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Electronic Benefits Transfer allows SNAP recipients to receive and purchase food using their benefits. Since protein powders are an athlete’s go-to meal replacement to help boost workout performance and build muscle mass, you may wonder, can you buy protein powder with EBT?

Can You Buy Protein Powder With EBT?

Yes, protein powders can be bought with EBT in any SNAP-affiliated store/retailer as long as they have a “Nutrition Facts” label instead of “Supplement Facts”.
EBT Benefits and Protein Powder

What Is EBT?

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is an electronic system similar to a debit/credit card that allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) qualifiers to purchase food products using SNAP benefits. EBT is currently in use in all 50 states, including Guam, the Virgin Islands,  Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

How The EBT Works

When a participant shops at a SNAP-authorized retail store, their SNAP EBT account is debited to reimburse the store for purchased food. 

To qualify for SNAP benefits, a person (or household) must apply or register in their state’s SNAP office. Some states may allow online applications, by mail, or by fax. You may need to be interviewed before being approved for SNAP benefits and receiving an EBT card.

The state agency deposits the individual’s SNAP benefit dollars into their SNAP account that is linked to their EBT card at the beginning of each month, which can be accessed using a PIN. The beneficiaries can then use their EBT card like a debit card to swipe and purchase SNAP-eligible food items (except alcohol or pre-cooked or ready-to-eat meals) at SNAP-authorized retailers. 

The EBT card can also be used at ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

protein powder on ebt

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powders help build greater muscle mass, promote muscle recovery, and achieve better physical performance, which are all essential for physically active individuals – athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts.

Protein contains essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) and branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine), which provide adequate nutrition to improve one’s performance and facilitate muscle protein synthesis.

Types Of Protein Powders

Protein powder supplements use a variety of protein sources: 

  • Whey – One of the more sought-after protein powders, whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production and is best known for its ability to effectively boost muscle growth and recovery. It’s available in two forms – whey concentrate and whey isolate. 
  • Casein – Like whey proteins, casein is also a milk protein found in milk and is responsible for giving milk its color. It can also increase muscle mass growth, but unlike whey, it’s digested more slowly than other proteins, which can effectively curb one’s appetite better.
  • Egg – Both the egg white (albumen and the yolk contain protein, but while the yolk has the more significant concentration of protein, the amount of egg white is greater so it provides more.
  • Plant-based proteins – Soy, pea, quinoa, bean, hemp, seed, and rice are known plant-based protein sources. However, unlike other protein sources, most plant-based protein sources (except soy, quinoa, lentil, and chia seeds) have incomplete amino acid profiles. They only become complete when blended with other plant-based proteins.  

Can You Buy Protein Powder with EBT?

Yes, you can buy protein powders using an EBT card, but under certain conditions. SNAP places restrictions on what items can be purchased through EBT and only protein powders sold as food can be purchased with EBT by SNAP recipients, while protein powders marked as supplements are not EBT-eligible. 

How can you determine if the protein powder of your choice is sold as food? Through their labels found on the back panel of the packaging. Protein powders sold as food are labeled with “Nutrition Facts”, while those considered supplements are labeled with “Supplement Facts.”, so if you want to purchase protein powder with food stamps, it should have a “Nutrition Facts” label. 

Most vitamins and supplements are not eligible for SNAP purchase. Other unqualified items include: 

  • Alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, or tobacco
  • Live animals (except kinds of seafood removed from water and animals slaughtered before being purchased)
  • Freshly-cooked meals
  • Any nonfood items, such as pet food, home appliances, cleaning supplies, clothing, furniture, and cosmetic/hygienic items.

How to Buy Protein Powder with EBT

  1. Check Eligibility: Verify that the protein powder is considered a food and not a supplement. This is typically indicated on the product packaging. If it has a ‘Nutrition Facts’ label, it’s generally considered food. If it has a ‘Supplement Facts’ label, it’s considered a supplement and is not eligible for purchase with EBT.
  2. Find a Retailer: Determine which stores near you accept EBT cards as a form of payment. You can often find this information on the store’s website or by contacting them directly.
  3. Online Shopping: If you prefer to shop online, check if the online retailers are accepting EBT cards. Amazon and Walmart are among the online retailers that accept SNAP EBT as payment in certain states.
  4. Check Current Rules and Regulations: Contact your local SNAP office or check the USDA website to understand the most recent rules and regulations regarding the purchase of items like protein powder with EBT. Rules can change, and the details I have are up-to-date only until September 2021.
  5. Purchase: Once you have verified the eligibility of the product and found a suitable retailer, you can then proceed to purchase the protein powder using your EBT card just like you would use a regular debit or credit card.

Eligible Health Food Items for EBT

The EBT card be used to purchase the following food items:

  • Meat and seafood (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • Fresh produce (Fruits and vegetables)
  • Dairy products
  • Canned foods
  • Bread and cereals
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Baby formula
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for the household (e.g., herbs, potatoes, garlic, onion, etc.)

What Brands of Protein Powders Can Be Bought With EBT?

Here are some brands of protein powders that can be bought with EBT:

  1. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder: This is a popular brand that is often mentioned in discussions about protein powders that can be purchased with EBT. It’s available in a variety of flavors and sizes.
  2. Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Powder: This is another brand that is frequently mentioned. It’s a non-dairy protein powder that’s available in several flavors.
  3. Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein Powder: This brand is also mentioned as being EBT-eligible. It’s a high-protein, low-carb option that’s available in several flavors.
  4. Pure Protein Powder: This brand is also listed as an option. It’s a gluten-free protein powder that’s available in a variety of flavors.
  5. Nature’s Bounty Protein Shake Mix: This is a plant-based protein powder that’s also listed as an option for EBT purchases.

Please note that the availability of these brands may vary depending on the store and the specific EBT program rules in your state. It’s always a good idea to check with the store or your EBT program to confirm that these items are eligible for purchase with EBT.

Alternatives To Protein Powder for EBT Users

Suppose your preferred protein powder supplement brand isn’t qualified, you can always try and opt for protein-rich foods. Even in the absence of protein supplements, eating protein-rich whole foods is still the best way to meet one’s protein needs. 

Protein-rich food sources include:

  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Fatty fish (e.g., sardines, salmon, tuna, tilapia, halibut, etc.)
  • Nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Rice
  • Beans (soy)
  • Seeds (e.g., chia, pumpkin, hemp, etc.) 
  • Vegetables (e.g. green peas, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, etc.) 

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is an electronic system that allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) qualifiers to purchase food products using SNAP benefits.
  • Protein powders can be bought with EBT as long as they have a Nutrition Facts label instead of “Supplement Facts.”
  • Alcoholic beverages and other non-food products aren’t eligible for EBT purchase.


EBT helps provide food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people/families and allows them additional benefits. However, some states may have different SNAP and EBT regulations, so if you’re a SNAP beneficiary, it’s important to check your local SNAP’s policies and conditions to help you make the most of your benefits. 

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.

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