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Protein powders occupy that hazy, gray area between what constitutes food and what defines a vitamin or supplement. In terms of bodybuilding, protein powder is a supplement, however, it can also be considered a food, depending on what protein you purchase.
The “Facts” label on the back is the determining factor on whether or not you can purchase the protein powder with food stamps. If it says, “Nutrition Facts,” then it is classified as a food and you can buy it with EBT. A “Supplement Facts” label means that it is a supplement and you can’t purchase it with food stamps.
The company that manufactures the protein powder is the one that decides whether to sell it as a food or as a supplement. It’s a strange circumstance, considering the fact that protein powder is a protein powder, regardless of how it’s marketed.
Ultimately, whether or not you can use your EBT benefits to purchase protein powder is determined by a company long before the product is both produced and delivered to a shelf.
What Protein Powders Are Available With Food Stamps?
If you’re looking for the right protein powders that you can purchase with food stamps or an EBT card, you need to look for the nutrition facts label on the back and put together a good list.
- F-Factor 20/20 Protein/Fiber Powder
- Muscle Milk Protein Powder
- Naked Whey – Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder
- MuscleFarm Combat Protein
- TGS Natural Whey Powder
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard
F-Factor has a 20/20 powder so you can get two for the price of one in the nutrition category and use your EBT benefits to purchase a container. F-Factor powder is a half and half mix of protein and fiber that is non-GMO, kosher, soy-free, and all-natural.
Normally, you would associate Muscle Milk with bodybuilding and therefore as a supplement, rather than a food.
However, Muscle Milk is in the “thumbs up” category for food stamp purchases. With two scoops you get 34g of protein as well as plenty of minerals and vitamins for your daily intake.
Naked Whey comes from California and apparently comes from “grass-fed” cows. You get 25g of protein per serving along with a very low source of vitamins and minerals.
MuscleFarm Combat Protein is another supplement-sounding protein powder that is marketed and manufactured as a food. It has 25g of protein per serving and doesn’t stick to any one protein powder type, using soy, whey, and casein.
TGS Natural Whey Powder has absolutely zero additives in its protein powder mix. You don’t have to worry about gluten, GMOs, preservatives, sugar, starch, bleach, or acids in their mix. You get 25g of protein per serving along with a small amount of cholesterol and Vitamin D.
Optimum’s protein mix is entirely plant-based, so it’s all soy protein with this choice. You’ll get 24g with each serving along with your entire daily requirement for Vitamin C. The carbs are kept low in the mix but you will also get a healthy portion of iron.
Can You Buy Protein Shakes With Food Stamps?
Protein shakes are just like protein powders in that some are marketed as a food source, with nutrition labels on the back while others are considered a supplement, with supplement labels on the back.
It’s a little more difficult to purchase protein shakes because most of them fall into the supplement category rather than food/nutrition. Protein bars are the same way, with the vast majority labeled as supplements and therefore ineligible for EBT cards.
- Quest Nutrition Shakes
- Orgain Organic Protein Shakes
- HealthSmart ChocoRite High Protein Shake
- Kellogg’s Special K Protein Shakes
- Naked Protein
- Shamrock Farms Protein Shake
As you can see, there’s still a decent variety of protein shakes out there for you to purchase with food stamps. So long as it has a list of nutrition facts on the back, you’re good to go. Your Quest Nutrition shakes are non-GMO and loaded with 30g of protein, without all of the sugar.
Orgain is an organic nutrition shake that doesn’t match some of the others in the sheer volume of protein. However, it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals while still having a decent amount of protein at 16g.
HealthSmart is technically a protein powder, however, it’s designed to make protein shakes and two scoops is the equivalent of 48g of protein. It also has a good amount of fiber in it but that’s about the end of its nutritional value.
Kelloggs doesn’t just make cereal and since their primary brand is food it stands to reason that their protein shakes would fall under the same umbrella. They only have 15g of protein but they also have a good daily dose of fiber as well. Unfortunately, they are loaded with sugar at 18g.
Naked Protein came along not far behind their delicious juice blends. Loaded with sugars at 48g, they do have 30g of protein in a pretty small, 15.2oz bottle. You’ll get your carbs here as well but it comes with plenty of cholesterol.
Shamrock Farms eschews the sugar but is still pretty high on cholesterol and sodium. As far as protein is concerned, you’ll get a pretty full dose with 30g. Shamrock Farms Protein Shakes are also loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals on top of the protein.
Are All Protein Types Available For Food Stamps/EBT?
While not all protein powders qualify for EBT/food stamp purchase, all protein types can be found under the food/nutrition category. There are three types of protein: soy, whey, and casein.
There’s not only a difference between the types of protein—in terms of what they are called—but also where they are derived from and how they are absorbed by the human body.
Casein protein is primarily derived from cow’s milk but can be found—at some level or another—in just about any dairy product, such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese.
You can use your EBT benefits to purchase casein powder in pure powder form as a nutritional supplement. MyProtein makes a powder protein that’s entirely casein with 23g of protein per serving.
Casein is a very slow-acting protein that is absorbed by the body over a long period of time. Weightlifters only take casein supplements at night so they can work as they sleep to help repair muscle tissue damaged from lifting weights.
Soy protein is entirely derived from plants and is the best choice for vegetarians and vegans to add protein to their daily diets. It doesn’t absorb as slowly as casein but it also doesn’t absorb nearly as quickly as whey.
Soy is problematic for weightlifting because it doesn’t offer immediate relief to muscles who have suffered through the micro-tearing involved in bodybuilding. However, it’s a suitable replacement for whey over the recuperating hours of the rest of the day.
Now Sports makes a soy protein powder that qualifies for those with EBT benefits and is primarily for online purchasing, though you may be able to find it in a fitness store. It comes in a pretty large container with 20g of protein per serving and 38 servings total.
Whey protein is far and away absorbed quickest in the body over any other protein type. Whey is the preferred protein source for bodybuilders and weight trainers because it immediately begins the repair process after a workout.
Levels Whey Protein Powder is a qualifying nutritional food for purchase with food stamps. It contains 24g of protein per serving and comes with 71 servings per container. Levels are another “grass-fed” source that comes from California cows.
They also have a casein version if you’re interested in the same brand for multiple forms of protein powder.
Can You Buy Protein Bars With Food Stamps?
Protein bars—despite the fact that you literally have to put them in your mouth and chew them up before swallowing them—can be sold with “Supplemental Facts” on the back, which means that you cannot purchase them with food stamps or an EBT card.
Fortunately, just like the powders and shakes, there are plenty available that are marketed and labeled as food, so they qualify for food stamps and EBT purchases. It’s a bizarre world when food is not sold as food in some markets.
Nature Valley bars are probably one of the most renowned protein bars on the list, even though they aren’t loaded with protein. They only have 10g of protein per bar but many of them come with two bars per pack.
Naked Nutrition also sells protein bars with nutrition facts labels on the back, even though they’re limited in flavors—just chocolate and peanut butter—they have 15g of protein per bar.
All Things Considered
It’s not as easy to find protein supplements that fall under the “food” category, however, it’s not impossible either. Whether it’s powders, shakes, or bars, there are plenty of options out there that qualify for food stamps or EBT payment.
You’ll find the most luck in the health food sections of your local grocery store, Walmart, or fitness stores. Also, with the advent of the FNs Launches the Online Purchasing Pilot | Food and Nutrition Service (usda.gov)—depending on which state you live in—you can purchase your protein powder online as well.