboards make great bases for shakes, and they also offer higher-quality nutrition and better immune-boosting potential than packaged supplements due to their array of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Find a Base
There’s no standard definition of “high protein” as it applies to shakes, so it’s helpful to start out with a personal goal of how much protein you want to get into your drink. Everett Clinic endocrinologist Dr. Michael Tamber recommends at least 10 grams, which is close to 20 percent of the recommended daily amount. For reference, 1 cup of skim milk has 8.25 grams of protein, a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt has 18 grams, a 6-ounce container of low-fat fruit yogurt has 7 grams, a 3-ounce slice of silken tofu has 4 grams and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has 4 grams.
Blending fresh or frozen fruit into your shake won’t contribute much to the total protein count, but it will add flavor and sweetness without a lot of extra calories. Fruit also provides dietary fiber, which helps fill you up and promotes good digestive health and weight maintenance. If you don’t have a lot of fruit around, you can also add fiber and flavor to shakes with nut or seed butters or cocoa powder.
It’s easy to customize a homemade protein shake based on what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry. For a basic strawberry-banana shake, blend 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt with half a frozen banana, two strawberries and a handful of crushed ice. For a creamy, protein-rich berry shake, blend one slice of tofu, 1 cup of skim milk or soy milk and 1/4 cup each of fresh or frozen raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. To make a chocolate peanut butter shake, blend 1/2 cup of regular or chocolate milk with 1/2 cup of plain nonfat yogurt, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.
Watch Portion Sizes
When you’re tossing things into the blender right and left, it’s sometimes easy to get carried away. Being aware of how many calories you’re putting into a shake and how much fat, sugar and protein it has can help you fit your drinks into a balanced diet plan even if you’re not watching your weight. Read the nutrition labels of any packaged items you add, or look up nutritional information for fresh foods if you’re not sure what they contain. As a general guideline, avoid adding more to your shake than you’d eat as solid food -- so, for example, if you wouldn’t spread more than a tablespoon of peanut butter on your toast, don’t add more than that to your drink.