Meal Replacements: Choose Those Bars and Drinks Carefully
Or how to successfully eat on the run
There is no doubt that a sit-down meal is the best approach to healthy
weight loss. But in this fast-paced world of ours, even with the best
intentions, there are times when sitting down for a meal is simply impossible.
How do you stick to your eating plan when forced to eat on the run?
Choosing a healthy meal replacement is a perfectly acceptable substitution,
as long as it's only once in a while. The meal substitute you choose should be
one that is nutritious, fills an empty stomach, and will not sabotage your
weight-loss efforts. The trick is planning ahead and selecting the right kind
of meal replacements that are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy
The Evolution of 'Everybar'
Nutrition bars and meal replacement drinks were initially targeted to the
serious athlete who needed extra fuel for workouts. Today, these products have
gone mainstream, targeted to anyone needing a nutritional boost. Shelf-stable
bars and cans are easily stashed in a desk drawer, pocket, purse, or briefcase
for quick meals. The array of choices is dizzying. These hot commodities fill
huge amounts of shelf space in the gym, grocery, and health food stores, and
there are literally hundreds of bars and meal-replacement drinks to choose
Buyers, beware. Not all bars or drinks are created equally.
Hey, wait a minute. Surely all of these replacements must be better choices
than the fast food junk in the hall vending machine, right? Not always -- some
are nothing more than glorified candy bars or high-calorie, sugar-based drinks.
Savvy marketing adds to the confusion as consumers try to sort through all the
heavily hyped super-nutrition health claims on the front of the package.
So what's a dieter to do? The only way to make an informed choice is to read
the list of ingredients, nutrition label, (ignore the front label) and compare
products. Ideally, the meal replacement will contain ingredients that don't
sound like foreign chemicals found in a chemistry lab! Nutrients should be
primarily complex carbohydrates, with small amounts of simple sugars and a bit
of fat, along with a moderate amount of protein. Look for products that fit the
- 220-230 calories per serving
- Less than 5 grams of fat per serving
- 3-5 grams of fiber per serving
- 10-15 grams of protein per serving
- Fortified with a third of daily vitamins and minerals
Do your best to limit reliance on these products to a maximum of once a day,
preferably only once or twice a week. To boost the fiber, you can always
supplement your bar or drink with a few veggies, a can of vegetable juice, or a
piece of fresh fruit.
So why not try real food options?
Those nutrition bars and replacement drinks can quickly empty the
pocketbook. Other meal alternatives that are just as easy include portable
fruit (apples, bananas), 100% fruit juice, low-fat cheese, crackers, bagels,
yogurts, peanut butter, nuts, dry cereal, graham crackers, cereal, or granola
bars. These foods not only provide quick energy, they are less expensive
substitutes for the prepackaged meal replacements. Remember: There is yet to be
developed a supplement that will take the place of a nutritious meal. As a
rule, it is always better to grab a quick and healthy meal such as soup, salad
or sandwich. Use the well-chosen meal replacement only when you have to truly
"eat on the run."