Meal replacement shakes and powders have become increasingly common as our time becomes more and more important. At a relatively low price, they also provide quick, nutrient-dense meals.
They are also super lightweight and can provide a huge amount of nutrition without the bulk. Powders hardly take up any space in your pack and are easy to prepare – just add water, stir and drink.
The big obstacle to clear for most is the “ick” aspect. Some people find the thought of powdered drinks repulsive with an underwhelming eating experience – bland tasting food. We disagree heartfeltly
What Is a Meal Replacement?
Meal replacements are items intended to replace the nutritional value of a meal but with decreased overall calorie consumption, not to be confused with protein drinks, smoothies, or juice. They contain protein along with other nutrients and are also used with protein to satisfy hunger and control one’s appetite for weight loss or weight maintenance. One or two of the regular three daily meals may be used, depending on the program. A protein shake is only intended to provide protein and may not be intended to replace a meal, but to add protein to the diet.
Meal replacements can come in a variety of ways, including meal bars, shakes, and powders that can be mixed with milk as ready-to-eat or easy-to-prepare foods. Shakes, in particular, can substitute a measured amount of calories for high-fat and high-calorie meals.
What Constitutes a Meal Replacement?
Over the past 15 years, research has shown that the use of meal replacement shakes, accepted by the European Food Safety Authority and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States, to build a calorie deficit, is an efficient way of weight control.
The Commission Regulation of the European Union concluded that the substitution of two of the key daily meals from an energy-restricted diet with meal substitutes leads to weight loss. Substituting such items for one of the key daily meals allows people to manage their weight following weight loss.
According to the European Union, in order to qualify as meal substitutes, these items should meet the following compositional criteria:
- Energetics: 200-250 kcal
- Protein: 25-50 percent of the product’s overall energy content (protein quality requirements)
- Fat: ~30% of the total energy content of the commodity available
- Vitamins and minerals: 30 percent of the reference values of the nutrients
In a research conducted by Marion Flechtner-Mors, Ph.D., a member of Herbalife Nutrition’s Nutrition Advisory Board at the University of Ulm, participants dealing with obesity underwent an energy-restricted diet and were randomly allocated for 12 months to either a high-protein diet or a traditional protein diet. Protein-enriched meal alternatives were used to complement the high-protein diet.
According to the study, when treated with an energy-restricted, high-protein diet that included nutrient-dense meal replacements, the high-protein community achieved substantial weight loss while maintaining fat-free mass, relative to the results of traditional protein intake.
Meal Replacements vs Protein Shakes: What’s the Difference?
In nutritional structure, protein products and meal replacements vary and are formulated for various objectives. Meal replacements aid with weight management, to put it simply, while protein drinks are used for athletic success and muscle gain.
A mistake that could conflict with your weight loss goals is comparing a meal replacement shake with a protein shake.
Here is an easy way to understand the two:
Meal Replacement Shakes
- Intended to replace one or two of your normal diet meals.
- It is normally fortified with minerals and vitamins.
- While they are lower in calories than individual meals, they provide more fiber, carbohydrates, and calories per
- serving than a protein shake.
- Provides protein, but at amounts smaller than most protein shakes.
- Intended to complement a normal diet, not to substitute a meal.
- To be eaten prior to or during a workout.
- Usually, up to 25 g per serving of protein.
- Usually, since they are not meant to be complete meals, they have less than 5 g of carbohydrates.
- Tend not to contain any vitamins or minerals added other than those given by the source of protein.
Both products have their uses, and it’s important to select the right product for your particular goal as a customer. Protein shakes are good for fueling hard workouts, building muscle tissue, toning, and healing it. On the other hand, a meal replacement shake will help you lose or hold weight.
Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal Replacement Powder
Garden of Life Organic Meal is commonly considered one of the healthiest powders on the market and is packed full of organic ingredients, including veggie powders, fruit powders, and probiotics. A plant-based protein that is sourced from 14 legumes, seeds, and grain is used in the powder. It is available in a neutral flavor of chocolate and vanilla that blends well with other flavors.
Garden of Life was cited by the Clean Label Initiative because the company’s powders rated poorly for heavy metals, pesticides, and other related pollutants in their studies. In a long blog post that called into question the methodology used in the testing, the company denied those arguments.
The opinion of Taste: Strong balance between mild taste and balanced ingredients.
