I wound up making my own smoothie mix. Protein smoothies have been essential for keeping me fueled when my digestive system is confused. Erratic appetite means junk is more attractive, but I don't consider protein powder junk, thanks to a year of using it as a basis for my diet.
This guided me to an actually healthy concoction, the hot chocolate protein smoothie. (I may not have invented it, but -- for me -- I have perfected it.)
Here's my protein powder tips:
We probably have to hunt down plain protein powder. At least, I've never seen it anywhere but online. I was looking for bulk buys and frugality at first, but it led me to other insights.
I had been eating protein bars, but even with good ingredients like actual whey protein and stevia as a sweetener, I was eating too many. I cut them out and improved, but it made me realize I had to get back to sources. Speaking of which, many protein bars use soy instead of dairy. It's cheaper and it's bad for me. So dairy/non-dairy has to be the first choice. Financially consider that Diet Doctor recommends increasing plant-based protein by 30%. It's not as bio-available as dairy is to people who tolerate dairy.
They have not yet come out with fish powder. I doubt they will.
I started looking at ingredients that might be giving me trouble in my shake mix, too. I tried all kind of muscle building stuff, but I didn't like whey isolate. It made lumps in my cocoa and anything resistant like that might be giving me a fight, too? So I wound up with whey protein powder, period. So now the ingredients to my morning shake mix is six:
d-ribose (metabolic rebuilding per doctor, yet seems to get along with me as a sweetener, and does not spike me)
adaptogen herb of the day
flavoring -- this morning, cayenne
Compare that list with what is listed on a typical protein shake, and I got the strong feeling a lot of my money was going to that sludge in the bottom of my cup. The kind I had to watch out for, or it would clog my sink. Granted, I was having it twice a day with a real meal in between, but that's got to be something Not Good.
My new mix has no sludge.
I concluded that there was more in the way of filler, sweetener, vitamins, stabilizers and emulsifiers to make it easy to mix and enhance the flavor than I had any idea was there. By creating my simpler recipe, the same cup satisfied me longer. Despite what it said on the label, I wasn't getting as much protein their way as my way.
When I'm low, I shouldn't cook. At the least, messes happen when I'm least able to burn energy cleaning it up. But simple and delicious meals are in the reach of everyone.
Also, cocoa is full of antioxidants, and is mostly theobromine, a kinder caffeine. It let me give up coffee
Since I have it every day, I use half organic and half dutched, which is low on antioxidants but big on lowering the bitterness, and enhancing the richness.
It turned into a great meal for me, thanks to all the insights about protein JEY has shared in this thread.