Nourish Yourself on a Cellular Level with Nutrition Stripped

The scoop on plant-based protein powder in according to McKel Kooienga

By: Karyn Trepanier
Nourish Yourself on a Cellular Level with Nutrition Stripped

McKel Kooienga is a Registered Dietician and a leading voice in nutrition and mindful living, named one of the “Top 20 Role Models” by Arianna Huffington. She’s the founder of Nutrition Stripped and The Mindful Nutrition Method™️, a unique nutrition program that has stripped away the conventional approach to creating healthy meals. The traditional mindset surrounding diet culture is that it’s an all-or-nothing practice, based on counting calories and restricting specific foods, most often carbohydrates. Kooienga has rē-spun this notion into her own vision of mindful eating that allows for the flexibility needed to consistently practice wellness within our modern, ever-changing lifestyles. Carbs are welcomed here and even enjoyed- guilt-free. 

Kooienga believes nourishment should be easy, mindful, and enjoyable. Her philosophy is rooted in three simple principles, eating an abundance of plant-based foods, practicing mindful eating and living, and having the skills and tools to put those things into practice in your daily life. The same mission applies when building a protein-packed smoothie.

The Foundation Five Method:

Blending up a scoop of any old protein powder with your favorite milk alternative isn’t going to satisfy you for long. Kooienga wants you to choose protein powder blends with whole food ingredients AND build delicious smoothies to add it to, using her unique meal building method. 

“Smoothies are such a great way to get a nutrient-dense meal packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but the key is to make sure they’re well-balanced so you feel full and energized,” Kooienga explains. Traditionally, Dieticians tend to shy away from recommending protein shakes as a meal replacement, but according to Kooienga protein supplementation can be beneficial to your diet if you’re including it in the right way.  

When building any kind of meal, McKel follows the Foundational Five Nourish Meal plan. This is any meal that contains all 5 elements within the Nutrition Stripped Foundational Five system: Non-starchy Carbohydrates, Starchy or Sugary Carbohydrates, Fat, Protein, and the Flavor Factor. By including at least 3 of the 5 elements when building a smoothie with protein powder (or ideally all 5 if the smoothie is a meal), it’ll support you in feeling both energized and satiated. 

Whole food ingredients are key:

Choosing a quality protein powder for your smoothies can be a confusing task. There are endless options to choose from, and even longer ingredient lists to make sense of. When it comes to protein powder ingredients, the simpler the better. Some brands on the market deliver exceptionally high amounts of protein per serving, but they’re often using low-quality ingredients, unhealthy additives, and artificial flavoring. If you can’t pronounce more than one of the listed ingredients, it’s time to rē-think your choice. 

“When looking for plant-based protein, look for products that contain whole food ingredients and are free of artificial flavorings, additives, added sugars, and fillers. Then check the protein content,” says Kooienga. She recommends looking for a protein powder that has at least 20 grams of protein per serving.

Get more function from your protein powder:

There are a variety of plant-based protein powder bases, but many of them are low in both collagen and essential amino acids. It can be difficult to get enough protein AND enough essential amino acids from a single plant-based protein source. Look for multi-source plant-based protein powders which combine more types of plant proteins for a fuller amino acid profile and high protein intake. Amazing Grass is Kooienga’s favorite protein powder brand to use for smoothies because it combines plant proteins from organic peas, hemp, chia, and quinoa.

“We craft our blends with multi-source proteins to obtain all essential amino acids, which supplies a wider range of the ‘building blocks of protein’ compared to your typical single source plant-protein product,” a rep for Amazing Grass recently told rē•spin 

You can also get more function in your protein powder by choosing blends that go beyond delivering just protein. Amazing Grass packs in antioxidant superfoods, alkalizing greens, prebiotics, and probiotics sourced from USA family farms. These functional protein blends support optimal digestion, glowing skin, and whole-body health.

nutrition stripped protein smoothie 

A protein-packed smoothie recipe:

Tahini is the star ingredient in this smoothie. If you’re not familiar with tahini, it’s similar in texture to peanut butter, but it’s made from sesame seeds! Not only does its nutty flavor give it a satisfying flavor that pairs so well with cinnamon, but it also contains just 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of mineral-rich tahini contains about 10% DV of iron, 25% DV of magnesium, 22% DV phosphorus, 21% DV copper, 20% DV manganese and zinc, and 30% thiamine, protein, healthy fats, and fiber!

  • Foundational Five Recipe Breakdown
  • Non-Starchy Carbohydrate: Zucchini
  • Starchy Carbohydrate: Banana
  • Healthy Fat: Tahini, Unsweetened Almond Milk, Chia Seeds
  • Protein: Protein Powder, Tahini
  • Flavor Profile: Vanilla extract, Cinnamon 
  • Cinnamon Tahini Smoothie


  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder 
  • 1/2 to 1 frozen banana (I love 1/2 a banana with 1/2 zucchini for a little sweetness and a little fiber!)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of tahini (Seed + Mill)
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ice


  1. Simply combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or high-speed blender until smooth.
  2. I like to first combine the almond milk with the chia seeds and let it blend for about 2 minutes so the chia seeds can start absorbing the almond milk.

Plant-based protein powders can be the next best thing to eating real, whole foods if you know what to look for. Combining a multi-source, plant-based, protein powder with whole food ingredients is the best way to build smoothies that are both nourishing and filling enough to actually satisfy you. Remember to practice mindful eating for better digestion, even when you’re just sipping on a meal. 


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