What to Know About Meal Replacement Shakes

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on July 11, 2023
3 min read

Meal replacement shakes are a hot topic. A shake could be what you’re looking for if you want a quick meal on the go or if you’re trying to lose weight. 

‌A meal replacement shake is designed to replace your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are often filled with nutrients but have fewer calories than you would eat during a meal. Look for a meal replacement shake high in proteinif you want help managing your appetite.

On average, men eat between 2,000 and 3,000 calories each day, and women usually eat between 1,600 and 2,400. Experts recommend that your diet include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Protein, like meat, eggs, beans, and seafood‌
  • Oils and fats

Meal replacement shakes don’t usually have fruits, vegetables, or grains, but they tend to be rich in the nutrients you would find in those foods. ‌

Meal replacement shakes are high in protein, so they fill you up but may not load you with extra calories. This aids in weight loss without giving up muscle mass. Some meal replacement shakes are premade, and you can get them in single-serving bottles. Others come as a powder that you mix with milk or water.

Full of nutrients. A meal replacement shake is one way to make sure you have a healthy option if you know you won’t have time to stop and eat. It might be easy to stop by a fast-food restaurant, where many options aren’t healthy. Plus, you’ll probably spend more on a burger than you would on a meal replacement shake.

Low calories. A meal replacement shake is a good addition to your diet if you’re watching your weight or trying to lose weight. One downfall when losing weight is feeling hungry, and meal replacement shakes can help you overcome that obstacle.

Added fiber. In addition to protein that helps you feel full, meal replacement shakes are often high in fiber. This helps healthy digestion, so you don’t get bloated or have constipation.

Proven weight loss. Research has found that meal replacement shakes can help with weight loss. One study tracked two groups of people as they tried to lose weight over the course of 3 months. At the end of the study, the group that did not use meal replacement shakes lost only 1.5% of their initial body weight. The group that used replacement shakes lost 7.8%.

Artificial ingredients. Often, meal replacement shakes have a lot of artificial ingredients because the powder mixes are processed. The artificial ingredients help preserve the product and boost nutrients. Many shakes also include added sugars so they taste better. Be sure to read labels carefully.

Checking for quality. Some products boast meal replacement but don’t live up to expectations. Look for at least 3 grams (g) of fiber in your shake. The protein content should be higher than or equal to the amount of carbohydrates in the shake.

Low calories. This may be an advantage in some cases but a disadvantage in others. You cut back on calories when you want to lose weight. However, cutting out too many calories is dangerous. Meal replacement shakes are typically between 150 and 200 calories, which is probably nowhere near what you would eat during a meal. Be sure to make up calories with other meals and snacks.

Think about allergens. If you have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, check labels before purchasing. Keep in mind that whey protein comes from cow’s milk, so you may want to find a protein mix that is plant-based.