Everything You Wanted To Know About Protein Powder But Were Afraid To Ask
In my opinion, the best way to do the low carb diet is as a purist: eat meats, poultry, fish, eggs, salads, low carbohydrate vegetables, dairy products (if you tolerate them well) and low carb fruits in moderation, and good fats. In other words, Real Food. This can get boring, though, so I have done a lot of experimenting with other things that are low carb. There’s a surprising wealth of low-carbohydrate products out there, and you’d be amazed what you can do with them!
The two ingredients low-carbers seem to miss are flour and sugar. Next month’s column will be about artificial sweeteners. This month’s is about the different types of protein powders and how to use them. If you walk into a health food store, there’s an overwhelming assortment of protein powders… where do you start??
First of all, you MUST read the labels. Many health food stores (storefronts and online stores alike) have carb-y powders for bodybuilders in the same area of the store as the ones we low carbers use, so buyer beware! Read the labels, read the websites. Know what you’re buying!
The Different Types Of Protein Powders
Low carbohydrate protein powders come in several different types
- soy-based (some types include other vegetable products)
- soy/whey blend
- egg/milk blend
They are not interchangeable, because each kind brings some traits from its source: taste, texture, the way it reacts to cooking, blend-ability, and protein and carbohydrate content.
Notice I don’t have soy flour on that list? Soy flour is made from soybeans, but has a considerably higher carb content. “Soy protein isolate” is made from soy flour with the carbs and some fat and fiber removed. I have bought exactly one package of soy flour and cooked with it 4 times. I just don’t like the bitter soy-ish taste. Soy protein isolate, however, is basically flavorless.
What Kind Do You Buy? How Do You Use It?
Protein powders can be used to make baked goods, breading, protein shakes, and much more. The recipe you’re making will dictate what kind of protein powder you should use. Some are flour-like or grainy and are mediocre in a shake. Some are flavorful in a shake but coagulate if cooked. So let’s take a look at the different uses and types.
Cooking with Protein Powder & Baking with Protein Powder For Breading
Unflavored soy, soy/whey blend, or rice protein powder is a decent flour substitute. Dip poultry or fish into beaten egg and then dredge it in herbed protein powder and fry it. Or you can mix an egg, a little cream and water, and the protein powder to make a batter. I have used MLO and Naturade’s soy/whey blends and they are good, basic, all-purpose flour substitutes. Some soy and soy/whey powders are Fearn’s, Doctor’s Diet, MLO, and Naturade. We should count Atkins Bake Mix in this category, as well.
Rice protein powder makes a more delicate breading, but its carb count is slightly higher. For those avoiding soy, though, it is an excellent substitute. Nutribiotics and MLO make rice protein powders, but MLO is more than double the carb count of Nutribiotics, so I recommend the former.
For Pancakes, Waffles, and Quick Breads
There are different recipes and different schools of thought on which protein powder to use for these. I find that most powders will work in muffins, but give different results, so go with what the recipe suggests as to type. I make muffins and pancakes all the time with MLO (soy/whey); they come out tender but fairly sturdy. Made with rice protein, they are much more delicate. Waffles can be made with any of the above with surprisingly nice results, however they don’t have quite the same crispness that traditional (flour-based) waffles have.
For Baked Goods
Again, let your recipe be your guide. Some bakers, such as Diana Lee (author of Baking Low Carb), use whey protein powder in conjunction with other ingredients such as gluten flour and oat flour. These combinations give a finer, more cake-like texture to dessert goods than the soy and soy/whey blends do. I haven’t gotten the best results with whey protein alone in baked goods; the taste is better, but the finished product is generally dryer. Some cookies with a very high-fat content, but which are fairly low in protein powder (such as peanut butter cookies) come out perfectly with whey protein alone.
For Shakes: “Your Taste Buds May Vary!”
Personally, I prefer whey protein for shakes (such as Designer Protein), but egg and egg/milk proteins (such as Trader Joe’s) also impart a sweet, delicate flavor and are preferred by many. Plain soy and soy/whey is horrible in a shake, but there are some flavored ones that are surprisingly tasty (such as Carbolite).
