15 Food Alternatives to Protein Shakes

Protein is an essential nutrient that enables your body to build, repair and maintain its organs, cells and tissues .

You can meet your daily protein requirements either you drink protein shakes or you eat whole foods, but you won’t necessarily get equal nutrition from both.

Protein Shakes contain fewer nutrients but may help you lose weight, while whole foods offer more nutrients, but some may be higher in calories and fat.

The protein supplement market has been over-saturated and misunderstood; the reality is that human beings are protein machines.

All the way down to your DNA , you’ll find instructions for building your brain, digestive system, muscles, immune cells, and so much more out of protein building blocks.

To build new structures, you must provide your body with the raw materials it needs to make it happen.

You can’t build your muscle out of cheese fries and Doritos. And if your body is deficient in the protein building blocks it needs, you will breakdown faster, and live a poorer quality life.

Food replacements for shakes

Rather than relying on supplements, it is better for you to adopt healthy eating habits.

For instance, if you drink a glass of milk, you get protein, vitamins and minerals; whereas, a protein shake provides with protein, weightloss benefit and other artificial ingredients you did not need.

Instead of a protein shake, try these real-food options:


Both milk and protein shakes boast a list of impressive health benefits, including immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, lean muscle mass maintenance or gain and improved physical performance.

One is not equal substitute for the other, but regular drinking either beverage may help you achieve certain health or fitness goals.

According to the results of a study published in 2007 in the “American journal of clinical nutrition”, subjects who drank skim milk after strength training experienced improvement in muscle mass maintenance and gain.

Protein shakes produced similar improvements, but the study’s authors found that milk protein encouraged more rapid effects.


Beans are such good sources of protein that USDA includes them in both the vegetable and protein food groups. Animal-based proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which makes them complete proteins.

Except for soybeans, beans are not complete proteins, but they have the amino acid lysine, which is the one usually missing from other plant proteins.

The beans with the highest source of protein is soybeans because they have substances called isoflavones that act like estrogen and may help to prevent some types of cancer.

They also provides you with mineral and vitamins you get from protein shakes like iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate and vitamin B-6

Chicken Breast

Roasted chicken breast provides your body with 24 grams of protein plus healthy fats, it contains no carbohydrates, and this makes it a good addition to your meal if you are following a low-carb diet. It tends to be low in fat.

Cholesterol is found in animal meats, consuming high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat increases the risk of plaque buildup, which causes heart disease. Chicken breast has moderate amounts of cholesterol.

Taking more of this give your body the protein he needs to repair the muscle and tissues. Food has more benefits than supplements; eat foods to replace protein shakes.

Nutritional Yeast

Not to be confused with the yellow, powdery leavening agent used in bread-baking, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, cultured on beet and sugar-cane molasses.

It is a fungus-based source of complete protein and just 3 tablespoons of these golden flakes can provide 16 grams of protein.

Also rich in B vitamins, the fortified varieties offer a vegan source of vitamin B-12. Always read the nutrition facts labels carefully, because the nutrients can vary significantly by brand.

Mix nutritional yeast into sauces or sprinkle it on popcorn to add a smoky and cheesy flavor.

Hard boiled eggs

Easy, healthy, quick, hard-boiled eggs are the original fast food. The white provides quality protein made useable because it is paired with the nutrient-dense yolk.

Always eat the white with the yolk – otherwise you are getting an incomplete protein. The yolk provides valuable cholesterol, fatty acids, and minerals.

It provides your body with 18 grams of protein and antioxidants. Eggs are full of protein and, unless you have diagnosed issues with cholesterol.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines no longer place a specific limit on daily dietary cholesterol intake.

Turkey breast

Turkey breast meat is one of, if not the leanest protein sources around. It has less than 1 gram of total fat per 3 ounce serving, comparing that to chicken breast which is another popular low fat protein.

Muscle builders take protein shakes to bulk up and get bigger but not knowing that turkey breast has a complete protein with essential amino acids which is great for bulking up. It is high in protein with low fat having 95 calories per 3 ounces.

(7) Hemp Seeds

Also commonly called hemp “hearts” or hemp “nuts,” hemp seeds can provide close to 17 grams of protein with just 3 teaspoons.

