Using meal replacement shakes or bars as a way to manage your weight has been a tried-and-true method for many years.
As people’s lifestyles became more active and mobile, the popularity of meal replacements continued to grow. Some people turn to them as an easy way to reduce calories, while others simply want a fast and efficient way to give their body the nutrients it needs so they can get on with their day.
The market is flush with options. What do you look for in a meal replacement? Whether you’re choosing it to manage your weight or out of convenience, you should keep a few things in mind to ensure you’re getting a product that meets your nutrition needs while checking off a few other boxes.
Here’s what to look for in a meal replacement:
As the name indicates, a meal replacement should have enough calories and balanced nutrition to take the place of one of your daily meals, giving you the energy you need to keep up with your daily activities until your next meal.
Balance is key. If all the calories come from one source, it’s not a complete meal. Guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations call for a well-balanced meal replacement to contain between 200 and 400 calories. Of those, at least 25% should come from protein and no more than 30% from fats.
According to those standards, a 200-calorie shake should contain at least 13g of proteins and no more than 7g of fats. It should also have about a third of your recommended daily vitamins and minerals.
If you’re choosing meal replacements as a way to help you lose weight, you want to zoom in on the protein content. Increasing the percentage of your daily calories that come from protein can help you manage your weight because it makes you feel fuller, longer. Experts recommend that men and women who don’t exercise should get 56g and 46g of protein each day, respectively.
That doesn’t mean simply adding protein to your existing diet, it means swapping out some of the high-carb, low-protein foods like sugary cereals and white rice and instead choosing lean proteins. Plant-based proteins are best because they are free of cholesterol, which your heart will appreciate.
Look for a plant-based meal replacement that gives you the added protein you’re looking for.
You want to feel good when you read the label of a meal replacement, right? So, look for the things that are important to you: natural flavors, non-GMO ingredients, zero trans fats and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives or colors. You’ll also find options that are halal, kosher, gluten-free and vegetarian.
Look for meal replacements whose ingredients can be traced like where it’s grown, manufactured and any third party certifications. As a consumer it’s a moral right to know everything.
Having access to that information can give you some peace of mind when you make your buying decisions.
One of the biggest hurdles to weight management is that feeling of deprivation when you deny yourself your favorite foods. If you’re choosing meal replacements as a way to lose weight, the better they taste the more likely you’ll be to use them effectively.
Chocolate and vanilla are popular mainstays, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a little creative without taking the time to mix it with other flavors yourself? Many meal replacements are doing just that and introducing a variety of flavors to keep your taste buds entertained.
And those new flavors open the door to a whole variety of new recipes. Don’t be afraid to try something new!
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