Meal replacements can work well for those on-the go needs, but are they actually healthy for you?
We all deal with busy schedules and often times turn to meal replacements when we can’t get a whole food meal into our diet. As convenient and versatile on-the-go options, what you find with meal replacements are tasty supplements packed with macronutrients, as well as other nutrients, to improve all areas of our gains.
But one question you may ask yourself is, are meal replacements actually healthy? So many supplements out there claim to be worth it but so often do we realize that they can be full of junk and other nonsense that we don’t need, or that won’t help.
Looking at the nutrition label is key in figuring out if a supplement, like meal replacements, are worth it for you, but what you will find is a little research and talking to people can go a long way. When it comes to something like a meal replacement, you want to be sure this is working for you. If you are going to replace a whole food meal, you want to be absolutely sure this supplement is giving you all of those vital nutrients you need most.
Let’s take a look at meal replacements and see what makes these supplements so great. For those wondering if they are healthy, we will dive right into that. And for those potentially skeptical, we will give you the facts so you don’t have to second guess or wonder if you are wasting your time and money.
What Are Meal Replacements Designed For?
Meal replacements are supplements designed to replace a meal for those on-the-go needs, or if your busy schedule doesn’t allow you time to sit and prepare an entire meal. Typically these come in the form of a powder, pre-bottled shake, or a bar.
What you will find in a premium meal replacement is a balance of macronutrients and as low a calorie count as possible. Keep in mind, you are replacing a meal so calories will be higher. On top of the larger elements of a meal replacement, there will be other aspects like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients added to make this supplement at least worth replacing a meal (1).
Benefits Of Meal Replacements
Before we dive into the actual health aspect of a meal replacement, let us take a look at a few benefits that meal replacements can offer. Knowing what they can do for you may make you want to look into one further. Plus, you won’t be disappointed by the results or benefits when you find the right product to add to your routine.
- Support weight management: High in protein with balanced macronutrients, these can work to support your weight management goals by ensuring the right amount of macros to give you energy while still keeping weight in mind (2).
- Perfect for busy schedules: Great grab and go options for wherever you are to boost athletic performance and your overall health.
- Have amazing ingredients: A variety of whole food ingredients are offered to aid in all aspects of our overall health, digestion, and recovery. On top of protein, carbs, and fats you will find fiber, vitamins, and minerals to give you that necessary boost.
- Affordable and convenient: A quick source of protein rich fuel at an affordable price for convenience and recovery from a well-balanced diet.
Are They Actually Healthy?
When it comes to this question about if meal replacements are healthy, it should be said off the bat that it depends on the product and it depends on your goals.
Yes, meal replacements can be healthy alternatives but they should be used sparingly. It is always best to get these nutrients from whole foods, however, sometimes our busy schedules just don’t allow for it. Having a meal replacement every day isn’t the best idea, but used in moderation and these can be beneficial for your gains.
What makes meal replacements unhealthy are the amount of sugar and calories. As said before, these are replacing a meal so they are bound to be higher in calories, however, products that are not of the highest quality can have way too many calories with not enough reward, thus hurting your overall gains. Same with sugar. A great tasting product can be delicious with natural flavors and if a company is pumping the product with sugar and artificial sweeteners, then it is doing more harm than good.
Also, you want to be sure to check the ratio of macronutrients, for if a product is pumping you with carbs and not enough protein, then look elsewhere. The added ingredients should also be diverse and things like fiber, collagen, omega-3’s, and other vitamins and minerals should be included. If a meal replacement looks like a run of the mill product, then move on and look for one that is worth your time and money.
So, are meal replacement supplements actually healthy? Yes, absolutely, they can be. Looking at the nutrition label and comparing products is a key way to get the answers you want. Don’t settle for some bogus product and work to give yourself the best gains possible when it comes to staying full and aiding in weight loss and management (3).
If you have to skip a meal, meal replacements are those products to work wonders for you. While doing diligent research is important, don’t neglect what these can do for all of those goals.
Check out our list of the Best Meal Replacements for more great meal replacing products!
For those wondering if meal replacement supplements are healthy options, then you’ve come to the right place. What a good meal replacement can do for you is replace a whole food meal if you live a busy life. But honestly, these supplements work great for those athletes who may be traveling and who need a meal mid-day. Whatever your needs may be, meal replacements can help so don’t neglect what these supplements can do. And yes, the right meal replacement can be a healthy option for you.
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*Images courtesy of Envato
- Kulovitz, Michelle; Kravitz, Len. “Do Meal Replacements Deliver Results?”. (source)
- Treyzon, Leo; Chen, Steve; Hong, Kurt; Yan, Eric; et al. (2008). “A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass”. (source)
- Davis, L.; et al. (2010). “Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: a randomized controlled trial”. (source)