Can I Buy Protein Powder with EBT? Shakes|Bars|Whey

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program is meant to mitigate hunger in the US. Placed under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), SNAP provides nutritional benefits to help supplement the food budget of low-income families and support underserved and socially disadvantaged communities.

About EBT

Once you qualify to receive food stamps in your states, an account is established under your name where SNAP funds are loaded every month. To make it easier for recipients to access and spend their benefits, SNAP funds are distributed with an Electronic Benefits Transfer card (EBT), which works like a debit card. You can’t use your EBT debit card without a PIN.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a family of four will usually have an average of $477 loaded into their EBT card per month. 

Good news: In 2021, SNAP has received an additional $3.5 billion. It’s a 15% increase in its budget to feed households experiencing food insecurity. Each SNAP recipient is earmarked to get $27 more, which is over $100 for a household of four. That’s a huge boost!

The problem is, SNAP rules restrict what you can or can’t buy with an EBT card. For instance, supplements, vitamins, and medicine cannot be bought with EBT.

With so many SNAP funds going around, many SNAP recipients have been left wondering if there’s EBT eligible protein powder. That leads us to the question:

Can EBT cover protein powder?

Quick Answer: You can buy certain types of protein powder with EBT food stamps. To be eligible for SNAP purchase, protein powder bought with food stamps must be sold as food. If a protein powder is marked  “Nutrition Facts” on the back, it can be bought with EBT funds. SNAP sees products with nutritional facts as essential food items, and they’re EBT-eligible.

That said, you can’t use an EBT card to purchase protein powder sold as a supplement. Any protein powder labeled “Supplement Facts” on the back is seen by the USDA as a non-essential food item and cannot be bought with food stamps.

What Protein Powder Can You Buy with EBT?

Any protein powder sold as a food item can be bought with EBT, while protein powder sold as a supplement cannot be bought with EBT.

Here’s why:

SNAP allows the purchase of staple food items with an EBT card. What protein powder you can buy with EBT depends on the brand and the exact type of product you want to purchase. Some protein powders are sold as food, while others are sold as supplements. For protein powder to be EBT-eligible, it must be considered a food item, not a supplement.

Since you can redeem your SNAP benefits on most food items, any nutrition protein powder sold as food is considered a regular grocery item and qualifies for EBT purchase. On the contrary, SNAP doesn’t allow recipients to redeem SNAP funds on supplements and vitamins. Thus, protein powder sold as a supplement cannot be bought with EBT.

How to Know Whether Protein Powder is EBT-Eligible?

To determine whether a protein powder is sold as food or a supplement, check the label on the back of the product. If the label is marked “Nutritious Facts,” that protein powder qualifies as a normal food item and is eligible for EBT purchase. If the label reads “Supplement Facts,” the product is sold as a supplement and cannot be bought with a SNAP EBT card.

Alternatively, reach out to your local benefits agency to obtain a list of EBT-eligible protein powder brands and products in your states. You can also visit the USDA website and use the “Ask the Expert” tool to submit questions to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Just send an email with a query on whether a product is EBT-eligible or not. The latter option is even better if you get free internet or low-cost internet at home.

Do Food Stamps Cover Protein Shakes? 

Are you a SNAP recipient looking to lose weight or gain muscles? Protein shakes are excellent when it comes to helping you achieve your fitness goals? But can you buy premier protein shakes with EBT?

Yes, food stamps cover protein shakes sold as food but won’t cover any protein shakes sold as supplements.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aims to supplement cheap food to buy on a budget of low-income families. Any product that is sold as staple food qualifies for EBT purchase. Some are foods you can carry and cook at home, while others are cold snacks and drinks you can take on the go.

Whether food stamps cover protein shakes boils down to whether the protein shake is sold as food or a supplement. Just like protein powder, any protein shakes that qualify as food can be bought with EBT. But since SNAP funds don’t cover vitamins and supplements, protein shakes sold as supplements aren’t SNAP-eligible.

Most brands sell their protein shakes as supplements, and you’ll find them marked with a “Supplement Facts” label. They cannot be bought with EBT. That said, you’ll also find a few brands selling their protein shakes with a “Nutrition Facts” label, which can be bought with EBT.

Just read the label on the protein shake. If it’s marked “Nutrition Facts,” add it to the cart and see how it can help you narrow your waistline. If it reads, “Supplement Facts,” refrain!

Can You Buy Protein Bars with EBT?

Are you a SNAP recipient athlete? You may want to know whether you can buy protein bars with EBT. Proteins bars top the charts when it comes to fueling a workout, supporting muscle repair after exercise, or just as a convenient and easy way to add carbs, vitamins, minerals, and proteins to an athlete’s diet.

Can you buy protein bars with EBT?

Yes, you can buy protein bars with EBT if the bar is sold as a standard food item. EBT eligible protein bars are usually marked with a “Nutrition Facts” label. Since SNAP allows recipients to purchase almost any staple food items, such protein bars qualify as ordinary grocery items and can be purchased with food stamps.

