Diabetes, or rather Type 2 Diabetes, is a condition where the pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body becomes insulin resistant. Recommended diabetic diets often include more carbohydrates than are appropriate for the disease. So that makes people wonder if meal replacement shakes are truly good for people with diabetes?
Meal replacement shakes are good for diabetics who are trying to lose weight or need to supplement their diet with additional nutrients. However, it’s important to select a safe meal replacement shake that uses healthy ingredients and will not spike your blood sugar.
You can have a meal replacement shake once in a while, but you also need to balance it with a healthy diet. To learn more about how to use meal replacement shakes as a way to manage your diabetes, stay tuned.
How Insulin Plays a Role in Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes based on the role that insulin plays in each type:
- Type 1 Diabetes is where the pancreas makes little to no insulin, which means sugar cannot get into the body’s cells to be used as energy.
- Type 2 Diabetes is when the pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin to meet the sugar load or makes too much insulin, but the body shuts down and can’t use it.
People with Type 1 are born with the condition, and lifestyle factors don’t make or break the disease.
However, people with Type 2 develop the disease over time through several factors, not the least of which is the over consumption of highly processed simple carbohydrates. When your body is constantly under a huge glycemic load, your pancreas becomes less able to keep up. That is when your body becomes insulin resistant.
How Does Insulin Normally Work?
When you eat a snack or a meal, your body prepares to process the incoming nutrients. Fat is neutral and ready to feed your cells without the need for insulin. However, protein and carbohydrates need insulin to turn the macronutrients into glucose to feed the cells and provide your body with energy.
Think of insulin as the key for the cell lock, while the cells are safe to put more money inside the cells. When protein or carbohydrates come inside the body, they can’t be put into the cells because the safe is locked. Insulin turns the food into glucose, which opens up the safe, or the cells.
How Does Insulin Work With Diabetes?
When a person has Type 2 Diabetes, their pancreas either slows down the insulin production as it is overworked or speeds up production because the cells aren’t taking the glucose readily. Hence, the body throws more insulin at it.
Being resistant to insulin can cause several problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and frequent infections.
Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is abnormally high consistently. While it might not be high enough to be considered diabetes, if left alone long enough, it could develop into Type 2 Diabetes.
Managing Your Insulin Response
While it might seem that it’s impossible as a Type 2 Diabetic to manage your insulin response through food, it can be done, and the process might be simpler than you think. A typically recommended diet for people with diabetes is heavy on vegetable carbs while light on proteins and fats.
However, now that you see how insulin normally works, you might be starting to realize what it takes to manage your insulin response.
The steps are to:
- Lower your starch and high carbohydrate intake.
- Keep your fiber intake stable to maintain your blood sugar levels.
- Eat moderate protein and fat.
- Try not to snack between meals, so your insulin levels fall.
The above steps are similar to a low carb or keto diet plan, which has been proven to help people with diabetes lower their need for insulin or medications. As with any program, contact your doctor before starting any new diet or routine.
Meal Replacement Shakes Are Not a Substitute for Proper Nutrition
Many people who use meal replacement shakes seem to think that they can eat what they want and use a shake to get some nutrition. This strategy might work for healthy people or a little while for people with diabetes. Eventually, though, it catches up with them.
Proper nutrition includes having regular and consistent meals that contain all the nutrients you need for good health. That might sound like a statement that’s been overused, but managing your diabetes takes more than a meal replacement shake once in a while. You need to get your nutrition needs met by whole foods most of the time.
But, as a snack or for one meal per day, a meal replacement shake can be safe for people with diabetes to consume. However, stick to those shakes that don’t use sugar or artificial ingredients, as those sweeteners can make your diabetes symptoms worse. Stevia, Monk fruit extract, and erythritol are the only sweeteners that don’t raise your blood sugar or insulin response.
Learn more here: Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Real Food
Of course, many diabetes experts will say that artificial sweeteners are perfectly acceptable for diabetics and that, with a well-balanced diet, they can help manage cravings. However, according to Healthline, these sweeteners can raise your blood glucose levels because they tell your brain to produce insulin due to the sweet taste of the artificially sweet product.
If you have at least two meals per day with a balanced ratio of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, having a meal replacement shake made with healthy ingredients shouldn’t raise your insulin too much.
Lifestyle Factors Play a Role in Diabetes Management
In addition to proper nutrition and insulin management, your lifestyle factors play a large role in managing your diabetes. Exercise, weight loss, and stress control can help you reduce your reliance on your insulin injections and other medications.
