Meal replacement shakes have regained popularity in recent years for a number of reasons. These shakes provide consumers with simple and easy on-the-go meals that come in a variety of different flavors. But are meal replacement shakes actually a healthy alternative to a regular meal?
Meal replacement shakes can be a healthy alternative if you’re short on time or are looking to cut back on calories. Yet, it’s important to check out the nutritional label and ingredients before indulging in certain shakes. But it’s also recommended that you don’t rely on them for every meal.
In this article, we’ll be going in-depth into the pros and cons of meal replacement shakes and what you should be aware of before consuming them. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, keep on reading.
How Meal Replacement Shakes Can Be Good for You
First, we’ll be exploring some of the ways in which meal replacement shakes can be a good alternative to a regular meal.
Great On-the-Go Meal
For those who may not have the time to cook or indulge in a large meal, these shakes are a great way to consume the necessary vitamins and protein you need during the day, while also staying full and satisfied on the go.
Depending on the brand and type of shake you’re consuming, you’ll most likely find two different varieties. Meal replacements shakes can come in a prepackaged bottle or a powdered supplement that you can mix in with water.
This makes replacement shakes a quick and convenient fix for when you don’t have time during a busy day to prepare yourself a regular meal. Skipping meals will result in a lack of energy, and you simply can’t perform at your best when you have no energy.
Next time you find yourself running out the door in a hurry, don’t be satisfied with the idea of skipping meals because you don’t have time to prepare something. Meal replacement shakes are a great alternative when you’re in need of an on-the-go option.
Good for Reducing Calories/Losing Weight
If you’re looking for a safe and filling alternative to consuming regular meals while also losing weight, meal replacement shakes may be just what you’re looking for.
Most meal replacements contain anywhere between 200-400 calories per drink, making it a great low-calorie meal on the go. Most of these shakes are also known to contain all the healthy essentials you should be consuming, such as the right amount of protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.
There are plenty of meal replacement shakes that specifically target weight loss that are healthy alternatives to normal meals. If you’re looking to consume meal replacement shakes for the purpose of weight loss, this SlimFast Advanced Nutrition Meal Replacement would be a great introduction.
This product comes in a variety of different flavors and will keep you full and content for hours, and will also keep you from overeating and consuming too many calories throughout the day. Each shake is only 180 calories, and it offers 24 different vitamins and minerals per serving.
It is important to note that since this specific shake is quite low in calories, you should pair it with a healthy snack. SlimFast offers a large variety of healthy, low-calorie meal bars and shakes that will help you absorb a decent amount of calories and even more beneficial nutrients.
However, for a premium meal replacement shake that keeps you feeling full and provides several more nutrients, check our Shakeology review here. Shakeology offers digestive enzymes, probiotics & prebiotics, adaptogens, and much more.
Plus, Shakeology makes use of whole food superfoods from around the world the provide you the most potent ingredients possible.
Regardless of the meal replacement that you choice, it’s clear that meal replacements can be a safe and healthy way to skip the traditional meal while also consuming all the essential vitamins and minerals you need in a day.
It’s also a great way to reduce the number of calories you intake, which will, in turn, help you lose weight if that’s one of your goals.
Great Source of Protein
As we briefly discussed above, most meal replacements contain a large amount of protein.
You may be lacking in the amount of protein you’re consuming in your regular diet, and healthy meal replacements may be just the thing you need.
Consuming enough protein in your diet helps your body build and repair tissue, strengthen bones and muscles, and reduce hunger.
If you feel that you’ve been lacking in consuming enough protein, a meal replacement packed with this nutrient is a great way to give your body what it needs. For example, this Premier Protein Shake is packed with 30 grams of protein and is only 160 calories.
Similar to the previous product we mentioned, this shake is also low in calories for a meal replacement, so you should be pairing this shake with another healthy addition to your meal.
It’s important to note that you should look at the nutritional facts of your meal replacement before consuming it. If you’re looking for a meal replacement that’s rich in beneficial nutrients like protein, check the label on the back, which will give you all the necessary information you need.
Protein is also a key nutrient that will help you lose weight. In a study comparing meal replacements (titled: A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass), it was found that meal replacements containing high amounts of protein help consumers lose more body fat than meal replacements that did not contain high amounts of protein.
