Protein is an essential nutrient in everyone’s diet and it is especially important if you are trying to build or preserve muscle tissue. Making protein shakes with commercial protein powder supplements is an easy way to get protein into your diet. There are also several foods you can add that will not only supply the protein you need, but also some of the other valuable nutrients necessary for a balanced diet.
Make a creamy protein shake by blending milk with almost any fresh fruit, including bananas, strawberries and peaches. Whole milk, reduced-fat milk, low-fat milk and skim milk all contain 8 grams of protein in 1 cup and provide similar amounts of calcium and vitamin D. The nutritional differences are in the amount of calories and fat. Whole milk contains 150 calories and 8 grams of fat per cup. Reduced fat, or 2 percent, milk contains 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. Low-fat or 1 percent milk contains 100 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Fat-free or skim milk contains 85 calories and 0 grams of fat per cup. Another fat-free, dairy-based way to give fruit shakes a protein boost is to add a tablespoon or two of nonfat dry milk powder.
A cup of yogurt contains significantly more protein than a cup of milk. One cup of plain, low-fat, regular yogurt supplies about 13 grams of protein, while 1 cup of plain, low-fat, Greek-style yogurt contains about 17 grams of protein. Try blending plain low-fat yogurt with ripe mango, pineapple or berries of any kind. Flavored yogurts will add similar amounts of protein to your shake but may also add a considerable amount of sugar.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds add protein and healthy fats to a shake mixture. Add chopped nuts or nut butters to a milk, yogurt or soy-based shake and blend at high speed to make sure they are fully incorporated. One-quarter cup, or 1 ounce, of nuts adds about 6 grams of protein to your shake. Two tablespoons of peanut butter adds 7 grams; 2 tablespoons of almond butter adds 6.7 grams; and 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter adds 5.5 grams of protein.
For a non-dairy, protein shake, use soy milk or soy yogurt in place of cow’s milk products. Cup for cup, these soy products are nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk and yogurt. You can also blend silken textured or regular soft tofu into a smoothie in place of plain yogurt. Depending on what other ingredients you add, tofu can give you a thicker shake. Three ounces of tofu adds approximately 9 grams of protein to your shake. You can also substitute soy nuts or soy nut butter for regular nuts. One ounce of soy nuts provides 12 grams of soy protein. Two tablespoons of soy nut butter provides 8 grams of soy protein.
Molly McAdams is a writer who lives in New York City. She has covered health and lifestyle for various print and online publishers since 1989. She holds a Master of Science degree in nutrition.