Mild Activity Uses More Energy
When you go for a walk, park further from the store’s entrance, or get out to the garden, you’re burning calories and excess fat. And it makes your body more sensitive to insulin, which means that your body will use insulin more efficiently.
Most health experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day or more. Walking, gardening, yoga, or a simple stretching routine will get your body moving enough to burn up that extra energy.
Weight Loss Can Help Reduce Insulin Production
Losing weight can make a big difference in how well you can manage your diabetes. Even a 7% drop in your weight can give you big results in how much insulin you need to control your blood sugar. You will gain 57% of insulin sensitivity!
So if you’re 250 pounds, you would only need to lose roughly 17 pounds to get that much insulin sensitivity back.
Controlling Your Stress Levels Keeps You From Snacking
Comfort foods are named that for a reason–because when you’re experiencing extra stress in your life, you tend to reach for the foods you ate as a child that helped you feel better. Normally, those are the foods that are higher in carbohydrates and sugars, which are known to cause weight gain.
When you’re overly stressed, it’s wise to find other avenues of reducing that stress without food. Many counselors suggest several things to reduce your stress:
- Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
- Listen to calming music while in a dark room and breathing deeply.
- Watch a funny movie with a good friend or significant other.
- Get extra rest.
- Have a spa day with a relaxing massage.
- Go on a short vacation.
If none of those things work, you might need to look at your life and evaluate which things can be removed from your life. When you have too many things happening at once, life can get hectic and stressful. Make priorities for those things that you need or want, and cut out the rest.
When Using Clean Ingredients, Meal Replacement Shakes Can Fit Into a Well-Balanced Diet
Clean ingredients are those that contribute nutrients to your overall meal plan or those that don’t add toxins or react negatively to your body. Artificial sweeteners have gotten a bad reputation in the past few years because of how negatively they react in your body. Thus, they are generally considered a “dirty” ingredient.
Other ingredients considered “dirty” include, but are not limited to:
- GMO sourced ingredients, such as corn or corn derivatives
- Soy products
- Produce that is typically treated with pesticides
- Hydrogenated oils
- Preservatives and other chemicals
Shakes with healthy fats like coconut oil or MCT oil are generally healthier for you than those with hydrogenated oils. These can fit into a well-balanced diet, as long as they don’t contain sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can raise your blood glucose levels.
Best Diabetic Meal Replacement Shakes
To get the best nutrition and manage your diabetes, we recommend the following meal replacement shakes as a part of your nutrition plan. While not all of these have completely clean ingredients, they are better than their competitors.
Shakeology was born out of the Beachbody movement that helps people get fit and live healthy and active lives. Their meal replacement shakes contain a wide blend of antioxidants and superfoods that boost your immunity and manage your insulin response.
In out article titled Is Shakeology Good for Diabetics?, there were several Shakeology reviews from diabetics that used Shakeology to reduce and even reverse the effects of diabetes.
Overall, it was found that Shakeology is good for diabetics because it has a Glycemic Index of 24, which is lower than most fruits & vegetables. Thus, Shakeology helps to keep your sugar levels in balance, provides a healthy amount of protein & fiber, super greens, prebiotics & probiotics, adaptogens, antioxidants, and more.
- Shakeology contains a proprietary superfood blend that contains a variety of super greens like spinach, kale, matcha, and chlorella.
- It contains superfruits like acerola cherries, blueberries, and bilberry.
- There are six strains of probiotics that help your digestive system work more efficiently.
- It is a good source of protein that helps you manage your diabetes.
- Several flavors are offered, including Whey and Vegan options.
- The cost per serving is about $4, which is more expensive than most other meal replacement shakes.
- Not all of the ingredients are organic.
- It doesn’t contain healthy fats for brain health.
Ample K is the keto version of the Ample meal replacement shake line. Ample uses organic, clean ingredients to contribute to your overall nutritional plan. To support a ketogenic diet, the ingredients include coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, grass-fed whey protein, and a large range of superfoods.
- It contains healthy fats that contribute to brain health, blood sugar and insulin control, and healthy skin.
- All the ingredients are organic or come from grass-fed cows.
- Probiotics, fiber, and superfoods round out the nutritional profile.
- At over $5 per serving, a 30-day supply can get expensive.
- They have limited flavors for each line of shakes.
- The flavor is slightly fatty and salty, rather than the flavor it’s meant to be.
