Best Plant-Based Protein Powders for Pregnancy
Looking for a prenatal protein powder? While certainly not essential, these can be helpful for pregnant women struggling to meet protein needs. Here are my top 5 best plant-based protein powders for pregnancy and beyond.
Protein powders are among the most popular dietary supplements. Understandably, you may be wondering whether they’re a good idea to include in your diet while pregnant.
Keep in mind that protein powders are not generally manufactured with pregnant women in mind, so there are some things to consider when choosing one. Here’s what to know about plant-based protein powders for pregnancy, and where else to find protein for pregnancy on a plant-based diet.
Do I Need a Plant-Based Protein Powder for Pregnancy?
Pregnant or not, I prefer a whole foods approach to eating overall. However, a protein powder can be helpful if you can’t meet your protein needs through diet alone.
Pregnancy is no joke… I remember the nausea well. Many mamas suffer with morning (all day) sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum that can understandably result in low calorie and protein intake. Adding a protein powder can be a more tolerable way to help meet your needs.
Plus, sometimes using a protein powder is just more convenient. The exhaustion that comes with pregnancy can make it really difficult to prepare meals as much as you’re used to. Protein powder is a simple way to add more nutrition to smoothies, overnight oats, or smoothie bowls that may be gentler for a poor appetite and tired body.
Whether you need a protein powder during pregnancy is entirely up to you. Some women may have no trouble meeting their protein needs, while others can certainly benefit.
What Should I Look for in a Plant-Based Protein Powder?
If a protein powder makes sense for your pregnancy, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right one for you.
My ideal criteria for recommending protein powders include the following:
- third-party tested for heavy metals
- organic, and
- no artificial or non-nutritive calorie sweeteners
That being said, I’ve found it difficult to find a single option that meets ALL of those criteria. Instead, you’ll likely have to decide what criteria are most important to you and find an option that aligns best.
Below are 5 of the best plant-based protein powders I have found thus far, that could be incorporated as part of a healthy pregnancy, in no particular order:
This brand acknowledges the concern around heavy metals and states that its ingredients are third-party tested for safety. The plain flavor has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. It’s also plant-based, using protein from peas, hemp, and quinoa. However, this one isn’t fully organic. One serving provides 20 grams of protein.
This option uses 5 simple ingredients: pea protein, pumpkin seed, vanilla powder, monk fruit, and chia seeds. It’s also certified organic and the company emphasizes the importance of testing its ingredients for heavy metals. Monk fruit is a non-sugar sweetener that has so far deemed to be safe, and I tend to prefer this over sweeteners like stevia. One serving contains 20 grams of protein.
This one actually checks all my boxes! It’s certified organic and has been tested for heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, and lead. Its “simple” title refers to the fact that it has fewer ingredients than most protein powders. With a pea protein and peanut powder base, and no artificial sweeteners, it’s an awesome option. It comes in vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter and provides 20 grams of protein per serving.
This brand is certified organic, vegan, and carries two separate third-party testing seals, from NSF International and Informed Choice. It’s a plant-based powder using peas, sprouted brown rice, chia seeds, beans, lentils, and a number of greens and veggies. Note that it does contain stevia. One serving offers 20 grams of protein.
This product has one ingredient – pea protein. It’s not organic but it is third-party tested for heavy metals and is free of additives and artificial sugars. It’s also certified gluten-free. It’s a no-frills solution for those looking to boost protein intake. One serving offers 27 grams of protein.
Are Plant-Based Protein Powders Unsafe Because of Heavy Metals?
You’ve probably heard that heavy metals or contaminants can be a risk with protein powders.
This is because plants absorb these compounds from the soil in which they’re grown. Whatever is transferred to the plant is then also present in products it’s used for, like protein powder.
However, this isn’t a major issue if companies test to make sure they’re below safety limits. While companies are required to test their own ingredients for quality and safety, many also invest in independent lab testing to show they are free from bias. This is why I place such importance on third-party testing for contaminants. Some examples include NSF International, Consumer Labs, and USP.
To learn more about third-party testing of supplements, watch my video “How to Choose a Trustworthy Supplement” >>
For further perspective, some evidence shows that eating foods like mixed nuts, Brussels sprouts, spinach, or sweet potato contain more lead than one serving of most protein powders. So while I don’t recommend relying on protein powders to meet all of your needs, they’re certainly not unsafe.
How Much Protein Do I Need During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women need more protein, but not enormous quantities. Pregnancy needs are around 71 grams of protein per day. This is only around 25 grams per day more than non-pregnant women.
Excessive protein intake could actually be potentially harmful to baby, slowing his or her growth. That’s why experts recommend meeting protein needs primarily with whole foods and not relying solely on protein powders and beverages.
What Are Other Plant-Based Protein Sources for Pregnancy?
When planning your pregnancy diet, I recommend emphasizing whole plant food sources of protein.
Some of the best plant-based protein foods include:
- Black beans: 6 grams in 1/2 cup
- Peas: 5 grams in 2/3 cup
- Lentils: 18 grams in 1 cup
- Tofu: 15 grams in 4 ounces
- Whole grain bread: 6 grams per slice
- Quinoa: 4 grams in 1/2 cup cooked
- Peanut butter: 7 grams in 2 Tablespoons
- Oats: 11 grams per 1 cup
- Nutritional yeast: 8 grams in 2 Tablespoons
- Broccoli: 4 grams in 1 cup cooked
- Chia seeds: 3.5 grams in 2 Tablespoons
- Hemp seeds: 6.5 grams in 2 Tablespoons
Including a variety of these foods can help you meet protein needs during pregnancy. But if you feel like you need another source, plant-based protein powders for pregnancy can be a helpful and convenient option.
Weigh-in: Have you used any protein powders during pregnancy? Do you have any to add to this list?
For more prenatal nutrition tips, check out these posts:
- Fertility Diet: Evidence-Based Tips
- 5 Healthy Pregnancy Diet Tips
- 5 Foods For A Plant-Based Pregnancy
- What I Eat in A Day: Plant-Based Pregnancy