That said, you can’t buy protein bars with EBT if they are labeled “Supplement Facts.” It’s because SNAP doesn’t allow recipients to use their SNAP funds on vitamins and supplements. These are considered non-essential luxuries.

So if you can’t find EBT-eligible protein powder, you can look into protein shakes and bars. They are pretty much the same and give a similar benefit. And as you can see, the qualification criterion is the same. You just need to look at the label printed on the product to see whether the protein bar is EBT-eligible or not.

Your takeaway: You can buy protein bars with EBT if the bar is sold as food and marked “Nutritious Facts,” But you can’t use an EBT card to purchase protein bars sold as supplements and marked with “Supplement Facts.”

Can You Buy Whey Protein with Food Stamps?

Whether you have lactose intolerance or just want to improve your athletic performance, whey proteins can be an excellent source of high-quality, animal-based proteins. But before you go, it’s essential to know if you can buy whey protein with EBT.

The good news is, you can buy whey protein with food stamps. But like other protein powders, shakes, and bars, SNAP rules restrict the type of whey protein powder purchased with food stamps.

Whey protein is only EBT eligible if it’s sold as food and marked with a “Nutrition Facts” label. If the label reads “Supplement Facts,” the protein powder is sold as a supplement and cannot be purchased with food stamps.

Whether a whey protein powder qualifies for an EBT purchase boils down to the brand selling it. Some brands sell their Whey protein as food, while others market them as supplements.

For instance, most whey protein powders from Pure Proteins contain “Nutrition Facts” labels and can be bought with EBT. But the CVS store brand whey protein carries a “Supplement Facts” label and cannot be purchased with an EBT card.

Which Foods Should I Buy if Protein Powder isn’t Available?

If you look for protein powders, shakes, and similar items, and they all say “Supplement Facts” instead of “Nutrition Facts”, you can still supplement your food with the protein you need by using alternative foods. These foods are high in protein, inexpensive, and a great way to keep you on track if you’re trying to eat healthy. 

Whole Eggs

Eggs are a natural source of animal protein in high amounts, and are one of the cheapest options you will obtain on the market. A carton of a dozen eggs can cost you less than $2 and last you for a major part of the week. 

Peanut Butter

Apart from being delicious and versatile to use, peanut butter is a great source of nutrients. A jar of peanut butter can last you for a month even if it’s consumed with bread regularly. 

Whole Milk

While you might be able to find muscle milk with high protein amounts included in it, even drinking whole milk can be a good source of protein. Whole milk can also be used for other dishes for everyone in the family.

DIY Protein Shakes

If you’re willing to put in some extra effort, you can use EBT funds to buy your own ingredients and make delicious protein shakes at home. Using fruits, oats, milk, and nuts, you can get a protein shake with SNAP benefits without using supplements. 

Which Consumables Cannot be Purchased With EBT?

The government doesn’t want you to abuse your EBT benefits. 

For this reason, a number of items that can be consumed aren’t included in your SNAP benefits. These include alcohol, vitamins, medicines, tobacco, and household items. The reason why protein powder isn’t included in the list is because it falls in the category of supplements, which doesn’t make it eligible for the program. 

Reading the product label is the best way to know if the product you’re looking for is classified as a food. As long as your label reads “Nutritional Facts” instead of “Supplement Facts,” you should be good to go. 

Are There Other Non-Food Items I Can Purchase With SNAP?

While SNAP benefits are only meant for food, there are ways in which you can obtain an EBT card with TAFDC benefits. 

TAFDC stands for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and is only applicable to pregnant women, families, and caregivers to help them improve their finances and explore their opportunities. These benefits are only available for residents of Massachusetts. 

However, these are only applicable to certain people, and in general, SNAP benefits are only food related and you cannot use your EBT card for protein or non-protein foods. If you qualify for TAFDC and can be categorized as one of the people mentioned above, you can visit the Massachusetts Government Website and apply online or over the phone with your local office. 

Are there EBT Eligible Protein Powders?

Yes, there are EBT eligible protein powders. EBT cards cover any protein powder sold as food. Qualified goods are usually marked “Nutrition Facts.” However, any protein powder carrying a “Supplement Facts” label isn’t EBT-eligible.

As such, you’ll need to check the label on the back of the product to establish whether it’s an EBT eligible protein powder or not. Here’s a list of EBT-eligible protein powders from leading brands that have a “Nutrition Facts” label to make it easier for you.

EBT eligible whey and animal-based protein powders

EBT eligible plant-based protein powders:

Where Can I Buy Protein Powder with EBT?

Protein powder bought with food stamps must carry a “Nutrition Facts” label when shopping for EBT-eligible protein powder.

But where can you buy protein powder with EBT?

The best places to buy EBT eligible protein powders are supermarkets or grocery stores that accept EBT like Walmart, Albertson’s, Whole Foods, Safeway, Publix, Sprout, Trader Joe’s, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, and others.

