By now, you must have seen all the advertisements promoting meal replacements as the solution to your fast-paced lifestyle but are meal replacements good for you?
They market meal replacements as cheap and portable foods that will help reduce your calorie intake and save you the trouble of cooking a healthy meal. However, are meal replacements healthy?
I can tell you authoritatively that meal replacements can be a healthy substitute for your cooked meal, provided your choice of product contains the right ingredients.
Taking a sit-down meal of unprocessed, whole foods is the best approach to health and weight loss. However, our fast-paced world means there will be days when sitting down for a healthy cooked meal will be impossible.
It’s on such days that taking a meal replacement shake will make perfect sense.
This article will explain the pros and cons of meal replacements and show you how to recognize a healthy meal replacement product.
How Can Meal Replacements Help?
Taking meal replacements to help simplify your life and possibly help with weight loss comes with several benefits, including:
Meal Replacements Contain Ingredients That Can Boost Your Nutrition And Help With Weight Loss
A good meal replacement shake contains balanced quantities of the calories and nutrients you need daily. It will have a high protein base, which is a key nutrient that supports vital body functions.
Protein helps the body build & repair bones and muscle and helps create hormones and enzymes.
Meal replacements can help with weight loss.
A high protein and fiber diet will keep your stomach feeling full, which leads to fewer cravings for more food. Protein helps you to lose stomach fat and enhances improved weight maintenance.
Research backs up the effectiveness of meal replacement diets. A 2013 study found that people who combined a meal replacement diet with a cooked low-calorie diet significantly lost more weight than people who relied only on a low-carb diet.
I will advise that you replace one meal per day with a healthy meal replacement.
Meal Replacements Compensate For Your Low-Calorie Diet
Meal replacements are often lower in calories than actual cooked meals. However, your body needs calories to operate.
Fortunately, the best meal replacement shakes contain nutrients like calcium, iron, and Vitamin D that help meet your nutrient needs while on a low-calorie diet.
Meal replacements can also help with your blood sugar level. They are high in protein, which slows your body’s absorption of sugar and crashes blood sugar levels.
Meal Replacements Help You Avoid Unhealthy Fast Food
The primary advantage of meal replacements is that they are portable and convenient. If you are hungry and in a hurry, you can just grab your replacement shake instead of buying processed fast food.
Fast food is high in sugar and full of refined carbs, which are just the type of unhealthy ingredients that will derail your weight loss efforts.
The convenience of meal replacements will ensure you stick to your diet plan.
What Are The Potential Disadvantages?
Meal replacements can be hugely beneficial, but they can also come with some drawbacks. Some of which are:
Meal Replacements Are Not An Alternative To A Healthy Cooked Meal
Meal replacements should complement and not replace healthy cooked meals. You can’t live solely on an exclusive meal replacement diet – take them as part of a diet plan that includes other food sources.
It is impossible to get all the nutrients you need from a single food source. For example, antioxidants and phytonutrients beneficial to heart health are only found in plant-based food.
Meal replacements work best for those times when you are just too busy to prepare a meal.
I can attest to the fact that you can’t maintain a healthy lifestyle by taking only replacement shakes. You need to attend social events, go out to eat, and they only serve real food at such events.
Not All Meal Replacements Contain Healthy Nutrients
There are hundreds of products for you can choose from. Unfortunately, many of these products are not as healthy as advertised.
Some of them contain more sugar, fats, and artificial ingredients than protein. They lack the nutrients you need in sufficient quantities and can worsen weight problems.
These companies need people to buy their products, and few buyers will be interested in a tasteless meal replacement. So, they add artificial sweeteners and emulsifiers to spruce up their products at the expense of the healthy nutrients you really need.
Fortunately, plenty of products contain the right quantities of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins. To sort out the bad products, check the ingredients label.
Avoid products that contain the following:
- Artificial flavors and sweeteners
- Corn syrup
- Preservatives especially maltodextrin
- Vegetable oils
- Added sugar
Look for high-protein shakes with small amounts of simple sugars, small fat between 200 to 400 calories, and many essential vitamins.
Meal Replacements Can’t Fix Bad Habits.
Meal replacements work, but they cannot fix your bad habits. They won’t stop your late-night eating or force you only to eat healthy foods. They can only replace your meal.
The effectiveness of meal replacements will depend on you sticking to a healthy diet and making the necessary changes to your lifestyle.
How Can You Choose The Right Meal Replacement Shake?
I have covered this earlier, but I think I should provide you with a list of ingredients you should look out for. Regulations require companies to state what’s in their products, and it’s for your benefit.
Only choose products that:
- Contain protein with between 10 to 15 grams per serving
- Contain fiber with between 3 to 5 grams per serving
- Are low on sugar with less than 10 grams per serving
- Are low on fat with less than 5 grams per serving
- And provides a minimum of 33% of the daily value of minerals and vitamins.
If you are not interested in buying a commercial shake, you can prepare your protein shake yourself at home. Only use ingredients high in proteins, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins such as leafy greens, almond milk, Greek yogurt, fruits, whey protein powder, and ripe banana.
To make your own meal replacement smoothies, you will need a blender and the necessary ingredients in the right quantities. There are several recipes out there, but you can experiment with this strawberry smoothie recipe:
- 2 cups of frozen berries
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- 1 scoop of whey protein powder
Mix everything in your blender until smooth, and you will get your high-protein home-made strawberry replacement shake.
I believe this article has shown you that meal replacement shakes are good for you if you choose a product high in beneficial ingredients like protein and fiber but low in sugar and artificial ingredients.
Finally, please keep in mind that meal replacements are only supplements and cannot replace a healthy diet of whole foods.