They contain all of the essential amino acids like animal protein, thus making hemp seeds a complete protein.

They also offer a plant-based dose of the heart-healthy omega-3 essential fats. Sprinkle them on yogurt or cereal, toss a small handful into a salad, or blend a scoopful into a shake in place of protein powder.


Quinoa is one of the world’s most popular healthy foods. It is gluten-free, high in protein and contains all the nine essential amino acids. If a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is seen as a “complete” protein.

The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as lysine. However, quinoa is an exception to this because it contains all the essential amino acids.

For this reason, it is an excellent source of protein to replace protein shakes. It is an excellent plant-based source for vegetarians and vegans.

Low-fat Cottage Cheese

Don’t be frightened by the name; low-fat cottage is packed with high quality protein and amino acids unlike other members of the cheese family, such as feta and cheddar, cottage cheese is often low in saturated fats while still providing an impressive amount of protein.

A ½ cup of low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese can provide close to 14 grams of protein. You can take low-fat cottage cheese either on its own or you can have it with toasted bread, flat bread or on a humble cracker.

If you are not a fan of the moist, yogurt-like texture, try dry curd cottage cheese, also known as farmer’s cheese.

It is virtually flavorless and sprinkling just ½ cup on top of spaghetti and salads can increase your protein intake by 18 grams.

Fat-Free Greek Yoghurt

Fat-free Greek yoghurt is an excellent source of protein, and it is also delicious. It provides your body with 12 grams of protein and calcium.

Greek yogurt is a great source of vegetarian protein. If you don’t like it on its own, add honey or fruit, or use it as a substitute for sour cream in savory dishes.

You can eat fat-free Greek yoghurt after a work-out or as a tasty dessert before you go to bed. And the best thing is: it is fairly cheap as well. So if you compare that to the price of whey protein, then you will save a great deal of money.

Fat-free Greek yoghurt can be mixed in with a wide variety of fruit. But it really goes well with summer berries (like blueberries and raspberries). You can even add fat-free Greek yoghurt to your smoothie as well.

Oily fish

Oily fish are rich in mono-and polysaccharides (unsaturated fat). They also contain essential fatty acid, Omega-3, which can help lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol as reported by National Health Service.

But more importantly, they are rich in protein. A 100g of either salmon or tuna containing up to 26g of protein because they contain very little saturated fat, they can be seen as the ideal alternative choice to protein shakes for protein source.

Tuna fish

A can of tuna fish (165grams) contains: 42 grams of protein and 191 calories. This makes tuna the perfect substitute for protein shakes.

It is also a good source of omega-3 fats, which are considered highly beneficial to the body, although fish oil is still an over-hyped product.

Additionally, tuna fish has high Vitamin B content and helps the building and maintenance of red blood cells. This results in increased energy levels.


An ounce (28g) of tilapia contains 7grams of protein, 1g of fat and a total of 36 calories. So, one 100g portion of tilapia provides 25 grams of protein and 120 calories.

This makes tilapia one of the favorite protein sources of many bodybuilders. A good protein shakes substitute


Spirulina is a natural blue-green “algae” (cyanobacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants (taking 4 grams per tablespoon of it is substituted for protein shakes.

It is largely made up of protein, amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, vitamin E and the minerals manganese, zinc, iron, copper selenium. It is typically recommended for vegetarians due to its high natural iron content.

Its high antioxidant content makes it beneficial in reducing exercise induced oxidation which leads to muscle fatigue and inability to gain muscle.

The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal during pregnancy, after surgery, or anytime the immune system needs a boost.

Grassfed Collagen or Gelatin

While collagen and gelatin are pure protein, high-quality brands are carefully processed to be absorbed by your body.

These superfoods boast a whopping 7 grams of protein per tablespoon. Interestingly, the amino acid profile in gelatin is uniquely healthful.

It is a great source of amino acids, which support a health mood, strong bones, smooth skin and proper muscle synthesis.

It is important to get gelatin from the best fed/pastured animals to avoid hormones, pesticides and heavy metal contamination.

