Some blog posts come together in thirty minutes…and others take forever. File this post under the ‘forever’ category. I started working on it a week before I gave birth, and now my daughter is three weeks old!! 

Needless to say, adjusting to life with a new baby creates some productivity roadblocks.  But now, ta da! I had a lot of fun checking out protein options; it was time to bust out of my own rut and find some new favourites.

Protein powders aren’t a necessity in a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet but they sure come in handy. This is particularly true when a blended breakfast is one of your key healthy eating strategies…because a smoothie isn’t a meal unless it contains protein.

Wait…if you regularly throw greens and coconut water together for breakfast, repeat after me:

“A smoothie isn’t a meal unless you add protein!”

Whatever your reasons for using one, finding a good tasting, truly healthy protein is a bit of a challenge. And man, the options! Whey or plant-based, ‘whole food’ or isolate…and then you have to navigate all the garbage added to proteins. Artificial sweeteners, gut-busting fillers and weird preservatives need not apply.

So, as a smoothie lover (and protein user) I thought it was time I actually tested some new types out so I could be better prepared to help you navigate the options.

First things first, here are the things I want from a protein powder:

  • Vegan
  • No soy isolates
  • Non-GMO (a must) or Organic (preferred)
  • Simple ingredients
  • Great taste and easy to use

I shopped, blended and tasted five widely available (at the health food store) options. To level the playing field, I blended each with just water and a banana so I could suss out the flavour differences. In no particular order, here they are:

1. Sunwarrior Classic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein

I am new to Sunwarrior products; I found this one when I was looking for a protein powder for my low FODMAP clients. It has been suggested as relatively low FODMAP so I gave it a go and really liked it. So far, no complaints from clients I have suggested it to.

Attributes: Raw, Sprouted, Fermented, Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, suspect FODMAP friendly, 1 scoop = 15g protein

What I love: As a plant-based protein gal, I have forever been on the search for a product with a completely clean taste. This is it. Absolutely zero ‘protein’ taste. No complaints from the family about the smoothie ‘tasting funny’. Natural source of calcium and iron.

What I don’t love: As a rice-based protein, it has a mild grittiness. I am actually fine with the slight grit, but others may not be. The flavoured varieties are a bit too sweet for me (which others may love) and are flavoured with stevia. Would prefer just a touch of real sweetener like maple sugar or evaporated cane juice. However, they offer a totally plain, clean option…which is awesome.

2. Vega Smoothie Protein

I have used Vega products for years, I love the company’s ethos and love supporting hometown companies (yes, living in Vancouver is awesome!). I started with the original Vega product, which I didn’t love the taste of – but I liked how complete it is and how using it made me feel.

I have since switched over to the smoothie protein product for cost and family-friendliness. The smoothie protein is a blend of pea, seed and rice proteins. This is not a pure protein – it contains greens as well. The Vega Sport Protein offers a pure protein option at 25g per scoop, which I also like.

Attributes: Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, 1 scoop = 15g protein

What I love: This blends up really smooth – zero grittiness – and has a much more neutral taste than the original Vega One products.  Natural source of calcium and iron.

What I don’t love: It definitely adds a ‘taste’ to the smoothie, which I am not sure if is more from the greens or the proteins used. If I use too much, I get wrinkled noses. Also, another stevia-sweetened product. Wish there was an unsweetened product…the Natural flavour still contains stevia.

3. Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins +

Another Canadian product; Genuine Health is relatively new to the vegan protein game and the fermented line is another new feature. I like the idea of fermented proteins to assist with digestive health but as yet, there isn’t research to show that fermented proteins reduce digestive symptoms.

Attributes: Fermented, Vegan, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, 1 scoop = 20g protein

What I love: A higher protein content at 20g, which is what I recommend women get at breakfast time. Natural source of calcium and iron.

What I don’t love: More stevia…and not the tastiest. Definitely got the “protein-taste”. Also, the most sodium of all of the products, at 260mg per serving. That’s significant if you have high blood pressure.

4. CanPrev CORE Daily Shake for Women

This is a new Canadian product; CORE appears to be working in the same zone as Vega One products, with protein, greens, “super fruits”, vitamins, minerals + herbs.

Attributes: Vegan, Gluten Free, 2 scoops = 18g protein

What I love: For busy people…and those who don’t want to fuss with multiple products, it is a complete supplement. It contains an added 250mg of calcium and 750mg of cinnamon, which helps support healthy blood sugar levels. I can’t speak to how it makes you feel long term, as it isn’t suitable for breastfeeding ladies so I could only take a sample

What I don’t love: The taste. The addition of all those components makes flavour a challenge. But the vanilla flavour tasted really odd, with undertones of a Mr Noodles flavour packet. It would take strongly flavoured smoothie ingredients to mask this. Not non-GMO. Sweetened with stevia and xylitol.

5. Garden of Life Raw Protein

Attributes: Organic, Non-GMO, Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free, 1 scoop = 17g protein, 1 billion CFU L. plantarum

What I love: An ORGANIC protein!!! Hurrah. This also contains the most iron of any protein I have seen, 5 mg per serving. I tried the vanilla, which tastes great; quite clean and minimal grittiness. No emulsifiers either.

What I don’t love: Not much to say, actually. It’s yummy, organic and easy to use. This was the biggest surprise for me as I don’t typically use Garden of Life products and don’t know much about them.

Have you tried these proteins? Which are your favourites? Let me know here or on Twitter!

PS. This is NOT a sponsored post. Working in the health food world, I have received free samples of all of these at least once in the past but I don’t work with any of the companies and I actually bought all of these products myself (except the CanPro because I still had samples on hand).