The 7 Best Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powders

Registered Dietitian approved protein powders to boost your protein intake

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Best Pregnancy Safe Protein Powders

The Spruce Eats / Lecia Landis

Consuming enough protein during pregnancy is important because it plays an essential role in building, supporting, and maintaining cells and organs in both your and your baby’s growing bodies. Because your protein needs are higher during this time, a pregnancy-safe protein powder can be helpful.

It is recommended to try and meet your increased protein needs through food first, incorporating a variety of protein-rich foods including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, seeds, and soy-based foods. However, it can be challenging to eat more protein, especially if you're experiencing taste changes, food aversions, or nausea. If you are unable to meet your protein needs through food alone, a protein powder can be useful. Try mixing protein powder in a smoothie, adding it to baked goods, or stirring it into oatmeal.

The best protein powders for pregnancy are third-party tested (to eliminate the possibility of contamination with potentially harmful ingredients), don't contain questionable herbal blends (that might have unintended negative effects), are caffeine-free, and have little to no added sugars.

Our prenatal dietitian used the latest research and her experience working with pregnant parents to compile our list of the best pregnancy-safe protein powders. She also consulted with prenatal dietitians Casey Seiden, MS RD CDECES, and Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD. Finally, she evaluated various kinds of protein powder, from whey to plant-based options, to check whether they have been third-party tested, what ingredients they include, and how palatable they are.

Editor's Note

Our team of registered dietitians reviews and evaluates every single supplement we recommend according to our dietary supplement methodology. From there, a registered dietitian on our Expert Review Board reviews each article for scientific accuracy.

If you are taking other prenatal supplements, we recommend avoiding powders with added vitamins and minerals to help prevent over-consuming these nutrients. If you are getting enough high-protein foods, you probably don’t need the extra protein from a protein powder. Adding a protein supplement on top of a diet that already has enough protein may increase risk for low birth weight, premature birth, and impaired growth.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to find out what dosage to take.

Best Overall

Needed Collagen Protein Powder

Needed Collagen Protein Powder

 Amazon

Pros
  • No additives

  • Glycine-rich

  • Appropriate for gestational diabetes

  • Allergen-free

Cons
  • Lower in protein compared to other powders

We love Needed Prenatal Collagen because it provides you with exactly what you need from a protein powder without any unnecessary extras. If you’re not familiar with collagen, it’s a protein that is in our skin, bones, and joints. It is found in a variety of protein-rich foods and can also be taken as a protein powder supplement. We like that the only ingredient in this collagen powder is hydrolyzed bovine collagen protein, which is sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. (The fact that it’s hydrolyzed means the protein is easy for your body to digest and absorb.) Collagen is neutral-tasting on its own, and this one is unflavored, making it an easy addition to smoothies, soups, bars, oatmeal, or drinks.

Collagen protein may be especially beneficial in late-stage pregnancy because it is high in the amino acid glycine. Your need for dietary intake of glycine increases in late-stage pregnancy when your body may not be able to produce enough to meet your baby's developmental needs.

Needed's collagen powder provides 14 grams of pure collagen protein per serving. This product is also third-party tested for heavy metals, microbes, pesticides, allergens, and other contaminants. Needed states this product is allergen-free, GMO-free, and hormone-free.

Price at time of publish: $50 ($1.67 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
30 | Type of protein: Hydrolyzed bovine collagen | Protein per serving: 14 g | Carbs per serving: 0 g | Fat per serving: 0 g

Best Vegan

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum

ritual-daily-shake-pregnancy-and-postpartum

Amazon

Pros
  • No added sugar

  • Contains 250 milligrams choline

  • Complete protein source

  • Informed Sport Certified

Cons
  • More expensive

  • Contains additional ingredients (natural flavors and high intensity sweeteners)

Ritual is a vegan protein powder made from pea protein that contains all essential amino acids but is considered to be low in the amino acid methionine. Ritual adds the amino acid methionine to make this vegan protein powder a complete protein source. This protein powder is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified, meaning it has been rigorously tested for over 250 banned substances for sport.

Ritual's powder has a vanilla flavor with hints of caramel and spices. It includes ingredients such as natural flavors, monk fruit, and sweetener Rebaudioside-M (Reb-M, one of the sweet components of stevia). While we like that this powder is not as intensely sweet as other protein powders, everyone's taste preferences can vary.

It also includes a few other ingredients that act as stabilizers to help it blend easily. While the ingredient list is a bit longer, one benefit is that Ritual adds the nutrient choline to the product. Choline is important during pregnancy because it helps with neurological development, gene expression, and placental function, but most prenatal multivitamins do not meet the recommended amount of choline of 450 milligrams per day.

Choline and protein are two nutrients that are mainly found in animal-based foods, so this protein powder choice may be especially helpful for a vegan pregnancy. Since it is more expensive than other options, you could keep this protein powder on rotation with another more affordable option to make it last longer.

