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Can You Buy Protein Shakes with EBT/Food Stamps?

SNAP, or The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a government-run program that allows participants to receive a certain amount of money every month to help cover the costs of putting food on the table. As of 2022, SNAP helps over 41,500,000 participants all across the country provide sustenance for themselves and their families.

While SNAP is a wonderful resource for those having difficulties putting food on the table, many who first receive benefits may deal with some confusion over what can and can’t be purchased with their new benefits. Most people understand that they’re able to buy food products, like meat and dairy, with food stamps–but what about some other, less traditional nutritional support items, like protein shakes?

In this article, we’ll talk a little more about what SNAP benefits are and whether or not you can use them to buy things like protein shakes!

Table of Contents

What are SNAP Benefits?

As previously mentioned, SNAP benefits are awarded to those with demonstrated financial hardship, intended to supplement a household’s monthly budget for the purchase of food items. 

Those who apply for the program supply their total monthly income to their local state agency, and that income is then viewed in light of other recurring necessary monthly expenditures, like rent and transportation costs. Things like someone’s current employment situation are also taken into account. 

From there, the total monthly costs are deducted from said income to determine a “net income,” which is then used to calculate a monthly award amount. 

Then, that money is subsequently loaded onto an EBT–or Electronic Benefits Transfer–card monthly to be used like a debit card at any number of grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and other stores where food is generally sold.

If you’re hoping to get a better understanding of just how much you can expect to receive if you’re looking to apply for SNAP benefits, a table of the usual income limits set forth by the government can be found here.

What Can I Buy With SNAP?

There’s often some confusion that comes along with first obtaining SNAP benefits, as many people assume that just because something is in a grocery store, it means that it can be purchased with your EBT card. Unfortunately though, this isn’t exactly the case. 

According to the government information page about the program, only certain items are eligible for purchase with your SNAP benefits. These items tend to fall in the following categories:

  • Fruits and vegetables;
  • Meat, poultry, and fish;
  • Dairy products;
  • Breads and cereals;
  • Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages; and
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.

While this spans a wide range of items that you’re likely to encounter while on a grocery run, this means that a fair number of other items are also NOT eligible for purchase with your benefits, such as: 

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco
  • Any item that has a “Supplement Facts” label
  • Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store).
  • Foods that are hot at the point of sale
  • Any nonfood items such as:
    – Pet foods  
    – Cleaning supplies, paper products, and other household supplies.
    – Hygiene items, cosmetics

A good rule of thumb is that if it has a “Nutritional Facts” label printed on the container, it is likely that it will be covered by your benefits. If it has a “Supplement Facts” label–as is found on items like vitamins–it is more likely that it will not be covered by your benefits.

So What About Protein Shakes?

The good news here is that when it comes to protein shakes, just about all of them come with a Nutritional Facts label! This makes a lot of sense when you consider that most protein shakes out there are intended to be meal replacements, and so theoretically should contain some of the vitamins and minerals you would expect to receive from a traditional meal.

This means that the answer here is YES. No matter the brand (i.e. SlimFast, Atkins, Premier Protein, Pure Protein, Muscle Milk, etc.), protein shakes are generally covered by your SNAP benefits.

The only thing you may want to keep in mind is that not every retailer may be equipped to process your SNAP benefits as payment. 

If you’re hoping to use your benefits to pay, you probably want to stick to bigger named retailers like Walmart, Target, or Amazon, as they are more likely to accept your EBT card as a form of payment versus smaller private-owned businesses like some gas stations or corner stores. 


Whether you’re planning your own weight loss journey or just looking for a quick and convenient replacement for lunch or dinner, if you receive SNAP benefits, you’ll be happy to know that you CAN use them to pay for protein shakes and other meal replacement beverages.

Remember: as long as it has a Nutritional Facts label—not a Supplement Facts level—and is not an already prepared (i.e. “hot”) food, your SNAP benefits will likely cover the cost of it! 

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