Hot flax-meal “cereal” can be made with any protein powder, but different kinds give very different results. My preference is Designer Protein’s vanilla praline flavor. If using an egg or egg/whey protein, do not heat it in the microwave; just add in boiling water. The egg protein can coagulate and turn slimy. Not pleasant! Soy protein in that recipe will have a floury, pasty taste, although the texture isn’t bad.
Making your own protein bars? The manufacturers tend to use soy or soy/whey. Soy gives sturdiness and whey adds a better taste. Most recipes I’ve seen suggest whey.
Some “treats” are made with protein powder, such as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fudge.” Again, let the recipe be your guide as to which protein powder to use.
Protein powders can add great variety to your low carb menu, but remember that they are add-ons, enhancers, “extras” and not the core Real Foods that form the basis of your diet.
Happy Low Carb Cooking! Rani Merens
Here are a few recipes of mine and from around the web to give you some ideas how to use protein powder:
Protein Powder Recipes
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fudge From: Jan in AZ
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 one-ounce square unsweetened baking chocolate
- 1/3 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- 2 scoops chocolate Designer Protein Powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 10 packets Splenda
- 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
Melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat or in the microwave. Stir in the cheese, vanilla, Splenda, and protein powder. Mix well. Stir in nuts.
Let cool a few minutes, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto a foil-lined cookie sheet. Freeze.
***Notes from Jan: The protein powder gives it the texture of sugar-laden fudge. The chocolate gives it the richness of real fudge. You could use any toasted or untoasted nuts, but I had almonds on hand and particularly like them toasted.
***Note from Rani: I only had vanilla praline Designer Protein on hand, so I used that plus a heaping spoonful of cocoa powder, and it worked out beautifully! Hubby says this is the BEST low-carb chocolate treat I’ve ever made.
Rani’s NEW Southern Fried Chicken
Put some plain, unflavored soy protein powder onto a dinner plate. Season with some Italian herbs, salt, pepper, and paprika. Dip the chicken into a beaten egg, dredge it in the protein powder mixture, and fry it in a light olive or peanut oil. It’s delicious!
Variations: You can also use boneless, skinless breasts or thighs. Pound them lightly to make into sort of a scaloppine, and prepare as above. You can prepare fish fillets or a chicken-fried-steak the same way.
- Protein Fudge Bars From: Debsy
- 7 scoops (2 1/3 cups) of chocolate Designer Protein
- 1/2 cup melted margarine
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Melt the butter and cream cheese. Mix in the Designer Protein. (This will be stiff and hard to stir.) Add the walnuts.
Place the mixture in a greased bread pan. Cool. Cut into 8 servings.
Per serving: 17.5 grams protein, 2.5 carbs
***Note from Debsy: This ends up being about the same stats as the Atkins bars. I wrap each bar in plastic and keep them in the refrigerator. It sets up fairly hard and is about the consistency of an Atkins bar. I keep them in the fridge because of the cream cheese.
Rani’s Muffins Du Jour: The Basic Recipe
- 3/4 cup vanilla protein powder (I use a soy/whey blend.)
- 1/4 cup of something else (ground flax meal, ground almond or pecan meal, ground seeds, or oat or wheat bran)
- pinch of Stevia powder
- 1-2 tablespoons Splenda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sour cream or creme-yogurt or cream (optional)
- 1/2 cup (or more, if needed) liquid (water, water/cream combination, sugar free
- vanilla or almond syrup, soy milk, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter 1 tablespoon flavoring (vanilla or whatever compliments your other ingredients)
Mix lightly – only enough to blend.
Bake in Pam-sprayed nonstick muffin pan at 400 degrees for about 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.
Rani’s Cheese Straws
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- 3 heaping tablespoons plain protein powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more – to taste) paprika
- nonstick spray
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the softened cream cheese, the grated cheddar cheese and the egg. Blend in the protein powder and salt. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it lightly until it is about the consistency of Play-Dough.
Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
Roll the dough into thin “snakes” and cut it into straw about 6 inches long. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on wire racks.
Per serving: 705 Calories (kcal); 62g Total Fat; (79% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 370mg Cholesterol; 834mg Sodium.
More free low-carb & keto recipes from CarbSmart.com.