Glucerna Hunger Smart Meal
Glucerna is a product line of shakes and bars developed specifically for diabetes, but they use ingredients that are not exactly “clean.”
- Contains a high concentration of Vitamin C, with lower amounts of Chromium for weight control.
- It has 10 grams of protein, equal to 1 ½ egg, to keep you satisfied for a few hours.
- Rich chocolate taste that many people love.
- It is a quick source of energy.
- Product is cheaper per serving.
- Ingredients contain milk and soy ingredients, which might trigger allergic reactions in some people.
- Contains fructose, which might raise blood glucose.
- Canola oil is the main fat, which is an unhealthy fat.
Boost Glucose Control Nutritional Drink
Another product made for people with diabetes, Boost Glucose Control shake, contains 16 grams of protein and 25 vitamins and minerals for your health.
- Shake has a smooth and creamy taste.
- The 16 grams of protein can help you manage your insulin.
- Vegetable oils make up the fats for this shake.
- Containing both fructose and sucralose, it could spike your insulin and blood sugar.
- Soy protein could trigger an allergic response in some people.
Slimfast Diabetic Weight Loss Shake Mix
As part of the Slim Fast weight loss shake family, the diabetic line was created solely for people with diabetes.
- Shake mix contains prebiotic fiber to help keep you full and in control of your cravings.
- It tastes just like a milkshake.
- It has 11 grams of protein per serving.
- Dextrose, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium are the sweeteners, which can negatively affect your body.
- Preservatives and flavors might be harmful to your health.
How to Make Your Own Meal Replacement Shake
You can make a meal replacement shake from scratch for pennies on the dollar if you can’t afford the other shakes and have the time to collect an array of ingredients.
Most shakes contain fats, protein, and carbs, along with nutritional greens or other superfoods. If you’re not constantly on the go and have some time at home, you can make it with fresh, whole ingredients. Otherwise, you can make a dry ingredient shake that you can use as needed.
The basic ingredients for a meal replacement shake include:
- A protein source, such as whey, egg, or pea protein.
- Healthy fats like peanut butter, almond butter, coconut oil, or MCT oil.
- Fiber such as psyllium husk or flaxseed.
- Greens, such as spinach or kale.
- Unsweetened yogurt for the probiotics
- Optional: stevia or monk fruit extract, spices, or other flavorings
Making a shake with the above ingredients gives you plenty of nutrition and will keep you satisfied for hours without raising your blood sugar too much. Whole food ingredients are better to use if you have the time, but what if you need a dry-shake you can take with you?
Whole food ingredients can be, and are, made into a powder form. Berry powders, coconut oil powder, greens powder, and nut butter powders are ideal for making a meal replacement shake that you can store over the long term and take a portion with you when you don’t have refrigeration.
Probiotic pills can be crushed into powder to mix in with your shake mix.
The portions of different powders should match the commercially made shake mixes. So the protein and fat powders should make up the bulk of your mix. Then add the greens, berries, and fiber powders.
When you want to take a portion with you, use a protein powder scoop to measure the desired serving into a shaker bottle.
Troubleshooting Homemade Meal Replacement Shakes
If your powder doesn’t taste right or has a lot more sediment than you like, there are some things you can do to remedy those issues.
- Wrong taste: If your shake mix tastes bitter, try adding more berry powder or sweetener and fewer greens powder. If it tastes too sweet or has too much of an aftertaste, try scaling back the sweetener or stevia.
- Too much sediment: Sediment occurs when the powder particles are too large to dissolve. If this happens, either try sifting the ingredients together before mixing or mix them dry in a blender. Either sifting or blending will create a fine powder that mixes well.
Meal replacement shakes can be good for diabetics if they contain ingredients that contribute to good health and do not spike your blood sugar more than other food would. Some of the shakes on the market have less than desirable ingredients, and they might not be healthy for anyone to drink, not to mention diabetics.
However, if you have one once in a while, you will be fine.
Make sure to check out the Best Diabetic Meal Replacement Shakes listed above.
- Diabetes Self-Management: Meal Replacements
- Everyday Health: The Skinny On Shakes For People With Diabetes
- WebMD: The Right Way to Lose Weight
- Center For Disease Control and Prevention: Get Active!
- Healthline: The Best Sugar Substitutes For People With Diabetes
- WebMD: Insulin Resistance
- Kaiser Permanente: How Insulin Works
- Healthline: Does Glucerna Work for Diabetes?