Clean Eating Protein Powder

If you’ve ever wondered about protein powders and whether or not they are clean, wonder no longer. The fact is, none of them are clean. It’s true. There is no such thing as clean eating protein powder. Oh the horror!!! I know, I know. But think about it…

You can’t go out to a tree in your garden and pick protein powder. Nobody can milk a cow and get protein powder out of the udder. You can’t just pick leaves, dry them, grind them and get protein powder. It just doesn’t work like that.

Clean Eating Protein Powder

So What Do I Do Without A Clean Eating Protein Powder?

Okay, now that I’ve rocked your world, I’m sure I will probably get a ton of comments defending certain protein powders, and the truth is, there are some that are better than others.

My criteria for protein powder:

My approach has always been that if I can’t make it at home and get something that is pretty darn similar, then it’s too processed and not clean. I could pretty easily make tomato sauce at home. So as long as the ingredients on a can of tomato sauce are clean, then I don’t really think twice about buying it unless there is some obvious reason to reconsider. But I can’t duplicate the process at home to make protein powder. So that tells me that it’s not clean.

Another truth is this:

Most clean eaters who use protein powders will never give them up. It just isn’t going to happen. The convenience of a meal in a shake bottle is just too great, particularly when there is highly valued protein involved.

So the only penance I can give for this treasonous blog post is to share with you the protein powders that I have found to be fairly decent, even if they aren’t truly clean.


Natural Factors – Unflavored Whey Protein Powder (amazon affiliate link)
I searched Whole Foods high and low for a protein powder than had relatively few ingredients AND ingredients I recognized. This brand came the closest of all the whey powders I found there. Just be sure it’s unflavored, because the flavored variety has a whole bunch of additions that made me raise an eyebrow.

  • Affordability Rating: Medium, this one is pretty “middle of the road”.
  • Flavor Rating: The good thing about buying unflavored powder is that you can flavor it any way you like. So this one gets an A+ in that department.
  • Texture Rating: I have found that whey powders always blend into a shake really well and this one is no exception. It’s a good choice where texture is concerned.

Manitoba Harvest – Hemp Protein Powder (amazon affiliate link)
Of all the protein powders I looked into, this one had the least amount of processing. So yes, this would the the “cleanest” among all the powders I looked at.

  • Affordability Rating: Fair and affordable for the amount and quality of product you get.
  • Flavor Rating: I will admit, the flavor takes a little getting used to. It’s not terrible, it’s just different. You’ll have to play around until you find the additions you like best when making your shake.
  • Texture Rating: This powder is a little thicker in density. It’s not impossible to tolerate, but it is noticeable.

I will admit that the whole “sales pitchy” aspect of Shakeology and the Beach Body company was a little off putting for me. That sort of “hard selling” and pushiness has always made me turn the other way. But all things considered, I found this shake to be pretty darn high in nutrients, even if the ingredient list is a bit longer. ( I have personally tried the chocolate and the strawberry flavors)

  • Affordability Rating: Expensive (at least to me it is).
  • Flavor Rating: I couldn’t get past the flavor. I guess I’m just too used to fruit smoothies. The flavor tasted very “chemical” to me. But that could just be me. I’m a little overly sensitive to that sort of thing.
  • Texture Rating: This one does pretty well with texture. It’s pretty similar to the whey powder in that it blends up nicely.

So long story short, if you must use a protein powder, choose the best quality powder you can afford. This is truly one area where you get what you pay for. Don’t skimp if your goal is to get nutrients from a shake.


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  1. What are your thoughts on PVL


    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Lenal – This would not be at the top of my list. Sorry.

  2. I really like Dr.Mercola’s whey protein. I only buy the unflavored kind. I don’t like to use it often but when I’m in a pinch it’s my go to. 🙂
    It has 2 ingredients (whey protein, and sunflower lecithin). And it’s certified GMO and pesticide and chemical free.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kristine – Sounds like one of the better options. Still not clean, but better! 🙂

  3. I use a organic rice protein powder, im not home right now but I think the only ingredient is sprouted whole grain brown rice, the brand is nutribiotic, what are your thoughts on this one

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Heather – In this case, it would be more about the processing than the ingredients. If it’s a powder, it was processed to get it that way. So it wouldn’t be clean. But that being said, if brown rice is the only ingredient, that is the cleanEST protein powder I’ve ever heard of!

  4. I get milk protein powder directly from the processor. I have had it analyzed and it is 92% pure protein – good enough for me. And by the way – cows don’t have utters… they have udders. HA!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kelly – Dang spell check! LOL! As for the protein powder, it’s not about the protein content, it’s about the processing. At least for clean eating.

  5. So great to see that my go-to shake made your list. I’ve been using it everyday for three years. I have done my research and I know how it is sourced and I know that extreme care is taken in keeping the integrity of the Whole Foods. I also love that it tastes like dessert!!!! Thank you so much for your research.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Michelle – My pleasure!

  6. May I suggest a protein powder? Plant Fusion is the cleanest protein powder I have come across. It comes in several flavors; vanilla bean, natural (unflavored), chocolate, chocolate raspberry and cookies n creme. It is 100% plant based and is free of diary, soy, gluten, GMOs and animal/animal by-products. All the flavors are quite good. Very clean tasting and not syrupy sweet. Plant Fusion also has an organic version, if organic ingredients are important to you. If you go to their website, they have sample packs you can purchase or check out your local health food store. As a side note, I am not an employee of Plant Fusion, but a long time customer of their products.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Danielle – Thanks! Although I question how clean something is when it’s flavored as cookies n creme. What do they use to add that flavor?

      1. The sweeteners are listed as fructose, cocoa, natural cookies and creme flavors (meaning they are from plant sources), stevia, silica and guar gum. Hope that helps.

  7. Is the Naked Pea unflavored pea protein clean? I’m trying to find a way to incorporate it into clean meals but it does not taste good. I have put one scoop in a 1/4 cup of oatmeal with bananas, cinnamon, and almonds which was tolerable but I didn’t enjoy eating it and instead just ended up scarfing down a bunch of calories before the flavor could kick in.

    1. O – It’s important to find one you like. At the heart of it, there are no clean protein powders at all. But as far as protein powders go, that’s one of the cleanest out there, yes.