Meal replacement shakes are amazing and can be used as a dietary supplement, for those looking to lose weight or gain muscle mass.
Oftentimes, we find ourselves without the time to consume the extra calories we need to gain other nutrients from vegetables or even fibre as part of a healthy meal. Therefore a meal replacement shake can come in handy in these times as well.
Therefore in order for you to choose the right instead of the wrong type of meal replacement for you, you first need to ask yourself, what are your goals?
What are you using meal replacements for?
To determine what you are using meal replacements for, you can start by answering the following questions.
1) Will it be used for your diet to lose weight?
2) Do you want to gain muscle mass and build a strong and lean body?
3) Are you busy and have no time to prepare breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
4) Are meal replacements one of the snacks you want to include occasionally in your diet?
5) Is it something I can quickly consume to gain the extra nutrients I lack from my daily diet?
6) Can I get the nutrients and fibre I need since I hate the taste of vegetables?
By discovering the reasons you are looking for meal replacements, you will be able to choose the right meal replacement shake that is specific to your lifestyle needs.
Here are seven ways to choose the right replacement shakes
1. Never blindly trust the word ‘Natural’
Regardless of the industry, marketers, and brands enjoy making claims that their product is ‘natural’. But what is ‘natural’ exactly?
Many of us tend to correlate the word ‘natural’ with ‘organic’ and the truth is, they do not mean the same thing.
This is because the legislation around the usage of the word differs from country to country.
The general understanding for food products labelled as ‘natural’ simply means that they do not contain any artificial ingredients and are minimally processed.
Unlike organic products that are grown specifically to meet the criterion to be organic on the farms, foods that are labelled as ‘natural’ do not have to be organically grown. This ends in the product having traces of growth hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals and pesticides.
Some manufacturers also use the ‘natural’ term in their marketing and packaging even though only one of the ingredients included in their meal replacement shake isn’t derived from artificial ingredients.
Is ‘Natural’ bad?
No, it isn’t. There are still plenty of genuinely ‘natural’ products made with whole foods and these are a fantastic choice as meal replacement shakes.
Ultimately, it all comes down to looking at the nutrition label to find the ingredients lists that come in quantity order from highest to lowest.
Just ensure that you scan through the first few listed and make sure that they are the ingredients you are happy to consume a lot of.
Natural Ingredients to look out for in meal replacement shakes
1) Natural Carbohydrates – you can look for non-GMO carbohydrates cultivated from brown rice, tapioca, and quinoa under the ingredients list.
2) Healthy Fats – you can look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil and coconut oil as they are good for heart health.
3) Easily Digestible Protein – you can opt for a whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate, or a plant protein such as pea protein. It all depends on your dietary needs.
4) Important Vitamins and Minerals – the meal replacement shake should have ample vitamins such as iron, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D and others to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need as you are replacing meals to eat.
5) Sufficient calories – Even if you are looking to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, it is important that the meal replacement shake still contains enough calories as you need enough calories for your body to function throughout the day.
Ingredients to avoid in meal replacement shakes
1) Sucralose – this is a natural sweetener that when consumed long term, can reduce the number of healthy gut bacteria.
2) Senna – this is a powerful laxative and is used for the relief of temporary constipation. The long-term use of this can cause bowels to stop working without laxative intervention.
3) Preservatives – It is difficult to avoid preservatives completely as meal replacement shakes often come with a longer shelf life. However, you can opt for one that has a preservative that is on the lowest part of the ingredients list to ensure you are not consuming too much of it.
4) Aspartame – It is one of the most controversial artificial sweeteners on the market and people with phenylketonuria, those taking medicines for schizophrenia, and also those who are at risk for seizures should not consume this as it is believed it could heighten or even induce the side effects of their medication.
2. Rapid Weight Loss Isn’t Healthy or Sustainable
Although weight loss shakes can help you to lose weight quickly. It is often not suitable for long-term weight loss as being on a meal replacement shake can cause health problems.
