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. I agree that no protein powder could be honestly clean, I use I like but I can’t be sure how it measures up I’m very new to clean eating.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Raeann – If you can post a link to the exact product you use and it’s ingredients, I can give it a look.

  2. What about Isagenix? It’s protein is undenatured from Australia grain fed cows! No chemicals ! Absolutely pure! Check into it! it is very clean!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      J Jamey – No, it’s not clean. Perhaps it’s better quality than some, but it’s still not clean.

  3. Any thoughts on Spiru-tein?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Stacey – If it’s a powder, it’s not clean. I don’t know the brand personally, so I can’t speak to it’s nutrition value.

  4. Here Tiffany, thank you for taking a look. I tried to get just the nutrition facts but I couldn’t figure out how, haha. This is the page for the product and the facts are just a click to the right hand side of the page. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Raeann – For protein powder, it looks pretty nutritious!

  5. That’s awesome! Thank you for looking at it for me!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Raeann – My pleasure!

  6. Just ordered the Natural Factors! I can’t wait to get it and throw a scoop in my daily smoothie!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sarah – Great!

  7. I believe Garden of Life, Raw Protein powder is clean. It’s USDA Organic, Non GMO Project Verfified, and supporting Organic Farms. It comes in Vegan.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cheryl – I don’t believe it is. It’s a powder, so it’s processed in some way. What that process is, I’m not sure, and that’s what I’d have to look into.

  8. This is a very helpful article in looking for a clean protein powder. I began my clean eating journey with Paleo several months ago, and then became interested in Shakeology (and I will be upfront and say that I am now a BeachBody Coach and am therefore biased here).
    I’ve never considered Shakeology a protein powder, because that is not its goal at all. It’s not considered a supplement. In contrast, it is considered to provide, in a single dose, all the vitamins and nutrients one’s body needs for the day and would not receive by simply eating clean. So even when I’m eating my best Paleo meals, Shakeology is giving me what I’m not getting from my kitchen, in a natural way. There’s even a Vegan option if we’re being really picky. So, yes, it *is* “expensive,” therefore, when compared to protein powders (part of my argument is that this is a faulty category for comparison purposes). At $4 a serving, I consider it well worth it for what I’m getting ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoy your website and refer to it often, thanks for posting!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sarah – Not to be argumentative, but what you describe there is exactly a supplement. Your description is exactly what a supplement is and does. I also don’t feel that people who are Vegan are “picky”. It’s a life choice. But it’s always been my perspective that if you are truly eating clean, chances are, you’re getting a lot of nutrients. Especially if you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Either way, it’s a personal choice to use it or not use it. My point with this article is simply to say that it is not clean by it’s very nature. Again, using it is a personal choice. But I’m happy it’s working for you! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Very interesting…sometimes I forget it’s not just how short & natural the ingredient list is, but also the processing of those ingredients. This is the brand I use…but I like reading about all the different brands in the comments

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Leslie – Yes, it’s very much about the processing of ingredients. A jar of sauce could have 40 ingredients, but if none of them are truly processed (other than being cooked to make the sauce), then it’s clean. The reverse is true as well. You can have a two ingredient item, but those ingredients can be just awful.

  10. Butterfly77 says:

    What about Herbalife Healthy Meal and Protein Powder? Do you think it’s a good selection for being close to clean? I think it’s soy based…

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Butterfly77 – It’s most likely not clean, but if you want to post the ingredients here, I can take a look.

  11. What are your thoughts about Betty Lou’s?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Amie – It would not be my first choice.

  12. Great informative article!

    What are your thoughts on Bare Blends?

    It contains very few ingredients.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Oscar – I would not use this one. Sorry. :/

  13. The cleanest protein powder i’ve found… Raw Whey Protein Isolate.
    literally has only one ingredient… and yes i agree it’s still not actually clean, but with 100% Whey protein it’s a win in my book… (the unflavoured one only of course)
    plus for some random reason i love the taste of this stuff?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      T – If it works for you, I say go for it!

  14. My family and I recently started eating healthier. I found an awesome protein powder called YES by Yoli. My family loves it…..both the vanilla and chocolate. Have you rated this one yet?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Mary Jo – No, I’ve never seen it or heard of it.

  15. I LOVE Shakeology!!! If you know how to fix it, it’s taste and texture are great! It’s not a protein shake. Oh, and you get what you pay for!

  16. What are your thoughts on PVL


    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

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

  17. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚
    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! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. Is the Naked Pea unflavored pea protein clean? Iโ€™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 didnโ€™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.