Love Coffee? Try This Protein-Rich Coffee Smoothie for Breakfast

Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares one of her favorite healthy breakfast recipes, a protein coffee smoothie. Yes, you can have a smoothie as a meal!

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How to make a healthy smoothie

I love to start my day with coffee, and as a registered dietitian, I’m happy to report that a daily coffee ritual is good for you, both mentally and physically. There are healthy ways to incorporate coffee into your day—and not just as a drink.

One of my favorite tips is to transform your morning cup of Joe into a meal. I have a healthy breakfast recipe to share, but first, it’s important to understand the nutrients and health benefits that coffee delivers.

Health benefits of coffee

In a JAMA Internal Medicine study of more than 50,000 women, researchers found that depression risk decreased as caffeinated coffee consumption increased. Women who drank two to three cups of coffee every day had a lower risk of depression than those who drank one or fewer cups per week.

Chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol antioxidant abundant in coffee, has been shown to reduce inflammation and may play a key role in protection against chronic diseases, including obesity.

A 2018 study published in Nutrition Reviews that analyzed 30 previously published studies found that coffee intake is inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.

This is likely due to java’s antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects, and its positive impact on the content and diversity of beneficial gut microbes, or gut bacteria.

Other research has found that coffee may aid heart health, enhance your focus, and boost your recovery post-workout. Adding protein powder to your coffee may give an extra boost for workout recovery.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, even decaf coffee has been shown to offer similar health benefits to its fully leaded counterpart.

How to reap the health benefits of coffee

The two keys to reaping coffee’s rewards are to enjoy it in moderation, and incorporate it healthfully—in other words, don’t load it up with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other inflammatory additives.

This healthy breakfast recipe from my dietitian colleague, Megan Byrd, RD of The Oregon Dietitian, combines cold brew with protein, fiber, healthy fat, fruit, and a range of key nutrients that will leave you feeling energized and nourished all morning long.

Protein Coffee Smoothie Recipe

healthy coffee recipeCourtesy Megan Byrd


  • 3/4 cup cold brew or chilled brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 3-4 ice cubes


Put all ingredients except the protein powder in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the scoop of protein powder and pulse 4 or 5 times until mixed well. Pour into a glass and get your morning going!


If this smoothie is not sweet enough for you, add 1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup. It doesn’t taste like maple syrup at all, and sweetens it just enough.

For other ways to incorporate coffee into breakfast, use it as the liquid in oatmeal, overnight oats, or an açai bowl. Or opt for instant, like Mount Hagen organic freeze dried crystals ($17 per two jars).

You can add them to energy balls, chia pudding, a yogurt, fruit, and nut parfait, or fold into nut butter along with vanilla and cinnamon and slather onto fresh fruit. Get creative, combine coffee with other whole foods, and jump-start your day in more ways than one.

  • JAMA Internal Medicine: "Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women"
  • European Journal of Nutrition: "The potential effects of chlorogenic acid, the main phenolic components in coffee, on health: a comprehensive review of the literature"
  • Nutrition Reviews: "Coffee consumption and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes: a systematic review with meta-analysis"
  • Planta Medica: "The Impact of Coffee on Health"
  • Megan Byrd, RD of The Oregon Dietitian

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
Cynthia Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, writer, recipe developer, and practitioner, with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. One of the first registered dietitians to become a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she has consulted for five professional sports teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB. In her private practice Sass counsels a wide range of clients. She has worked with Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winners, professional athletes across a variety of sports, Fortune 500 CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and many other high-performance people. She is also the nutrition consultant for UCLA's Executive Health Program. Sass has appeared on numerous national TV shows, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Martha Stewart Show, The Dr. Oz. Show, The Biggest Loser, Nightline, and many others. In addition to her degrees, Sass has formal training in plant-based, organic culinary arts and mindfulness meditation. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist and is working toward certification through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. She specializes in high performance nutrition and plant-based eating, and is based in Los Angeles.