Although protein shakes aren’t a traditional component of a Mediterranean diet, you might be considering adding one to it to improve your protein intake or simply because you’ve always taken one.
However, there are many different types of shakes around and there are some considerations that make certain shakes more Mediterranean-friendly.
This article will cover if and how protein shakes should be incorporated into your diet and some of the best choices if you do so.
Are Protein Shakes Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet?
A traditional Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil.
Therefore, it generally wouldn’t be part of one. However, the Mediterranean diet also encourages flexibility and by themselves, protein shakes can form a healthy part of a balanced diet.
This is particularly true if you’re looking to increase your protein intake, for example, if you’re looking to build muscle.
The Mediterranean diet is typically a little lower on the protein side but still sufficient for the majority of the population. However, compared to a lot of recent low-carb, high-protein diets, they are lower in protein.
Therefore, a protein shake can add the extra amount of protein that you want without having to eat more meat – which many other diets encourage.
Considerations When Choosing a Protein Shake on the Mediterranean Diet
It’s important to select high-quality protein sources and choose shakes low in added sugars and artificial ingredients. Here are some tips to consider:
- Choose a quality protein powder: Look for a protein powder that aligns with the Mediterranean diet principles, such as whey protein, plant-based protein (e.g., pea protein, hemp protein), or a combination of different plant-based protein sources.
- Limit added sugars: Be aware of the sugar content in protein shales. Some commercially available shakes may contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup. Select products with little or no added sugars, or consider making your own shakes using natural sweeteners like fruits or a small amount of honey.
- Add Mediterranean ingredients: you can enhance the nutritional profile of your protein shakes by incorporating Mediterranean ingredients. Fruits like berries, cherries or citrus fruits add extra sweetness and antioxidants without the extra sugar.
- Use as a supplement, not a replacement: You still want to ensure the majority of your meals are consumed as a variety of whole foods and use protein shakes as a supplement for some extra protein. You can even add protein powder to your meals, like this baked oats recipe with protein powder.
Our Mediterranean Diet Protein Shake Recommendation
I’ve been taking Huel for more than 7 years. The biggest reason I prefer it over other protein shakes is because it contains far more nutrients than other protein powders.
Huel was initially designed to meet all the body’s nutritional requirements if you were to switch exclusively to Huel. Obviously, this is fairly incompatible with a Mediterranean diet (particularly since I love cooking great, Mediterranean food!).
Many do use it as a meal replacement, but it’s just as good as a protein shake.
You can check the complete nutritional breakdown of their product, but some of the best nutritional benefits of it for someone following a Mediterranean diet are:
- Includes healthy fats: Huel includes ingredients such as flaxseed, and sunflower, which help add some essential fatty acids to your diet.
- Good amounts of fiber: The oats and flaxseed add both soluble and insoluble fiber. Since it contains oats, it is high in beta-glucan, which is helpful for lowering cholesterol.
- High in vitamins and minerals: Although Huel only meets your daily nutritional requirements if you consume all your calories from it, it’s nice to know that you’ll be getting at least part of the nutrition from the calories. With other protein shakes, you’ll be consuming the extra calories and protein without so many vitamins, which means you’ll have to make up for it in other meals.
- Good amounts of protein: plant-based protein is always recommended on the Mediterranean diet. The protein in Huel comes from peas and rice and is a great way to up your protein intake without eating extra meat. Each shake contains 20g of protein.
It’s low in sugar, the protein comes entirely from whey and it’s completely vegan.
Even if you aren’t vegan (like myself), making your diet generally plant-based and reducing your meat intake is part of the Mediterranean diet.
Most people will take one or two scoops per shake depending on how much protein they need. Each scoop of shake is 105 calories and contains 20g of protein, 1.1g of fat and 3.2g of carbs.
Overall, I’m a big fan of their quality. I always recommend that you do your own research, but Huel is our recommendation if you’re looking for a good-quality protein shake on the Mediterranean diet.
To Sum Up
Protein shakes aren’t found on a traditional Mediterranean diet, but the diet also recommends flexible, sustainable ways of eating. For some, this will include a protein shake.
In particular, they are useful if you’re following a Mediterranean diet but need the extra protein requirements if you are looking to build muscle for example. The diet is typically a bit lower in protein due to less meat intake.
Ensure you choose protein shakes low in added sugar and additives for the healthiest varieties. Our recommendation is Huel since it is also high in other vitamins and minerals.
Overall, you generally want to use protein shakes as a supplement, not as a replacement.