When our schedules get busy (which seems like always), nutrition is one of the first things to be tossed on the back-burner. But protein shakes that are easy to grab-and-go are a great way to stay on track when you’re too busy to cook breakfast, need something to hold you over before dinner, or are looking for something simple and nourishing after a workout.
Protein is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps you stay energized, keeps you full between meals, helps build and repair muscle tissue, and helps you maintain many other important bodily functions. The exact amount of protein you need each day depends on your weight, but most nutrition recommendations suggest you consume around .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For the average sedentary woman, this adds up to around 46 grams per day. But you’ll need more if you’re active or heavier and taller than average.
Typically loaded with 15 grams of protein or more per serving, protein shakes are a quick and easy way to get a nutrition boost of energy while also making sure you're eating enough protein each day. To point you in the right direction toward the top protein shakes for women, we reached out to some leading nutritionists for their recommendations. Here’s what they shared:
Packed with three grams of dietary fiber and 20 grams of protein per serving, this protein shake will reduce cravings and hunger, says registered dietitian Jenna Appel. It’s also a great source of calcium, and has no added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives. “As a healthy snack, I combine this pre-made shake with a handful of unsalted almonds,” Appel says.
OWYN Vegan Plant-Based Protein Shake
With many protein powders containing animal products, it can be tricky for plant-based eaters to find a protein shake or powder they love. But the vegan, plant-based shakes from OWYN are a great option that deliver 20 grams of protein per serving thanks to a blend of pea protein, pumpkin seed protein, and organic flax oil. You’ll also get a serving of greens, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids. Appel recommends going for the variety pack so you can try a bunch of different flavors like dark chocolate, turmeric golden mylk, cold brew coffee, smooth vanilla, and cookies n’ cream.
Ensure’s Plant-Based Protein Shake is another great choice if you're vegan or simply looking to reduce consumption of animal products. “One challenge of some plant-based diets is those who avoid or limit all animal products may not get enough of some important nutrients, like protein,” says Abby Sauer, a registered dietitian at Abbott. “For this reason, it's important to work in protein throughout the day.” She recommends these ready-to-go shakes from Ensure, which deliver 20 grams of non-dairy, plant-based protein that’s made from a blend of fava beans and peas. “It also has non-GMO ingredients and doesn't include any artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners,” Sauer says.
Dense with five grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein per serving, this shake is likely to keep you full for quite a while. It’s also low in sugar, with just two grams per serving. “This creamy chocolate banana shake will keep you on track without that unwanted sugar crash,” says Colette Heimowitz, nutritionist and vice president of nutrition communication at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. “It’s great for breakfast to jumpstart your morning or for anytime you need a snack.”
These single-serving protein powder packets are loaded with 26 grams of protein per serving, and are available in flavors like ancient cacao, aztec vanilla, or a variety pack with both. They’re also dairy-, whey-, gluten-, and soy-free, and created with minimal processing and no added hormones. For a protein powder, these are pretty easy—all you have to do to prepare them is mix the packet with water or another liquid. “You don't have to add all the extra ingredients like nut butter and banana to make it taste good,” says clinical nutritionist Christina Towle. “It tastes great just with water or almond or cashew milk.”
The Bob’s Red Mill Vanilla Protein Powder Nutritional Booster combines pea protein, chia seeds, chicory root, monk fruit extract, and probiotics to bring you a tasty protein powder with 20 grams of protein per serving—or more—depending on what you combine it with. It also has 12 grams of fiber per-serving, keeping you fuller longer, and only three grams of sugar. Plant-based ingredients make this a great choice if you’re vegan. And since there’s no weigh protein, it’s also a good option if you’re lactose intolerant.
Made with coconut cream, pea protein, almond milk, monk fruit juice concentrate, spices, and other simple ingredients, this plant-based protein drink comes with 16 grams of fiber and just four grams of sugar per serving. If you prefer something more rich and chocolatey, there’s a dark cacao flavor, too.
“With 20 grams of grass-fed milk protein, four grams of fiber, and three grams of sugar per bottle, these shakes are a great choice in a hurry," Aguirre says. Iconic sells a bunch of different flavors, including chocolate truffle, turmeric ginger, coconut matcha, cafe latte, vanilla bean, and cacao + greens, so you’ll have plenty of options to find something you like. Even though these protein drinks are made from grass-fed milk protein isolate, they don’t contain lactose, “so they won’t upset your stomach if you’re sensitive to milk products,” Aguirre says.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, grab one of Daily Harvest’s protein-rich smoothies, which are big on using whole ingredients and pack 10 or more grams of plant-based protein into each serving. All you need to do to prepare these is blend with water, nut milk, or another beverage of choice, pour your smoothie back in the cup, and be on your way. If cacao + avocado doesn’t appeal to you, choose from other protein-rich flavors like vanilla bean + cacao, black sesame + banana, or cherry + almond.
“Plants provide a clean, albeit less concentrated form of protein that you can feel good about eating,” says Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian at Daily Harvest. “We all have been trained to think that we need much more protein than we actually require for health and wellness. If you eat a balanced diet throughout your day, you will easily be able to meet your needs through plant based proteins.”
Harvard Health Publishing. How much protein do you need everyday? Updated June 25, 2019.