Confused about whether you should include a shake or smoothie in your daily routine? There certainly can be appropriate times to utilize meal replacement shakes, whether they are commercially available or homemade. These drinks can be especially convenient for when a person is unable to sit down for a meal. Shakes can contain more nutrients than snack food and convenience items from a vending machine. However, not all shakes are equal. There are certain nutritional elements to look out for when choosing a meal replacement.
When replacing a meal with a shake or smoothie choose one with:
- At least 325-400 calories
- 15-25 grams of protein
- At least 5 grams of fiber
- 10-13 grams of healthy fats (unsaturated)
Meal replacement shakes are routinely used for weight loss. There have been several studies conducted that looked at the effectiveness of meal replacements on long-term weight loss: Half showed major weight loss in individuals using meal replacements, while the other half showed no significant outcomes. Results are inconclusive on whether meal replacements can benefit weight loss and maintenance and more research needs to be done to determine the effects of these shakes.
If you choose to include meal replacements in your diet, there are a few tips to follow:
- Read the nutrition label. Follow the items listed above and make sure the grams of protein are equal to or greater than the grams of carbohydrates. This will help keep blood sugar levels from dropping.
- Use them as a backup. They can be better options over fast food and high-calorie snack items. Keep some around to use if a meal is not an option. A shake is better then meal skipping.
If you use them to supplement meals, rather then replace them:
- The whole meal doesn’t necessarily have to be “replaced” by shakes. A low calorie (100-200 calories) shake can make a great addition to a meal low in protein.
- Lower calorie shakes make good snacks for in between meals.
- When you are exercising have half the shake before and half after workouts for a protein source.
Whole foods are the best way to get nutrients, but if that is not an option, shakes can be a great way to get important nutrients in a pinch. Be sure to choose one that will give you the needed nutrients without the extra calories, unhealthy fats, and lots of sugar.
Contributed by Nicole Kresak, Dietetics student
Brabaw, K. (2015, December 18). The 7 Best Meal Replacement Shakes And Smoothies. Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/food/7-best-meal-replacements?utm_source=%28direct%29&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebutton
Lawler, M. (2016, August 10). The RIGHT Way to Use Meal-Replacement Shakes for Weight Loss. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/meal-replacement-shakes-for-weight-loss/slide/1
Lopez Barron G, Bacardi Gascon M, De Lira Garcia C, Jimenez Cruz A. [Meal replacement efficacy on long-term weight loss: a systematic review]. [La eficacia a largo plazo de los reemplazos dieteticos en la perdida de peso: revision sistematica.] Nutricion Hospitalaria 2011; 26(6): 1260-1265. [PubMed]