With obesity on the rise, many people are searching for ways to effectively lose weight and keep it off. For many, protein shakes are part of the answer!
With our increasingly busy urban lifestyles, preparing healthy meals regularly has become quite challenging for most.
This has led to an increased dependency on fast food and convenience resulting in excess weight gain and unhealthy eating habits and behaviors.
We want to eat healthily but also want that healthy food to be readily available to us and consumed while on the go.
This is where a healthy meal replacement shake can prove highly beneficial.
Meal replacement shakes offer the perfect way for you to get a quick and healthy boost of energy whenever you need it. It also helps keep those hunger pangs at bay and prevents you from eating high-calorie junk food or snacking.
But how do you choose healthy protein shakes as meal replacement? What should you be looking for and what should you avoid?
For answers to these questions and more, read on!
Effectively losing weight and keeping it off with busy schedules and hectic workloads is one of the many reasons why obesity is still on the rise.
This is also why the popularity of meal replacements has increased dramatically in the past decade.
So, what is a meal replacement?
A meal replacement is essentially any food product that is designed to replace the nutritional value of a meal but with far fewer calories and fat.
To put it into context, a 200-300 calorie meal replacement shake, for example, has the same macronutrients and micronutrients as you would normally get in a 500-800 calorie meal.
These easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat foods such as energy bars, shakes, smoothies, and powders are ideal for replacing one or even two of your daily meals with a low-calorie and low-fat meal replacement, helping you significantly cut down on your total calorie intake.
Skipping one or even two meals a day in favor of a meal replacement product can help you save on a ton of calories and unwanted fats.
This is one of the many reasons why meal replacement products are ideal for those wanting to lose or maintain weight.
When choosing a healthy protein shake as a meal replacement, it is important to first distinguish between what is considered just a “protein shake” and what is considered a “meal replacement shake.”
A protein shake’s main purpose is to provide protein to your body for muscle gain. This type of shake isn’t intended to replace a meal but rather to give your body the protein it needs to improve athletic performance and muscle growth.
A meal replacement shake, on the other hand, includes protein as well as other vital vitamins and minerals that help curb your appetite and reduce your total calorie intake.
Most meal replacement shakes are made by mixing high-quality protein powder with milk, and other nutritious fruits and vegetables, to create a healthy protein shake that is both low-calorie and low-fat, but still contains all the nutrients, minerals, and protein your body needs to function normally.
So, now that we have that out of the way, here are five other top tips to look out for when choosing a healthy shake that helps you skip a meal healthily and sustainably.
To be considered as a meal replacement, a shake must include at least 16 mandatory vitamins and minerals that make up 25% of one’s Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI).
Essential vitamins and minerals include vitamins A, B12, C & D, iron, calcium, copper, iodine, zinc, magnesium, folate, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulfur, chloride, and other trace minerals such as selenium and molybdenum.
These essential minerals and vitamins are the key to ensuring healthy bodily functions. Make sure to check the label to see if a shake is labeled as a meal replacement, what vitamins and minerals it has, and whether it comes with a five-star health rating.
Our bodies need fiber to sustain good gut health and keep blood sugar levels in check.
In most cases, the average adult needs about 25-35 grams of fiber daily to maintain healthy blood sugar and keep hunger at bay.
This is why when planning to skip a meal in favor of a meal replacement shake, the shake you choose must have a high amount of fiber. Ideally, you would want your shake to have at least five to seven grams of fiber or more per serving.
Secondly, you don’t want a shake that has too many added sugars. Sugar, especially, in larger quantities can be extremely detrimental to overall health and is amongst the leading causes of weight gain in older adults.
On average, you should only opt for a meal replacement shake if it has five grams or less of sugar per serving.
Also, make sure you avoid shakes that include artificial flavors or contain any potential allergens.
Just because a meal replacement shake isn’t an all-out protein shake, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have a healthy dose of protein in it as well.
Protein is an essential part of any diet as it helps make one feel full while reducing body fat and encouraging lean muscle growth.
When choosing a the best meal replacement shakes, look for ones that have between 10-20 grams of protein per serving. This is the ideal amount your body needs to stay healthy.
The entire point of skipping a meal in favor of a meal replacement shake is to reduce your total calorie intake. However, you don’t want a shake that has very low calories either as it could lead to fatigue and tiredness.
Ideally, if you are skipping an 800-calorie meal you should be looking for a meal replacement shake that has about 400 calories or 50% of your normal calorie intake. Anything lower than that wouldn’t count towards replacing an entire meal.
When it comes to fats, they are both good fats and bad fats. Saturated and trans fats are bad for you so when considering a meal replacement make sure it has none of these fats but rather a healthy dose of good fats such as omega-3s and other types of unsaturated fats.
Look for meal replacement shakes with 10-15 grams of healthy fats per serving. No more no less.
In an ideal world, you will want to create a meal replacement shake following the guidance of a dietician or nutrition expert.
These experts can teach you how to create meal replacement shakes that deliver the maximum nutrients your body needs while still tasting delicious with every sip.
However, there are also plenty of store options you can choose from that can be just as appetizing and nutritionally beneficial.
Reputed brands and manufacturers such as AmBari Nutrition, American Bariatrics, Bariatric Advantage, Celebrate, New Direction, Numetra, ProtiDiet, and Proti-VLC, all offer incredible ready-to-eat nutritionally balanced meal replacement options that are delivered to your doorstep. Among these, some brands specialize in bariatric meal replacement shakes tailored for post-surgical patients, ensuring they receive optimal nutrition.
Healthy protein shakes can help make weight management and even weight loss that much more convenient and hassle-free.
No, protein shakes can’t be used as a meal replacement as they do not include vital vitamins and minerals you get from a typical meal.
Many dieticians and experts agree that dinner is likely the best meal to skip in favor of a low-calorie, low-sugar, and low-fat meal replacement.
In most cases, you should be able to skip one or even two meals a day with the right shake and continue to function normally and feel active. You can also live on only meal replacement shakes, although it is advisable not to, especially for periods of more than a few weeks.
When deciding on how many meals to replace and how frequently it is always advisable to consult with your dietician, doctor, or health care professional.
Allison, a certified nutritionist and research author, brings over 15 years of experience in the health and weight loss industry. Allison's influence extends through her authorship of multiple health and wellness journals, where she shares her expertise and research on medical weight loss and bariatric medicine.
Reviewed By: Dr. K. Huffman
Dr. Kevin D. Huffman, D.O., is a board-certified bariatric physician renowned for his expertise in treating obesity. With over 10,000 patients and a reputation as a national leader in bariatric medicine, he has trained hundreds of healthcare providers. As the founder of American Bariatric Consultants, Dr. Huffman develops protocols and training materials sought after by medical societies, pharmaceutical companies, patients, and hospitals.