Protein drinks 101

In general, protein drinks are made from protein powder and a liquid. Depending on your dietary needs, this liquid may be:

  • water
  • dairy milk
  • nut milk
  • rice milk
  • seed milk

Other protein add-ins include:

  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • nut butters
  • raw nuts

Sweeteners, fresh or frozen fruit, and fresh vegetables may also be added. No one food is off-limits if you have diabetes. Still, it’s important to limit refined carbohydrates that are more likely to spike your blood sugar.

Eating fat with carbohydrates may help slow digestion. This can slow down the length of time it takes sugar to hit your bloodstream. Sources of fat that taste great in protein drinks include:

  • nut butters
  • raw nuts
  • hemp seeds
  • flaxseeds
  • chia seeds
  • avocados

If possible, add fiber to your protein drink. It helps slow your body’s absorption of sugar. Oatmeal, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, and wheat bran are high in fiber and are protein-drink friendly.

Some protein drink recipes call for maple syrup or Stevia. Maple syrup is high in sugar, but can be enjoyed sparingly. Stevia is a non-nutritive, no-calorie sweetener that won’t raise your blood sugar. When making shakes and smoothies, use the least amount of sweetener possible.

Many pre-made protein shakes and smoothies are loaded with refined sugar. Your best bet is to make them at home where you can control the ingredients.

Here are eight recipes to try:

1. Peanut butter and jelly protein shake

A regular peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with sugar-rich jelly and high-carb bread is usually off-limits for people with diabetes. Now you can drink your favorite comfort food with this thick and creamy protein shake from Dashing Dish. It provides a triple-dose of protein from protein powder, peanut butter, and cottage cheese. Low-sugar or no-sugar jam adds just the right amount of sweetness.

2. French toast protein shake

French toast is often topped with powdered sugar and then drenched in syrup, so it’s generally not considered a diabetes-friendly food. That’s where this protein shake, also from Dashing Dish, comes in. It gives you the decadence of French toast, without the extra sugars. The shake’s main ingredients are protein powder and cottage cheese. Stevia and a touch of maple syrup provide sweetness.

3. Rice protein shake

This shake is made with rice protein powder, an alternative to whey protein powder, and fresh or frozen fruit. It also includes nuts and flaxseeds for healthy fat and fiber. A surprising ingredient in this shake is borage oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

You shouldn’t use borage oil if you’re pregnant or if you take warfarin or seizure medications. The oil may also cause digestive problems. If you can’t use borage oil or if you’re concerned about the side effects, you can omit it from this recipe. You’ll still reap the benefits of a tasty protein shake.

4. Apple cinnamon soya shake

This protein shake from is reminiscent of Grandma’s apple pie. It’s made from fiber-rich apple cubes, a combination of soy and dairy milks, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Fresh apples are a great fruit option for anyone concerned about their blood sugar levels.

5. Soy good smoothie

If you’re lactose intolerant or vegetarian, Diabetes Self-Management has an excellent smoothie option for you. It’s made with protein-rich soy milk and silken tofu. Frozen strawberries, half of a small banana, and almond extract add flavor. If you’ve never tried silken tofu before, this is the perfect time to introduce the flavor to your palate.

6. High-protein, no-sugar-added, chocolate smoothie

If you’ve been feeling deprived of your favorite sweet treats, look no further. This icy smoothie from Sugar-Free Mom takes care of your chocolate cravings. It’s made from protein-rich almond milk, cottage cheese, and protein powder. The smoothie’s decadent chocolate flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa powder and liquid chocolate Stevia.

7. Strawberry-banana breakfast smoothie

Instead of adding strawberries and bananas to a bowl of boring oatmeal, blend them with yogurt, almond milk, and a little Stevia. The result is a protein-rich smoothie from Diabetics Rejoice! that will give you more than enough energy to last until lunch. The recipe calls for PaleoFiber powder, but you can also substitute chia seeds or flaxseed meal.

Get the recipe!

8. Mixed berry protein smoothie

Berries are nothing short of antioxidant superfoods. They contain a type of natural sugar known as fructose. According to a 2008 study, fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly as carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and table sugar do. Even so, it’s a carbohydrate and should be eaten in moderation.

The main ingredients in this slushy protein smoothie by DaVita are whey protein powder and frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Liquid flavor enhancer is also added. The recipe calls for ½ cup of whipped cream topping, but you may eliminate this to reduce the overall sugar content.