Price at time of publish: $45 for 1 lb bag ($2.81 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
15 | Type of protein: Pea protein | Protein per serving: 20 g | Fiber per serving: 3 g | Sugar per serving: 0 g

Best Vanilla Whey Protein

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

default image
Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Unflavored option

  • High-quality protein source, rich in BCAAs

Cons
  • More expensive

  • Not suitable for dairy allergies 

Whey protein is a popular protein powder choice, especially with athletes, because it is a good source of muscle-building branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). We like Klean Athlete as a pregnancy-safe protein powder option because it meets one of our highest standards for third-party testing by being NSF Certified for Sport. This means not only is it tested to ensure it contains what it says it contains and is free from harmful contaminants, but it is also free from any substances or masking agents that are prohibited for athletes.

The lactose content of whey protein isolate can vary, but some people sensitive to lactose may be able to tolerate this form of whey protein powder over other forms like whey protein concentrate. However, note this powder is not a good choice for those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity.

As a milk by-product, we like that whey protein powder is also a source of calcium and potassium—two nutrients important for pregnancy. The powders come in an unflavored version, which is pure whey protein isolate, or in chocolate or vanilla, which has added sweeteners. This powder would not be suitable for vegans or those with dairy allergies.

Price at time of publish: $57 for 18.2 oz bag ($3.13 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
22 | Type of protein: Whey | Protein per serving: 20 g | Fiber per serving: 1 g | Sugar per serving: <1 g

The Difference Between a Dairy Allergy and Lactose Intolerance

A dairy allergy is diagnosed when someone's body mistakenly targets and attacks the proteins in dairy as if they are harmful invaders. It is dangerous for people with dairy allergies to eat foods that contain milk or milk proteins because the immune response can cause anything from stomach upset to hives to anaphylactic shock (which is life-threatening).

Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is a condition where someone's body does not make enough lactase or the enzyme that digests lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance can cause stomach upset and other digestive symptoms, but it is not dangerous for someone with lactose intolerance to eat foods that contain lactose.

Best Chocolate Whey Protein

Care/of Whey Protein - Chocolate

c/o Chocolate Whey Protein

Care/of

Pros
  • Internally and third-party tested

  • High-quality protein source, rich in BCAAs

  • Milk sourced from grass-fed cows

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not suitable for dairy allergies 

Care/of's Chocolate Whey Protein Powder provides 18 grams of protein per two scoop serving, from grass-fed, whey protein isolate. Whey protein is an ideal protein source, rich in all essential amino acids, including BCAAs, to help support the repair and synthesis of muscle and other body tissues of both mom and baby during pregnancy.

We like care/of does both internal and third-party testing for purity and potency on all of their supplements, including the protein powders. The rich, chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder, makes this a crowd favorite, especially when you are having chocolate cravings. It is sweetened with a small amount of cane sugar (only 4 grams of sugar total) as well as monk fruit, for a subtly sweet taste. Try blending the powder with your milk of choice, a frozen banana, and nut butter for a delicious, balanced snack that almost tastes like dessert.

Care/of also has plant-based protein powders available in both vanilla and chocolate. In addition to protein powders, they offer a variety of vitamin and mineral supplements, including a prenatal multivitamin. While you can purchase their products individually, they also offer a subscription service that delivers your personalized supplement bundle monthly.

Price at time of publish: $28 ($1.88 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
15 | Type of protein: Whey Protein Isolate | Protein per serving: 18 g | Fiber per serving: 1 g | Sugar per serving: 4 g

Best Whole Foods Based

Drink Wholesome Chocolate Protein Powder

Drink Wholesome Chocolate Protein Powder

 Amazon

Pros
  • No protein concentrates

  • Protein balanced with other nutrients

  • Gentle on the stomach

  • Source of iron

Cons
  • Larger serving size (½ cup)

  • Added high intensity no calorie sweetener (monk fruit)

There are many things we like about Drink Wholesome's Chocolate Protein powder: It uses a limited number of ingredients, has 20 grams of protein per serving, and is third-party tested. Some types of protein powders can cause stomach discomfort and bloating, but Drink Wholesome prides itself on creating powders that are gentle on the stomach and easy to digest. This may be especially helpful if you're nauseous during your pregnancy. Since the products don’t contain protein concentrates, the serving size is larger at ½ cup.

Their traditional powder uses egg white protein as the protein source, and the only other ingredients are coconut, cocoa, and monk fruit. This makes the powder not only a significant source of protein but also of fat, with a few grams of carbs to boot. In addition, it also provides an 11% Daily Value of iron—an important mineral needed for making red blood cells during pregnancy.