Not only is protein beneficial to your overall health, but it can also aid you in weight loss. This is just another prime example of how good meal replacement shakes can be for your overall health.
Helps You Avoid Unhealthy Meals/Choices
On top of all the health benefits meal replacements have on consumers, these healthy alternatives can also help you steer clear of unhealthy options.
As we discussed above, meal replacements will help keep you more full and content for longer. Having meal replacement shakes on hand will not only keep you less hungry throughout the day, but they’ll keep you from consuming unhealthy choices such as fast food.
When you’re busy or stressed, it’s much easier to either skip a meal altogether or roll through the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant. These shakes are a simple and healthy alternative when faced with unhealthy options during a stressful and hectic day.
Now that we’ve discussed how meal replacements can be good for consumers, below, we’ll explore potential issues some could face when using meal replacement shakes.
How Meal Replacement Shakes Can Be Bad for You
There are obviously good things about meal replacements that we discussed above in great detail. But there are also some factors you should be wary of before you begin using these meal replacements.
May Contain Unhealthy Ingredients
While there are plenty of meal replacements that contain healthy vitamins and minerals, there are many meal replacements that contain high amounts of things such as artificial flavors and sugar.
Even meal replacements targeted towards weight loss can contain large amounts of sugar, which won’t be beneficial to you or your results. That’s why it’s so important to check nutritional labels on the back of your shake before consuming it.
If you’re looking for a healthy meal replacement shake, make sure to check the labels first before purchasing.
Anything with more than 10 grams of sugar isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a meal replacement that’s healthy for you.
Avoid meal replacements that contain large amounts of:
- Vegetable oil
- Milk protein concentrate
- Cocoa powder.
These are unnecessary ingredients that are simply added to give meal replacements a longer shelf life, and aren’t beneficial to your diet.
It’s also common to find synthetic vitamins and minerals in these meal replacements. Words to look out for include:
- Sodium Molybdate
- Sodium Selenate
- Potassium iodide.
These ingredients listed above are not natural and do not exist within nature. Processed ingredients such as these, on top of the large amount of sugar found in some of these shakes, should be a red flag.
You’re better off consuming natural whole-based foods if you’re looking for a healthier option that will sustain you long term.
Not Suitable Long Term
Whether you’re looking for a convenient on-the-go meal or looking to shed a few pounds, consumers may be interested in meal replacements for various reasons.
But it’s important to know that meal replacement shakes aren’t healthy or ideal for consumers to use long term. Consuming meal replacements consistently could result in a nutrient deficiency, as well as a variety of other health problems.
If you’re planning on using meal replacement shakes as a substitute for a regular meal, occasionally limit the number of shakes you consume to one day at most.
You can also pair your meal replacement with whole fruits and vegetables, to ensure you’re consuming enough fiber.
Most of the shakes we mentioned earlier weren’t very high in calories, so it’s important to pair these types of meal replacements with other food sources to ensure you are consuming a healthy and filling meal.
Simply drinking a very low-calorie meal replacement with nothing else may leave you feeling drained and unmotivated throughout your day.
So while drinking the right meal replacement shake occasionally can have its benefits, it’s important to not rely on it constantly.
Not Ideal for Weight Loss
If used correctly, meal replacements can be a great way to cut calories and begin your weight loss journey. But if you solely rely on only these products to lose weight, your long term results may disappoint you.
Meal replacements won’t help consumers learn healthy eating habits, or unlearn unhealthy eating habits.
While you may be consuming a decently healthy meal replacement, what else you’re consuming throughout the day matters as well.
Meal replacement shakes won’t teach you how to create a healthy, long term lifestyle in terms of what your diet should look like.
It’s also important to note that if you consume these regularly for weight loss, it’ll be a quick fix and not a long term success.
These results won’t be long term if you solely rely on these shakes, so it’s vital to factor in other healthy food options into your diet. If you rely on these meals daily, once you remove them from your diet, you’re likely to gain your weight back.
If you are looking into meal replacements for the sole purpose of losing weight, your best bet is to invest in real meals that will keep you in shape and healthier long term.