Supplement stores like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe would also make good places to buy protein powders. The problem is that most supplement stores aren’t SNAP-approved retailers and do not typically accept EBT. But you can still walk there and pay with an alternative payment option like cash or a debit/credit card with a chip.

If you want to order protein powder from the comfort of your house, consider buying it online from sites like Amazon that are 24-hour stores or grocery stores with meal delivery or pickup.

Can You Buy Meal Replacement Shakes With EBT?

A meal replacement shake can be a drink, bar, or soup designed to replace your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They aid in weight loss because they make you feel full while consuming fewer calories. Whether you want to meet your weight loss goals or just want to enjoy one for fun, it’s vital knowing whether you can buy meal replacement shakes with EBT before you go shopping.

Buying a meal replacement shake with EBT comes down to whether the shake is sold as food or a supplement. You can buy meal replacement shakes sold as food and are labeled “Nutrition Facts.” However, any meal replacement shakes sold as supplements cannot be bought with EBT because SNAP prohibits food stamps on vitamins and supplements. A “non-food” is usually marked with a “Supplement Facts” label.

To avoid embarrassment at the checkout counter, make sure you read the label on the back of the product. All meal replacement shakes that read “Nutrition Facts” are EBT eligible. Otherwise, have an alternative payment method if you want to add any protein shakes with the “Supplement Facts” label into the cart. They cannot be paid for with EBT funds.

Here’s a list of top meal replacement shakes brands that carry a “Nutrition Facts” label:

Can You Buy Muscle Milk with Food Stamps?

Muscle milk can help build lean muscle. It promotes exercise recovery, provides sustained energy and positive protein balance.

Can EBT cardholders enjoy the benefits of muscle milk?

The good news is, you can buy most muscle milk products with EBT. To be on the safe side, ensure that the product is marked with “Nutrition Facts” before adding it to the cart. That’s the key requirement in telling a part which muscle milk product can be bought with food stamps.

That said, you’ll also find most muscle milk energy drinks stating “Supplement Facts.” Steer clear of those because they can’t be purchased with SNAP funds. USDA considers supplements and vitamins as non-essential food, so they don’t qualify for food stamps/EBT purchase.

Your takeaway: Muscle milk drinks can be bought with food stamps if they have a “Nutrition Facts” label. Any Muscle Milk products containing “Supplement Facts” are considered non-essentials and cannot be purchased with EBT.

Can You Buy Supplements with EBT?

No, you can’t buy supplements with EBT. Per SNAP rules, food stamp benefits can only be spent on essential food purchases. It includes products that you can carry and prepare at home or cold drinks and snacks. Supplements don’t fall under that category and are classified as non-essentials by the USDA. You cannot use your EBT card to buy any protein powders carrying “Supplement Facts” labels.

Also, you cannot use EBT to buy vitamins and medicines or splurge on other luxury items like tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, pet food, hygiene products, cosmetics, or hot, prepared food at the point of sale.

To purchase ready-to-eat hot or prepared food at fast-food places that accept EBT, you must live in a state that participates in the Restaurant Meals Program(RMP) and qualify for the program per your state’s requirements.

That said, you can use your EBT card to buy protein powder, meal replacement shakes, muscle milk energy drinks, and protein bars or shakes marked with “Nutrition Facts.”

Can You Buy Vitamins with Food Stamps?

No, you can’t buy vitamins with food stamps. EBT food stamps can only be spent on essential food items that can be carried home and cooked as part of a meal. You won’t be able to redeem SNAP funds on vitamins, supplements, or medicine.

To be safe, only include protein powders with the “Nutrition Facts” label in your cart or online order. Any vitamins and supplements marked with “Supplement Facts” aren’t eligible for SNAP purchase and will be rejected at the checkout register.

If you want to grab a few vitamins or supplements at the store, consider carrying an alternative payment method like a debit, credit card with smart chip, debit card without a PIN, or cash.

Can you Buy Protein Powder with EBT Summary

As a SNAP recipient, you must be pleased to learn that protein powder can be bought with EBT. It just comes down to whether the protein powder is sold as a food or supplement. All protein powders sold as food are marked with a “Nutrition Facts” label and can be bought with food stamps. Avoid their counterparts labeled “Supplement Facts.”  Supplements and vitamins aren’t eligible for SNAP purchases. Carry an alternative payment method if you wish to buy a few supplements or vitamins. Consider going to a store that gives the most cash back on a debit card or find an ATM nearby that dispenses $5, $50, or $100.

First, try finding a grocery store, bakery, or gas station that accepts EBT eligible protein powder. If not, look for protein bars, meal replacement shakes, or muscle milk marked with “Nutrition Facts.” They are cheaper and provide a similar benefit. See our guide on how to save $10,000 in a year.

Lastly, don’t forget to read the label on the back of the product before you pick your favorite protein powder, bar, shake, or muscle milk into the cart.

Our final advice is to buy protein powder that provides the best value with the maximum benefits. Buying affordable food is a frugal living tip with a big impact on saving money and a Great Depression survival tip.