One way to get around the larger serving size is to blend with milk, a banana, oats, and some berries for a well-balanced smoothie on the go. Drink Wholesome has an array of options in its protein powder line. There is a mocha flavor that contains caffeine, so it is important to factor this caffeine content into your total daily caffeine intake if you choose this flavor. There are also vegan varieties that use chickpeas and peanuts.

Price at time of publish: $40 ($2.19 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
14 | Type of protein: Egg white | Protein per serving: 20 g | Fiber per serving: 2 g | Sugar per serving: 2 g

Best Budget

Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber

Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber

 Amazon

Pros
  • Budget friendly

  • No added sweeteners

  • High in fiber

  • Good source of minerals

Cons
  • Earthy flavor

  • No reported third-party testing

Hemp Yeah! Balanced Protein + Fiber is unique in that it is not only a vegan product, but it is made entirely from nutrient-dense hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are generally considered to be a complete protein source, and one serving provides a whopping 8 grams of fiber in addition to plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Getting enough fiber during pregnancy is important to help support digestion and regular bowel movements and feed healthy gut bacteria. Higher fiber intake is connected to a reduced risk of most lifestyle-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The omega-3 and omega-6 fats from hemp seeds are also important for heart health. We also like this hemp protein is a good source of so many vitamins and minerals. Notably, a serving provides 35% Daily Value (DV) of iron, 35% DV of zinc, 60% DV of magnesium, and 90% DV of copper.

Since hemp seeds are the only ingredient, some note a more detectable flavor (and color) of the powder; however, when it's combined in a smoothie or oatmeal with fruit, the flavor and color are more masked. One thing to note is Manitoba Harvest does not list third-party testing for their protein powders.

Price at time of publish: $21 ($0.67 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
30 | Type of Protein: Hemp | Protein per serving: 15 g | Fiber per serving: 8 g | Sugar per serving: 1 g

Best Pre-mixed

OWYN Vegan Protein Shake

owyn-protein-shake

Amazon

Pros
  • No preparation required

  • Vegan

  • Allergy friendly and certified kosher 

  • Good source of fiber and iron

Cons
  • No reported third-party testing to verify ingredients

  • More expensive

If you don't have time to create your own protein shake, we appreciate that Owyn offers a variety of pre-mixed protein shake flavors that are all vegan-friendly. Unlike many other pre-mixed shakes, Owyn does not add vitamins or minerals that may exceed the daily recommendations when combined with a prenatal multivitamin. Because it is made from pea and pumpkin seed protein, this shake naturally provides 5 grams of fiber and 30% Daily Value of iron. It is also—you guessed it—a complete protein.

Owyn's shakes do contain a small amount of added sugar, monk fruit sweetener, and natural flavors. If you have a food allergy, Owyn might be a great choice, as they conduct third-party testing for the presence of allergens. Because of this, they are recognized by Food Allergy & Research Education (FARE), whose goal is to improve the lives of those living with food allergies. They do not report third-party testing to verify label accuracy or that their shakes are free from non-allergen contaminants.

Of note, there is a cold brew coffee flavor containing caffeine, so if you prefer this flavor, consider your overall caffeine intake. These shakes are ready-made and require no prep, but you pay for that convenience, as these are more expensive than most protein powders.

Price at time of publish: $37 ($0.26 per serving)

Key Specs:
Servings per container:
14 | Type of protein: Egg white | Protein per serving: 20 g | Fiber per serving: 5 g | Sugar per serving: 4 g

Is Protein Powder Beneficial During Pregnancy?

Research shows that many pregnant people struggle to meet their elevated prenatal protein needs, especially during the second and third trimesters, where anywhere from 13% to 67% of pregnant people may not be getting enough protein. 

Those at higher risk of not meeting their protein needs include pregnant people who:

  • Suffer from nausea and/or vomiting: “If a pregnant [person] is suffering from nausea and/or vomiting, and having a very difficult time consuming food sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, then a protein powder would certainly be appropriate,” says Seiden.
  • Follow a plant-based diet: If you are eating a vegetarian or vegan diet while pregnant, you may especially benefit from adding a protein supplement since these diets are usually naturally lower in protein, and plant proteins are not as easily digested as animal proteins.

With current low carbohydrate diet trends, you may be tempted to curb your carb intake and add more protein, but it is essential not to compromise carbohydrates, the key energy source for mom and baby. Protein should be in addition to carbs, not in replacement of them.

Who May Not Benefit from Protein Powders

It is possible to meet pregnancy's increased protein needs through just the food you eat, including chicken, fish, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Consuming protein in whole food form also provides the benefits of other important components of the food, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

We don’t recommend protein powder if you are able to meet your protein needs from food. Taking a high-protein supplement if your diet already includes sufficient protein may even result in negative outcomes for your baby, such as low birth weight, premature birth, and impaired growth.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.  We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products.

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

To further help in these pursuits, we also consulted with Casey Seiden, MS, RD, CDECES, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist in New York City, and Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, diabetes educator, and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Atlanta. 

