The new year is right around the corner and you know what that means? Gimmicks, flashy marketing, and challenges that don’t actually help you for the rest of the year. The secret to a healthy, happy, and sustainable lifestyle is rooted in the quality of your actions and decisions – the small steps you take every single day that lead up to big results. So what does this have to do with meal replacement shakes? When created correctly, meal replacement shakes are a great go-to for busy days and days where you don’t have time to make a nutrient-rich meal.
Throwing some stuff in a blender, put it in a cup, and slamming it on your way our the door can be beneficial for both your health and your constant habit of running late (though you might want to work on that, too ;)). Here are some frequently asked questions and the 6 best tips to help you create your very own meal replacement shake recipes to fuel your goals and your health in the new year!
What is a Meal Replacement Shake?
A meal replacement shake is regarded as a portable and ultra-convenient option for an on-the-go meal. They are a great option for busy people, for those looking to lose or gain weight and to control cravings while delivering a robust amount of nutrients between big meals or long work days.
What is considered a meal replacement?
Anything that is a substitute for a solid food meal is considered a meal replacement. They come in shakes, bars, soups, drinks, and so on. Meal replacements have an appropriate and controlled amount of calories, carbohydrates, fats, protein, and micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals. They’re often marketed as a ‘health shake’ in stores, but by the end of this article, you’ll be able to make the perfect meal replacement shake at home.
Can I Drink a Protein Shake as a Meal Replacement?
Wondering if protein shakes are the same as meal replacements? Good question. The short answer, they’re not. Still wondering why? Let’s take a look at Swolverine’s (ultra tasty) Vanilla Milk Shake Whey Protein Isolate powder:
30 servings per container, 30g serving size, 110 calories, 0.5g fat, 1g carbohydrates, 1g total sugars, 0g added sugars, 26g protein, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, added Digestive Enzymes and BCAAs
Can you tell what it’s missing? It’s missing macronutrients, like fats and carbs, making it an incomplete meal. Protein shakes alone are a great snack or supplement for individuals on a weight loss journey, weight gain journey, healthy lifestyle or performance aid, but protein shakes are not meal replacement shakes. They don’t have enough nutrients in them alone to replace an entire meal.
An example on how to use meal replacement shakes & protein shakes in your diet:
AM: Meal replacement shake at breakfast
NOON: Real food lunch
SNACK: Protein shake for an afternoon snack
PM: Real food dinner
Do Shakes Help with Weight Loss?
Yes… and no. They’re definitely no magic bullet and the weight loss benefits of consuming a meal replacement shake once or twice a day is rooted in the overall reduction of poor quality foods in the diet, not the ingredients specifically. If you were to look at the back of a shake, like Slim Fast, for example, they tout the idea of decreasing body fat and increasing weight loss. But it’s not the shake that does it necessarily. Replacing meals with protein shakes, which essentially is what a meal replacement shake is (just with more nutrients), can help individuals reduce their overall daily calorie intake, contributing to weight loss.
We recommend THIS Vanilla Whey Isolate for your protein shakes
Best Meal Replacement Shakes
The best meal replacement shake is the one you make at home. Not the one you buy in the store for some ungodly amount of money. It’s the one that you put your own protein/protein powder, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruits into and take with you in a reusable cup. Why? Because you get to control what is in it and it’s made with REAL FOOD.
Most meal replacement shakes on the market, like Ensure, Slim Fast, 310 Shake, Equate, Premier Protein, to name a few, don’t use the highest quality ingredients that you could use at home. They use low-quality protein, like whey powder (we recommend using whey isolate) and often they don’t contain any real fruits or veggies to give you the micronutrient profile they boast on the outer label. Did we mention that pre-made meal replacement shakes are per serving more expensive than making them at home with your own ingredients?
Get yourself a bullet or some type of small single serving blender and do it up. Best yet? Make shakes ahead of time, freeze them in a baggie in the freezer, defrost, blend, BOOM. That’s as easy as it gets. Up next: the 6 best tips to make the perfect meal replacement shake.
Protein is KEY in Meal Replacement Shakes
This is a big nutrient that people overlook with their shakes, smoothies, and meal replacement drinks. It’s very important to have protein, whether from protein powder, collagen powder, or a block of tofu, included in your daily shake. Protein helps reduce levels of ghrelin (the hormone that signals that you’re hungry) within the bloodstream, helping you feel fuller, longer. Other ways to boost protein include Greek yogurt, milk, or a tablespoon or two of nut butter.
We recommend THIS Whey Protein Isolate for shakes, smoothies, and meal replacement shakes
We recommend THIS Collagen Peptide Powder for shakes, smoothies, and meal replacement shakes
Get to Know Your Friend, Fiber
A great way to add some fiber and omega-3s to your meal replacement shake is to add flax and chia seeds because they have both fiber, protein, and fatty acids. While you should definitely get a robust amount of these nutrients from the other meal based foods throughout the day, adding these to your shake can be the boost you need between meals.
Vegetables Blend GREAT
Ah, how many of you reading this get all the necessary levels of vegetables in your diet every day? Probably not many! No worries, we’re not trying to shame you, but we are going to encourage you to put those veggies into your meal replacement shakes! Through a little trial and error, you’ll find pretty quickly what your pallet can handle. For example, full-grown kale blends a bit, grainy, whereas baby kale doesn't. Colorful vegetables, like pumpkin and beets, blend well, in addition to carrots, avocado (makes the shake creamy, think ice cream consistency), and bell peppers add a crisp touch. Spinach is usually the most preferred blended leafy veggie.
Take it Easy on The Fruit
Fruits are great, don’t get us wrong. But slamming 5 servings worth in a single setting definitely isn’t the best idea. Keep in mind fruit is easier to eat on its own as compared to vegetables, so use this opportunity, when you make your meal replacement shake, to load up on veggies and not necessarily fruit. This will also help you stay within a healthy macro range for your shake, aiding overall weight management and weight loss efforts (if that’s your goal).
Don’t Add Extra Sugar to a Meal Replacement Shake
A lot of shakes and smoothies online recommend that you add some sort of extra sweetener, whether it’s agave, honey, maple syrup, or otherwise. Our opinion? Take it easy on the sweeteners. Sure, you want your shake to taste good, but adding sugar is counterproductive for your health, raising insulin, adding unnecessary calories, and ultimately diminishing your overall efforts towards a healthier body.
If you HAVE to have something in your shake, add a few berries or a hint of vanilla extract for some flavor. Not to mention adding herbs into your shake can go a long way. The best herbs for meal replacement shakes are mint, coriander, basil, ginger, parsley, and rosemary, to name a few.
Eat Real Food
Shakes aren’t going to do it alone. While shakes are definitely a great thing to implement into your busy schedule and lifestyle, they’re no magic solution for a crap diet. If what you eat the rest of the day doesn’t compliment what you put in your shake, it’s time to reevaluate. Turn to nutrient-rich foods that you cook at home. Start with the basics – use herbs instead of sauces, meat from the meat counter, not the deli, and saute vegetables in a pan on the stove. There’s a reason why Pinterest exists, take advantage of it! Start simple with your recipes/meals, and as you progress in your skills, so will your meals.
The Guide To Meal Replacement Shakes
The biggest takeaway is this – the best meal replacement shake is the one that you make at home with real food. Make sure to use high-quality protein powders in them, like the ones you can get from Swolverine, limit overloading your shake with fruit, and use your meal replacement shakes as a great way to boost your overall vegetable intake with ease.