Amazing Grass Green Superfood: Super Greens Powder
The “greenest” veggie choice on the list is Awesome Grass by far. The formula is recognized for its patented blend of grass that includes homegrown wheatgrass, alfalfa, barley grass, and kale.
The Amazing meal utilizes this grass mixture as a foundation and adds fiber and probiotics to 20 grams of plant-based protein (peanut, pea, and hemp). All this goodness is given by each serving and two servings of fruit and veggies to boot. Amazing Grass provides a variety of different types of protein powder, but it is an acquired taste.
Taste Opinion: Somewhat “like seaweed and fish food” combined. Best when mixed with something.
Ka’Chava Meal Replacement Shake
It is the most nutrient-dense health shake available, Ka’chava says, and that assertion is not a stretch. A whopping 70 plant-based superfoods and nutrients contain this meal replacement powder. Fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, greens, vitamins, probiotics, and proteins from yellow peas, brown rice, and Sacha Inchi are included in the long list of all-natural ingredients. There are two varieties of Ka’chava available – vanilla and chocolate, both of which are sweetened with lo han fruit and stevia. Ka’chava is one of the most costly powders on our list, however, at $70 per bag.
Taste Opinion: Very tasty. Too sweet though.
Vega One All-In-One Nutritional Shake Chocolate
In a single serving, Vega One packs 20 grams of plant-based protein (peas and seeds), 4 grams of fiber and 50% of your daily requirements of 8 vitamins and minerals. When blended as a shake, thanks to spinach, kale, and spirulina, the powder has a distinctive green hue.
Two formulations are available for Vega One All-In-One Shake – the original formulation that the company has been making for years and a new organic formula that is getting mixed feedback. Similar to some of the negative feedback, due to the heavy artificial metallic taste, we tried VegaOne and could not choke it down.
Taste Opinion: Sweeteners made it taste metallic and artificial.
Soylent Original Plant Protein Meal Replacement Powder
Back in 2013, Soylent began as a quick meal for the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Since then, they have received almost $75 million in funding in total and are continuing to expand.
Soylent was planned from the beginning to be a “nutritionally complete” meal replacement device instead of a drink focused on greens or protein powders. It’s going to be more than just a shake – a whole new way to easily eat food. With 20 grams of plant-based proteins and 26 important vitamins and minerals, each shake serving delivers 400 calories. It tastes like a good neutral oat.
Note: Maltodextrin is the third ingredient on the bottle and the health of the drink is highly debated because of its synthetic ingredients.
Taste Opinion: Good. Like a glass of oat milk.
Ample – Meal Replacement Shake
Ample, which also originated in Silicon Valley, entered the market as a healthy alternative to Soylent in 2015. Non-GMO, gluten-free and made from premium ingredients such as grass-fed whey, yellow split pea, grass-fed collagen, coconut, macadamia and organic greens, Ample’s meal replacement powder is A 4 billion CFU probiotic blend also contains it.
Although it contains a decent amount of carbs-40 percent of which is fiber, without sacrificing flavor, Ample packs a mere 1g of sugar per 100 calories, a definite plus. Compared to alternatives, some may find the taste a little chalky, though.
In bulk canisters or single-serving plastic bottles of either 400 or 600 calories, Sufficient gives you the option of buying their powder. This style is much lighter and just as easy compared with ready-to-drink choices. Simply add milk or water, shake, and drink.
Taste Opinion: Good. Creamy and nutty
Huel Starter Kit
Huel has an ideology close to Soylent’s. It’s more than just a meal replacement shake – it’s a fresh way of consuming comfort. “Daily Values”Daily Values.
Huel is looking for a solution more natural than Soylent. With plenty of protein from peas and rice as well as other natural ingredients such as oats, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, coconut, and more, it is 100 percent vegan. It’s available in both a flavored and an unflavored and unsweetened version. There is an oaty and light vanilla taste in the vanilla flavor, while other flavors such as banana, cappuccino, and chocolate mint are bolder.
Taste Opinion: Good. Fairly plain.
Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
Not only does Orgain state it is organic, but USDA organic certification backs up the assertion. In its meal replacement powder, the company utilizes only organic protein, veggies, and greens. The powder obtains its protein from plant-based sources, with pea, brown rice, and chia seed coming from the bulk. It also contains a mix of sprouts, veggies, fruits, and greens for extra nutrients. In a chocolate and vanilla bean flavor, Orgain is available. The mixture is sugar-free, but it is a sweetener that uses erythritol.