What to Look for in a Pregnancy-Safe Protein Powder

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third-party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Third-party testing is especially important for protein powders because of the risk of contamination with heavy metals which could be particularly problematic in the pregnant population. 

Form

Since protein is found in a variety of foods, protein powders can be derived from multiple sources. Common protein powder sources are collagen, whey, soy, rice, pea, and hemp seed. At this point, there have not been high-quality studies that have evaluated the efficacy of one source of protein supplementation over another in pregnancy. 

One important thing to note is that plant proteins may not be as easily digested as animal proteins and plant proteins are usually not complete protein sources, while animal proteins are. It is still possible to be vegetarian or vegan and have a healthy pregnancy, however, it just means you need to pay a bit more attention to protein intake if you do not eat animal products. This is why all of the plant-based powders we recommend are complete proteins.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Protein powders sometimes contain herbal blends. However, there is insufficient research on the safety of most herbs in pregnancy, so it is important to exercise caution with these products. Some powders may also contain added vitamins and minerals, which in combination with prenatal multivitamin supplements, could potentially risk exceeding the recommended daily value of certain nutrients. We recommend consulting with a registered dietitian about the ingredient list to confirm that all ingredients are considered safe for pregnancy. 

Protein Dosage

The recommended amount of protein varies by pregnancy stage, as needs increase as your baby grows and develops. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein throughout pregnancy put forth by the Institute of Medicine is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day during the first trimester and 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight per day during the second and third trimesters.For example, a woman that weighs 150 pounds would need at least 75 grams of protein per day during the second and third trimesters. However, some research suggests protein needs are actually higher, instead ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Another way to think about protein recommendations is the percent of your total calories. For pregnant people, it is generally recommended that protein should be about 20% of your daily calorie intake. For example, if your calorie needs are 1,800 calories per day, 20% of calories from protein would be 90 grams of protein per day.

How Much Is Too Much?

There is no established upper limit for protein in pregnancy or any life stage, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes. However, the Institute of Medicine has set an acceptable range for protein at 10-35% of total energy intake for all adults (the rest of the energy comes from carbohydrates and fat).

Some studies suggest that adding a high-protein supplement when the diet already provides sufficient protein could have potentially harmful effects. One possible explanation is that consuming the supplement resulted in excess protein and reduced carbohydrate intake, which could negatively impact your baby’s growth. Another hypothesis is that there is a negative impact on how the baby's body utilizes amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and/or that excess protein leads to reduced levels of growth hormones.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of protein powder should I avoid during pregnancy?

    Quality matters, so choose protein powder from a trusted brand, preferably one with third-party testing certifications, to ensure purity and potency. Avoid powders that contain herbal blends and adaptogens, or other additives that may not be safe to consume during pregnancy. Individuals with dietary restrictions such as food allergies and intolerances should avoid powders containing those ingredients. Likewise, those with medical conditions such as IBS or celiac disease should avoid powders containing ingredients that may trigger symptoms such as FODMAPs or gluten.

  • Can I continue using protein powder while I am breastfeeding?

    Yes, postpartum recovery and lactation are life stages where your nutritional needs continue to be elevated. The same considerations to keep in mind for pregnancy will hold true throughout breastfeeding as well. 

  • What should I mix protein powder with?

    “Protein powders can be easily incorporated into smoothies, hot drinks, soup, oatmeal, or energy bites, to name a few,” says Al Bochi. If you want to use protein powder in a savory dish, be sure to choose an unflavored variety, like Needed's collagen powder.

  • What is the best time of day to use protein powder?

    The optimal timing is when it is most practical and feasible for you. There is no research-based consensus around the ideal timing for protein supplementation. Especially if you have morning sickness during pregnancy, the best time to eat or use protein powder is when it feels best to ease your discomfort.

  • How do I know if I need protein powder?

    According to Al Bochi, “Protein needs increase significantly during pregnancy, and it may be challenging to meet your nutritional requirements from food alone." You may especially benefit from a protein supplement if you struggle with nausea or vomiting or eat little or no meat during your pregnancy.

    The best way to assess whether your diet is meeting your protein needs is to meet with a Registered Dietitian who can analyze your intake and guide you on how to incorporate supplemental protein as needed. 

Why Trust Verywell Family

Alexandra Paetow is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, mom of two, and founder of Thrive and Bloom Nutrition, a virtual nutrition practice based in New Jersey.

Alexandra specializes in nutrition through preconception, prenatal, and postpartum life stages. She uses intuitive eating principles to help women learn to trust and care for their changing bodies by breaking the diet cycle, building a positive relationship with food, and healing body image struggles. As a mom of two (soon to be three!), she understands the importance of low-stress, practical strategies, and the profound impact that a mom’s nutrition and body image can have on the whole family.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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