However, meal replacements can be a quick fix and should be combined with healthier eating habits so that you can achieve long term success.
They Can Become Repetitive
Relying on the same meal replacement time and time again can cause you to become bored with your current diet.
Your diet should include a wide variety of things, and settling for the same meal replacement each day can get old. As we stated earlier, it’s important not to rely on your meal replacements every day, but use them occasionally.
Especially if you’ve dedicated yourself to a specific meal replacement program where you’re instructed to consume a certain amount weekly, do you really want to cut yourself off from the variety of healthy whole foods that are out there?
As we mentioned earlier, consuming meal replacements regularly for the purpose of weight loss is only a quick fix. You’re likely to lose weight, but once you stop consuming these shakes, you will regain that weight when you jump back into eating what you used to eat.
If you’re looking for a long term fix in terms of eating healthier and making smarter decisions when it comes to your diet, meal replacements probably aren’t the best answer.
Meal Replacement Alternatives
We’ve discussed multiple pros and cons of meal replacements shakes. Depending on who you’re asking and what products you’re consuming, the answer may vary on whether meal replacement shakes are good or bad for you.
If you’re wary of consuming certain shakes due to the number of unhealthy ingredients that may lie underneath the packaging, there are definitely alternatives.
Creating your own at home meal replacements will eliminate harmful man-made ingredients from your meal, and it won’t leave you wondering what exactly you’re consuming. Below, we’ll explore some of the homemade meal replacements you can create with just a few simple ingredients.
Homemade Green Smoothies
A homemade green smoothie is a simple meal for beginners that will only take five minutes to make. It’s also packed full of protein and other beneficial nutrients that will keep you going throughout the day.
All you’ll need is one frozen banana, one cup of frozen fruit, and one cup of greens. The fruit and greens you choose to incorporate in your smoothie is up to you and is another perfect alternative to a store-bought meal replacements when you’re on the go.
This meal will keep you full and you won’t have to worry about consuming any artificial flavors or sugars. Also, by creating your own smoothies at home, you’ll save money when you’re not buying expensive shakes in bulk.
All you’ll need is a handful of your chosen fruits and veggies, just 5 minutes to blend it, and you can be on your way out the door with a delicious meal in no time.
Similar to smoothies, consuming healthy pureed soups are another filling way to consume a healthy meal without the artificial flavors and colors that meal replacements may contain.
Soups are also great on-the-go meals that are stocked up with plenty of fiber, veggies, and herbs that will keep you full longer and energized throughout your day. This meal is also beneficial to digestion and can be frozen for future use.
This is another great alternative if you’re looking to save money as well. While there are plenty of healthy canned soup options available, there are numerous recipes out there if you’re looking to create your own personalized homemade soup.
As you can see, you don’t have to order a large bulk of expensive meal replacement shakes if you’re looking for a quick, on-the-go way to eat your meals.
Options such as homemade soups and smoothies will keep you full, and it’ll also save you money, which is always a bonus.
Are meal replacement shakes good or bad for you? Depending on the products you’re using, as well as how often you’re consuming them, the answer to this question can vary.
Meal replacements can be a great alternative to a regular meal if you’re short on time, or maybe if you’re trying to cut back on calories.
Some premium meal replacement shakes even offer more nutrients than you could consume in your own healthy homemade foods.
However, it’s important to read the nutritional labels on these products before consuming them, to ensure these meals are actually healthy.
It’s also important to note that meal replacements should be consumed occasionally, and shouldn’t be relied on for every meal.
But if you feel like meal replacements just aren’t the right fit for you and your diet, we explored some alternatives.
So whether you’re interested in meal replacements or not, you now have all the information you need to make the right decision when it comes to your goals and diet.
- Healthline: Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help You Lose Weight?
- Well-Being Secrets: Meal Replacement Shakes Dangers, Side Effects, and Alternatives
- Well and Good: Meal Replacement Shakes are Back
- Eat This Not That: The Best Meal Replacement Shakes
- Prevention: Best Meal Replacements
- Axe: 5 Reasons to Avoid Meal Replacement Shakes
- Brit + Co: Everything You Should Know Before Trying a Meal Replacement Diet