A scoop of protein powder in your green smoothie doesn’t just make your drink taste better (looking at you, chocolate flavor), but according to studies it could also help stave of hunger until your next meal. However, not all protein powders are created equal, and there are a few things to consider before you choose one.
The two most common categories are plant and whey protein powders—the former is usually derived from peas, hemp, and soy, while whey is a byproduct of milk/cheese production. Dietitian Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, says both are comparable, as long as you go with a plant product that is high in leucine.
MORE: 101 Ways to Lose a Pound
Beyond that, you should be looking at the nutrition information on each product, because the amount of protein and calories per serving varies across different brands. Spano says there are some ingredients that should be avoided: “I don’t like seeing caffeine unless it’s disclosed clearly on the front of the label, or glutamine, taurine, creatine, glycine [in protein powder],” she told us, explaining that these ingredients can dilute the quality. “If a protein powder contains this, it has been spiked with amino acids to artificially ramp up the testing for protein.”
In the gallery ahead, we’re spotlighting the highest quality vegan, whey, and organic formulas, breaking down which have the lowest calories and the highest protein content. Keep clicking!