Sometimes, unethical meal replacement shake products containing senna or laxatives can result in significant weight loss but it is usually only water weight that you have lost rather than fat from your overall body weight.
Those using crash diet methods by only consuming meal replacements that are heavily laden in laxatives or have super low-calorie regimens to lose weight quickly will end up affecting their metabolic rates, dehydrating themselves, unbalancing their electrolytes, and even inducing hair loss and muscle wastage.
The key to using meal replacement shakes is to incorporate them as a single meal in a day to assist in maintaining a more stable rate of weight loss to reach your goal.
3. Artificial sugar isn’t always better
The word ‘sugar-free’ usually means that artificial sweeteners are added in to replace sugar to give meal replacements a better taste whilst not raising the body’s blood sugar level.
Synthetic sweeteners often cause the body to react in a different way than it does to natural sugars and long-term consumption of these artificial ingredients can cause health problems in the future.
However, the natural sweetener Stevia is widely considered the safest and healthiest artificial sweetener on the market.
Consider this and the impact of non-natural sugars on your body when choosing the best meal replacement shake for you.
4. Look for ‘Organic’
It has become apparent that whole foods and organic ingredients are the most beneficial thing that you can choose to consume.
There are fewer available ranges of organic meal replacement shakes than there are those containing artificial ingredients and they’re often more expensive because organic ingredients cost more to purchase and process than synthetic ones.
Organic foods must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and growth agents, and this makes it better for overall health.
There are also more naturally occurring antioxidants in organically-grown food and these organic ingredients really give your meal replacements an extra boost of positive health benefits, so if you can afford to purchase organic meal replacements, they’re definitely worth the investment.
5. Vegan and Non-Vegan shakes are equal
There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of meal replacement shakes that are completely free from milk and other animal products to fit your lifestyle.
There is a misconception that the vegan food diet lacks protein, which is associated heavily with meat intake but without eating or drinking animal products, food high in protein can still be obtained from different sources.
This means that unlike non-vegan meal replacement shakes that often contain a single type of protein, vegan meal replacement shakes are more likely to contain a variety of plant proteins.
These plant protein combinations are perfectly capable of providing the body with plenty of essential amino acids, fruits, and vegetables whilst having fewer calories per drink.
People with obesity problems can benefit from consuming vegan meal replacement shakes as it has been proven by research that a healthy vegan diet can help achieve more weight loss.
6. Protein shakes are just one type from the long list of meal replacement shakes
Protein shakes are often confused with meal replacement shakes, but ultimately, it isn’t the only liquid drink around.
The whole point of a meal replacement shake is that it works as a dietary supplement that substitutes a complete food meal with a beverage that is expertly balanced for maximum nutrition.
To maintain a balanced diet, protein is required but a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and fibre is just as important.
When all the nutrients your body needs are included, a liquid shake can make a wholesome substitute for eating meals.
7. A D.I.Y Detox shake is not a meal replacement
The word ‘detox’ is used to describe ridding the body of illness, infection, virus, antibodies, allergens, pathogens or other dangerous substances.
Now, the term is regularly used to describe a period of purging toxins from the body in hopes that it will help you to lose weight by limiting calories consumed after drinking the shake.
It is important to understand that a healthy adult immune system is able to detect and expel any negative forces on its own.
The idea is that doing a ‘detox’ diet could inadvertently purge the body of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, or other materials that it needs to stay healthy can result in poor health in the future.
There is also very little scientific research that shows how a ‘detox’ can remove toxins from the body, that are not otherwise done by a healthy liver already.
It is important to recognize what your goals are before incorporating a meal replacement shake into your diet.
In order to help you discover which meal replacement shake is for you, a registered dietitian can help in deciphering your needs.
As there are many brands out there, it is good to do your own research and develop a thorough understanding of the products you’re choosing to consume before making a purchase decision.
Do remember that no one knows your body better than you, so please ensure that you are comfortable with your choice before you buy and start to amend your habits.
Meal replacement shakes cannot replace all your meals as eating regular healthy meals throughout the day is important in maintaining overall health.