Taste Opinion: Similar to VegaOne. Too many weird sweeteners.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Organic
A plant based protein power house has been developed by Optimum Nutrition. This is a sterile powder with a vast majority of organic ingredients on the bottle. Minimal fortification of vitamins as well. However, the comparatively high protein content and low calories make it more of a protein powder compared to a full meal substitute.
Taste Opinion: Pretty plain and bland.
How are meal replacements different from protein shakes?
Although protein powders and shakes are extremely effective supplements, a meal replacement is distinct because it does not solely concentrate on one macronutrient, but rather provides the body with a balanced mix of macros and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Protein powders are also used to make more enjoyable and filling smoothies or shake with other foods-fruit, milk, spinach, healthy fats. A meal replacement shake, however, has all the extra nutrition built into one easy package right away.
Protein Sources Overview
Whey: Whey is the liquid portion of milk that separates during the cheese-making process. This by-product used to be discarded, but instead, as a protein substitute, it is processed and used. It is low in lactose content and contains all nine amino acids that are essential. With whey, you can easily add 25–50 grams of protein to your diet. However, keeping an eye on the ingredients, whey appears to be more related to chemically sweetened blends. It is not vegan since it is derived from milk. Please, sorry vegans.
SOY: Soy protein is derived from soybeans that are ground and then processed into a meal to produce a 90 percent protein isolate of soy protein. Similar to whey protein, all nine essential amino acids are found in soy protein and are frequently flavored and supplemented to enhance the taste and texture. Remember that many individuals have allergies to soy, so make sure you are not one of them;)
PEA: From split peas, pea protein is extracted and dried into a powder. The protein is then added to items such as energy bars or sold as a powder used in shakes, or a veggie burger. Pea protein is obtained from plants and is ideal for vegans and those suffering from lactose intolerance or other allergies. It contains all nine essential amino acids, but methionine is tiny, so it should not be used as a single source.
BROWN RICE: Extracted from brown rice, a favorite vegetarian protein powder is rice protein. It is also hypoallergenic, meaning it is quickly digested and healthy for those with food allergies. Brown rice protein is lacking in certain amino acids, unlike soy or whey protein, and is not considered a complete protein.
HEMP: Hemp protein is obtained from the seeds of the cannabis plant and, because of its beneficial fatty acids, fiber content, and antioxidants, is known to be a superfood. Since it is not as heavily refined, it has a nutty and earthy flavor and is grittier than most other powders. Because of its association with cannabis, hemp protein is one of the most costly protein powders. It does contain the nine essential amino acids, but it should not be used as the only source of protein at levels that are low enough.
SACHA INCHI: Found in South America’s rainforests, Sacha Inchi is commonly touted as a superfood. The majority of the diet is contained in plant seeds rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, calcium, zinc, potassium, and tryptophan. They are roasted and pressed for oil with these seeds. The leftover seed waste is gathered after pressing and used as a protein powder.
PEANUT: Peanuts are probably the most common source of powdered protein because they are widely available and relatively cheap. Roasted peanuts that have been pressed to extract the oil and then ground into a powder are made from powdered peanut butter. Powdered peanut butter is lower in calories than normal peanut butter because all the fat has been removed. Powder peanut butter often has a distinct texture and taste to normal peanut butter when reconstituted with water. Not as good as a spread, it’s great as a shake.
Things to consider
Think about the advantages that are most beneficial for you if you are trying to incorporate meal replacements into your healthier lifestyle. While replacing a meal or two is a great way to kick start weight loss, it is also vital to develop healthier habits and learn how to manage your calories during daily meal times as well. If you use a meal substitute, but do not exclude from your diet unhealthy items or too large servings, so you will not see the outcomes you are seeking. Note, for weight loss, a calorie deficit is needed. Making the substitution of the meal part of the overall healthier lifestyle, not an excuse at other periods of the day to overdo it.
Meal replacements are very effective resources for a number of goals: losing weight, maintaining a daily schedule, and even adding to your diet extra healthy, nutritious calories. Consider a meal substitute in tandem with a great workout regimen, a balanced diet, and a positive mindset as one piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle.