Guilty-Pleasure Protein Drink

Perfectly Protein

Perfectly Protein

I Paid: $2.89 per 15.2-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

Some of you may remember how excited I was recently about Special K’s newish protein shakes. Now I’ve found something even better: Bolthouse Farms’ Perfectly Protein drinks, which come in Starbucks-esque flavors like Mocha Cappuccino and Hazelnut Latté.

Their packaging is slick: color illustrations of vanilla flowers, nuts, and whole spices, suggesting that what you’re about to consume is as natural as a hippie juice bar. And their flavor bears no resemblance to the chalky concoctions one might associate with meal-replacement weightlifting beverages of yore. The Mocha Cappuccino variety is smooth and sweet without tasting artificial or cloying, with a mellow coffee bite; the whey protein is grit-free, tasting and feeling like creamy milk.

Purely Chocolate is, again, free of grit or nasty aftertaste, with a brownielike fudge flavor and a hint of burnt sugar to suggest a liquid version of homemade baked goods.

The Vanilla Chai Tea has a green tea undernote and is a bit nutmeggy, pleasant to sip, and so deft on its feet as to be almost too light-seeming to be a protein drink.

Each bottle has about 19 grams of protein (whey or soy), plus calcium, vitamins C, B6, and B12, and about 300 calories (that’s roughly 20 calories per ounce versus 19 in the Kellogg’s shakes).

It’s not obvious how much health benefit drinking this stuff will bring you: The functional-food marketing jazz on the bottle about amino acids and protein essentially promises a latte–flavored fountain of youth, but the science behind it is ambiguous. For some people, chugging protein shakes may be a fine nutritional move; but for others, nutrition experts urge caution.

Regardless, these drinks are damned tasty. Take that for what it’s worth.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow Chowhound on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.

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