It contains a high percentage of glycine, an amino acid shown to improve sleep and may improve insulin sensitivity. Gelatin is also prized for improving digestion and soothing the digestive tract.


Many people think of protein and immediately start thinking of meat or any other protein sources like protein shakes.

Lentils are a rich source of protein and are high in fibre, popular in eastern cultures, lentils don’t receive the same amount of affection in western societies. But recently, they have become popular with vegans all over the world.

While the above foods are great for meat eaters, lentils are a good protein source if you are a vegetarian.

One cup (200g) of lentil comes with 230 calories and 18 grams of protein. It reduces blood cholesterol thanks to high levels of soluble fibre.


But people tend to shy away from nuts due to its high-density fat and calorie content, but what people don’t realize, is that nuts are packed with nutrients, fibre and of course, protein. One of the best nuts available is almonds.

In every ounce of almonds, you get approximately 6g of protein. But you should see almonds more than just a snack.

So instead of just having almonds on its own, you should try roasting them, or better yet, explore different recipes to replace protein shakes.

Reasons for substituting protein shakes

There are several reasons you should avoid protein shakes or you should not depend on it totally for your protein source, it should be optional to the body nutrients not replacement of good diets from the foods;

They are refined protein

They are extracted from the protein source and different additives like flavors, fillers etc. have been added to make it more nutritious but this can be difficult for your body to utilize it compare to the real protein source.

Diet reduction

When you take normal foods that gives you protein, it provides your body with fat and the carbs, but protein shakes do not complete the diet your body needs because other nutrients in the protein source have been remove to give only protein from protein shakes.

So it does not balance up the nutrients needed by the body

Not the major source of protein

If you depend on powder/shakes and pills to sort out your nutrition, it’s easy for you to forget that you should be getting most of your nutrients from diets like natural protein foods.

You can take protein shakes once in a while and get your nutrients from the real foods.


During the production of protein shakes, nutrients were removed, so If you take protein shakes you will not be satisfy and fill up for a long period of time compare to the real foods that fill you up and sustain you for a long time.

The positive values

Mayo Clinic registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., writes that if you drink protein shakes, it reduces your daily calorie intake;and they are often successful in weight loss plans.

In a 2010 study conducted by researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany, participants who had metabolic syndrome and consumed protein-rich meal replacements and ate a reduced-calorie diet lost more weight and fat mass over the course of a year than subjects who did not have the supplements

The negative values

Nutritionally speaking, protein shakes almost never measure up to whole foods. Premade shakes tend to contain large amounts of refined sugar and artificial ingredients.

And even homemade shakes that feature ingredients such as protein powder fall short in offering the calcium or fiber that whole food alternatives such as nonfat yogurt or black beans would respectively provide.

Physician Monica Zangwill, writing for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also points out that drinking shakes isn’t conducive to sustainable weight management, because it doesn’t force you to make healthier eating choices or exercise regularly.

The positive value of foods

Protein-rich whole foods are more nutritionally complex than shakes, so they offer a greater variety of vitamins and minerals.

Since you go through the process of chewing them and they take a longer period of time to consume, they also satisfy your hunger more effectively and keep you fuller longer.

In a 2012 study conducted by researchers in Switzerland and the Netherlands, people who chewed food for longer periods of time experienced increased satiety and consumed fewer net calories.

The negative value of foods
High-protein foods that are processed or full-fat may not be as healthy as some protein shakes, because they are high in cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

If you’re eating your protein rather than drinking them, avoid cured lunch meats, high-fat red meat and full-fat dairy products.

The USDA recommends lean and low-fat choices, such as lean poultry, beans and legumes and low-fat dairy products.


Protein shakes and whole foods give your body the daily protein requirement but you can’t get equal nutrition from both.

Shakes contain fewer nutrients but may help you lose weight, while whole foods offer more nutrients, but some may be higher in calories and fat.

It’s good to drink protein shakes, but based on your personal diet and activity level in your body; your body would likely be slower to recover from workouts.

Foods give you more strength, make you last longer, fill you up and provide all the nutrients required by the body but if you insist on getting your nutrients (protein) from protein shakes, consult a dietitian or nutritionist for advice.

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