Best known for post-workout recovery and nutrition, protein powder is also an ally when you’re time crunched in the morning and need a quick breakfast. Blend a scoop or two of powder with your favorite fruits (and veggies, too, like spinach), nut butter, and milk (dairy or nondairy) or water. Healthy, natural options abound, including a number of plant-based brands that are whey-free for vegans.

Healthy Skoop Plant-Powered Daily Protein

Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla

What’s insideUSDA-organic certified brown rice and pea protein, plus flax seed, combine to create a complete protein with a full profile of essential amino acids. Sweetened with 1 gram of low-glycemic coconut sugar and a smidge of stevia. Great for a quick breakfast, an afternoon snack or post-workout boost. 

Nutrition in 1 scoop (27 g): 16g protein; 100 calories; 6g carbs; 2g fat; 3g sugars

Bonus points for: USDA organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, whey-free

PlantFusion Complete Plant Protein

Flavors: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Chocolate Raspberry, Cookies N’ Crème, Natural

What’s inside: Made with a diverse blend of plant-based proteins (several of which contain all essential amino acids), including: pea protein isolate (an isolate is higher in protein and lower in fat), artichoke protein, organic sprouted amaranth powder and organic sprouted quinoa powder. Sweetened with a touch of fructose and stevia.

Nutrition in 1 scoop (30g): 21g protein; 120 calories; 4g carbs; 2g fat; 4g sugars

Bonus points for: dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, whey-free

Kashi GoLean Plant-Powered Shake

Flavors: Dark Cocoa Power, Vanilla Vinyasa, Original Inspiration

What’s inside: Every serving of this new powder includes ¾ cup of dried kale and spinach, along with sprouted legumes and superfoods like pea protein, hemp, flaxseeds, chia seeds, turmeric, beets, lentils, and garbanzo and navy beans. More than 1 billion CFUs of Bacillus coagulans (a probiotic) support digestion and a healthy tummy. Lightly sweetened with monk fruit extract.

Nutrition in 2 scoops (40g): 20g protein; 160 calories; 10g carbs; 6g fat; 1g sugars

Bonus points for: non-GMO, whey-free, gluten-free, USDA Organic, soy-free, vegan

Designer Whey Essential 10 Meal Replacement

Flavors: Belgian Chocolate, Madagascar Vanilla

What’s inside: Both pea protein and organic sprouted brown rice protein give this plant-based meal replacement powder its maximum protein benefits. A blend of 23 vitamins and minerals provides 100 percent daily value (DV) of Vitamin C, 25 percent DV of calcium, and 20 percent DV of Vitamins A, D, E and K. Also provides prebiotic vegetable fiber for digestion and probiotics for gut health.

Nutrition in 2 scoops (60g): 22g protein; 210 calories; 29g carbs; 3g fat; 3g sugars

Bonus points for: gluten-free, vegan, whey-free

Vega Clean Protein

Flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate

What’s inside: One bonus with this plant-based powder is a mere 1 gram of sugar per serving, thanks to natural stevia sweetener. Protein comes from a combination of pea protein and ground hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and alfalfa. Also contains all nine essential amino acids for healthy body function.

Nutrition in 1 scoop (35g): 25g protein; 130 calories; 4g carbs; 2.5g fat; 1g sugars

Bonus points for: gluten-free, non-GMO, whey-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein

Flavors: Chocolate Cacao, Vanilla, Vanilla Spiced Chai, Unflavored

What’s inside: Made with an impressive array of raw, organic, sprouted proteins (toting all the essential amino acids), including: pea protein, sprouted brown rice, organic amaranth sprout, organic buckwheat sprout, organic millet sprout, cracked-wall chlorella, quinoa, garbanzo beans, lentils and adzuki beans, plus flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds. An added 3 billion CFUs of probiotics and enzymes in each serving support digestion.

What’s inside 2 scoops (31g): 22g protein; 110 calories; 2g carbs; 2.5g fat; 0g sugars

Bonus points for: non-GMO, USDA Organic, whey-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan

Pure Protein Super Food

Flavors: Vanilla Bean, Dark Cocoa, Mixed Berry Super Fruits

What’s inside: This protein powder is made from 100 percent plant-based sources, including brown rice, hemp seed and pea protein isolate, plus chia seeds, cucumber, banana and spinach. Sweetness comes from monk fruit extract and stevia. A good source of iron (45 percent DV), calcium (25 percent DV) and zinc (20 percent DV), and all essential amino acids.

Nutrition in 2 scoops (38g): 20g protein; 140 calories; 10g carbs; 3g fat; 3g sugars

Bonus points for: non-GMO, whey-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan

What are essential amino acids?

As building blocks of protein, amino acids are necessary to the health and proper function of your body. There are 22 amino acids; 9 of them—histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine—are called “essential” because our bodies can’t manufacture them, so it’s important to consume foods and supplements that supply them in our daily diet. Amino acids are involved in many bodily functions, most importantly muscle repair.