Top 4 ‘Clean’ Protein Powder Options Made with Real, Whole Food Ingredients

Protein Powder Mountain

Have you been looking for the perfect clean protein powder? Look no further! I tasted tons and came up with the top 4 protein powders that are made from whole foods.

I don’t like to be judgy about protein powder.

As a clean eater it’s important to me to focus as best I can on eating mostly (if not entirely) real, whole, unprocessed foods. But a girl can only eat so many chicken breasts! Sometimes, as a fitness enthusiast, I need more protein than I can eat, afford, or have time to prepare. When that happens, I turn to a smoothie with protein powder in it to help me get the nutrition my body needs.

But how to pick one? And are there any out there that actually taste good? Sometimes I’ll grab a couple of sample packets at Whole Foods and try a few. Or I’ll see a girl at the gym with a shake and just ask her what she likes. The problem is that once you buy a big tub, you’re stuck with it FOREVER. So you better make sure it’s at least somewhat choke-downable, or you’re left with a very expensive mistake that takes up precious real estate in your kitchen cabinet.

But I, dear readers, have committed the ultimate sacrifice for you. I have sampled many protein powders, and I have come up with four clear winners. This sampling was intense, people. I ate protein powder for one or more meals over a TWO MONTH PERIOD. Yes, I did. Just ask my long-suffering (and hungry) husband. And the results were surprising! I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but my top two winners are-vegan sourced protein.

Here’s the grueling method: I tried each protein powder at least 3 times; once blended with plain almond milk and twice in a post work out smoothie (here’s the fantastic recipe I used).

I sampled: Quest, Nutribody Protein, MRM, Jarrow Formulas, Optimum Nutrition, Vega, Boku, Sun Warrior, Cellucor, MusclePharm, and Tera’s Whey.

The Criteria:

  1. Made from Whole Foods. Even though it’s obviously been processed, I’d like it to be as “clean” as possible with no chemicals or fake sugar.
  2. Taste. I’d love to actually enjoy my PWO smoothie, possibly even look forward to drinking it instead of forcing down another glass of chalky, shudder-inducing sludge.
  3. Texture. I’d like for the PP to dissolve well so I don’t get that grainy mouthfeel.
  4. Protein Content. I’m looking for something with around 20g of protein per serving. If it’s a lot less you have to double up on the powder, which is more expensive and makes it taste even worse than normal.
  5. Value. Although PP is expensive in general, I’d really like for it not to break the bank.

The Winners:

First place goes to Boku Super Protein.

  • Rice Protein
  • 19 g Protein per serving
  • $48.95 for 20 servings and $95.95 for 40 servings

This protein powder is truly fantastic. It’s made of whole foods, certified USDA organic, sweetened with dehydrated maple syrup, and vegan. Its light vanilla flavor tastes great! It’s the only protein powder I tried that was yummy blended in only almond milk. It was delicious in my PWO smoothie. It dissolved completely, leaving my smoothies with a velvety texture. The only downside to this fabulous powder is that it’s pricey, a little over $2.40 a serving. If you can afford it, this PP is tops.

Second place goes to Vega One.

  • Pea Protein
  • 20 g Protein per serving
  • $29.99 for 10 servings and $54.99 for 20 servings

I love Vega! This vegan, gluten free powder tastes great in my smoothies. It’s not the best just blended in almond milk because it’s sweetened with stevia, a taste I don’t personally enjoy. Vega’s great because it’s full of whole foods, many of them organic. Vega One ingredients include maca root, spirulina, kale, algae, spinach, beets, blueberries, mushrooms, papaya, probiotics, pomegranate, goji, and tons of other foods, giving me greens, vitamins and minerals, omega-3s, and fiber all in one smoothie! The chocolate and vanilla are fantastic, but stay away from the overly-flavored vanilla chai. Unfortunately, this powder is pretty expensive at about $3.00 a serving.

Third Place goes to tera’s whey.

  • Whey Protein
  • 21 g Protein per serving
  • It was out of stock on the website, but Amazon has it listed as $28.99 for 12 servings

This certified USDA organic, gluten free, grass-fed whey powder tastes really good in smoothies. I recommend the bourbon vanilla flavor. It’s palatable in just almond milk, but not delicious because it includes stevia. I love that it only has 4 responsibly-farmed whole food ingredients. This was the best dissolving powder. You can even just shake it up by hand, making it fantastic for on-the-go. But this powder is also expensive, around $2.40 per serving. Interestingly, the vanilla flavor is also offered in a non-organic, non-grass fed whey PP for only $19.00, which is affordable, about $1.50 per serving.

Honorable Mention goes to Sun Warrior.

  • Pea Protein
  • 20 g Protein per serving
  • $29.97 for 20 servings

This raw, vegan, and gluten free powder is a good bargain. I only recommend the natural flavor because it’s the only one that doesn’t have stevia in it. I wouldn’t drink this in just almond milk, but its neutral flavor is wonderful in smoothies. The only ingredients are pure protein from 3 whole foods sources, with some amino acids added in. This powder does not dissolve well and makes smoothies grainy. The price is slightly less than $1.50 per serving and is even cheaper on Amazon, making it really affordable.

What do you think of my top 4? Do you have a favorite protein powder I didn’t try? Let me know!

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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson

Sarah Olive Bergeson

Sarah Olive Bergeson is a group exercise instructor, personal trainer, writer, clean eater, and mom. She believes you can do anything and will show you how. She enjoys crushing it daily and thinking about David Bowie.