Meal replacement shakes are a hot topic, especially when we know so much about the importance of whole foods and clean eating. What most people don't realize is that no matter how much they meal prep, buy organic food, and eat clean, they may still be missing key vitamins and minerals, causing them to feel sluggish or not see the results they're looking for such as weight loss or building lean muscle.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I'm just sharing my experience here. Definitely check with your own doctor before using meal replacement shakes, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
Why I started drinking meal replacement shakes:
When I was getting in shape for my wedding as a 22-year-old, the only thing I cared about was being skinny. All I wanted was to look great in my wedding dress, so I did sprint intervals on the treadmill and survived on smoothies.
Anytime I knew I would be on the road, I tried to make healthier choices than stopping for fast food, but ended up choosing diet products from the grocery store shelves. Remember the Special K diet? Tried that. Slimfast? Secretly bought a case of it and kept it in the car.
Now, there are definitely worse choices I could have been making (looking at you, fast food French fries), but those diet products from the grocery store weren't doing much for my health. I was uninformed, and simply looking for an easy way to cut calories when I didn't have access to a kitchen.
Now that I'm (gasp!) almost 30 with 3 babies, I've learned to use food to fuel my body instead of depriving it. I've learned that meal replacement shakes can actually be a really wonderful option for many people, but you have to do your research! They are not all created equal.
What you should look for when choosing a meal replacement shake
- Check to make sure it's actually a true meal replacement. Is it meant to be consumed as a protein shake after a workout? Is it meant to be a snack in between meals? Or is it actually designed to have enough calories to be a meal? It should contain balanced macros - high quality protein, good fats, and healthy carbs.
- Know the protein source. The shakes I drink only use a high quality undenatured whey protein sourced from happy cows in New Zealand. That means the protein is processed at a low temperature to keep the nutrients intact. Watch out for soy, additives and fillers!
- For vegans, or those who need to limit or avoid dairy, there are great plant-based protein options out there. Brown rice and pea protein are two examples. Sometimes harmful chemicals are used in the plant protein extraction process, so be on the lookout for a chemical called hexane.
- Watch out for sugar. Check for high amounts of sugar in your meal replacement shake, but also know that a little bit is a good thing. Every cell in your body needs sugar to function, so in moderate amounts fructose is necessary. A good meal replacement will use a small amount of naturally occurring sugar like fructose for flavor and delivery of nutrients. Look for it to be labeled as low glycemic.
- Quality is everything. Sometimes shakes found on supermarket shelves don't actually contain what the label says it contains. There can be all sorts of additives and fillers, rendering the shake ineffective and a complete waste of money. Look for a manufacturer that guarantees the quality of ingredients. For example, the shakes I use come with quality assurance and a money-back guarantee. They check the raw ingredients before formulating the shakes, and send the products to a third-party lab to inspect that they meet the claims on the label. They are gluten-free, soy-free, and free of artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.
Why you should try meal replacement shakes
- Most people have gaps in their nutrition. When we cut calories in order to lose weight, we often end up cutting out many of the nutrients our body needs. Even if we're eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every single day (I definitely don't!), our food is not as nutritious as it once was due to over-farming and depleted soil.
- High nutrition, low calorie. Shakes are nutrient dense, so they are a great option for nourishing your body with the vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fat without the high calorie count.
- Long term success. Very strict diet programs are notoriously hard to stick to. Replacing one meal a day with a high quality nutritional shake is easy to maintain, even when life gets busy, you're traveling, or during holiday seasons.
- Keeps you full and fights cravings. A good shake that's fiber-rich with high-quality protein will keep you full for hours, AND help reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks.
- Convenient. I would love to leisurely spend hours in the kitchen preparing healthy, nutritious, well-rounded meals with every necessary vitamin and mineral, but realistically there are other things I need to do, and other things I would rather be doing with my time. Shakes take 30 seconds to whip up, and I can take them with me on the go, or when we're traveling.
- Delicious. I love blending my chocolate shakes with ice so they're thick and creamy like a milkshake. My kids love the strawberry cream flavor! (Yes, they are safe for kids to drink, too!)
- Results. Besides being incredibly nutritious and good for my health, these shakes produce results! You see, when you feed your body what it needs, it works like it was designed to work! I feel more energetic, and it's been a safe way to lose the baby weight. My husband used them to release an excess 15 lbs. Meanwhile, my kids use it to grow healthy and strong, because they eat theirs in addition to their breakfast.
The best meal replacement shakes for weight loss, building lean muscle, and more energy
Here is where you can find the very best meal replacement shakes on the market. Each canister comes with 14 meals, so that breaks down to less than $3 for a full, nutritious, organic-grade meal. (I would recommend choosing "Sign Up and Save" so you have access to wholesale prices for a year - kind of like a Costco membership).
If weight loss is your goal, I highly recommend starting with a pack, as the products work best when used as a system! My favorite way to start is the 30 Day Cleansing and Fat Burning System. I reviewed it here: 30 Day Nutrition System Review
If you read all of that, and still think that shakes just aren't for you, that's ok! Everybody is different, and every body is different. Everyone needs to experiment and find what works for them.
For me, shakes have been one of the best things to happen to my family, and we won't go a day without drinking one. Here's to good health wherever you fall on the great shake debate!
If you want to learn more about the nutrition system and shakes so many moms have used to improve their health, lose the baby weight, and gain natural energy in a safe way, head to my Facebook group, Strong For Her Tasks, for more info!