Meal replacement actually come in different forms. They can come in the form of shakes, powder, bars, soups etc. As the name suggests, the idea is to replace a real meal with a prepackaged product.
In Europe, there are regulations that dictate how many calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals the package should contain. Unfortunately, in the US shakes are classified as dietary supplements and are not subject to the same regulations as other foods. These shakes can actually contain so much fat and sugar, as much as in a regular meal, so reading the nutrition labels is crucial.
So what’s the deal? Who would want to drink some engineered shake instead of eating tasty healthy food? Regular meals also offer a better balance of nutrients, and if you want to maintain your weight loss you need to be able to eat well-balanced regular food.
Well, I think that in certain circumstances, these shakes do make sense:
- If you are obese (BMI>30)and need to lose a lot of weight. I wouldn’t suggest that you just buy some meal replacement off the shelf, but there are clinics that offer well-balanced medical shakes as part of their program. Depending on your weight, they may suggest that you strictly use the shakes in lieu of real food. That means you will actually be fasting, as you’ll drink about 750 calories worth of shakes per day. I’m not suggesting that anyone try such a diet by themselves at home. You have to do this through a clinic, where the doctor meets with you before you start the program, they check your heart and run some blood tests. If you are cleared to go on such a diet you will be monitored once a week, and they’ll continue doing routine blood works. There will also be a dietician to consult you. I think this could definitely be an option to consider if you are obese.
- Planning what to eat when you’re dieting is hard work. Not only do you need to plan and make sure you have all the ingredients, but you need to weigh the food portions to know how much you’re eating. You also need to calculate how many calories does each ingredient in the meal contain. True, there are some great software out there that can help you with this task (Fitbit, anyone?), but you still need to invest a lot of time into this. If you’re busy, this might be a reason which will cause you not to stick to your plan. Having a convenient ready-made shake, where you just need to add water, could be a good solution for replacement of one meal a day. You know you’re getting the needed nutrients (more or less, depending on the brand), and you can manage to eat within your diet limits without having to stress about preparing dinner. This is a good option if you’re eating healthy on the other meals.
- If you tend NOT to eat healthy during most meals, the shakes could also be a temporary solution for you. Many people eat high-fat, high carb, processed food. Even when they’re dieting, they just try to eat smaller portions. These shakes tend to have more proteins and fewer carbs than such meals, so you would potentially have better nutrition if you replace your regular meal with a shake every once in a while.
Now you are probably wondering if there are any specific brand that I recommend; I know there are medically shake products that have excellent nutritious values (I am aware of the ones manufactured by Doctors Answer – MNP) but you can get them only through a diet program. When I look at available products for consumers, I look mostly for products that have small amounts of added sugar and have a variety of vitamins and minerals. It seems to me that Plant Based Balanced Meals has good nutritious values as do Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder . I will do product reviews on these shakes in the future.
If you have recommendations for other shakes, please share!
It’s important to get cleared by your doctor before you start replacing meals with meal replacement shakes. Remember that this is not a long-term strategy, and to also use the shakes in combination with other healthy weight-loss choices.