There are times when preparing or ordering a traditional meal is just not an option, and that’s when many people seek out a healthy meal replacement product. A ready-to-go liquid shake might hit the spot, or else a pre-packaged granola-esque bar. However, the option with the most shelf stability and ease of preparation is a meal replacement powder. A meal replacement powder can be reconstituted into a shake simply by adding milk, juice, or water. It can also be added to other foods as a nutritional boost.
Considerations when choosing meal replacement powders
- Nutritional value
Active lifestyles require adequate levels of nutrition. The powder mix should have a sufficient level of macro nutrients, protein, carbs, calories, and fat. The more balanced, the better. Meal replacement shakes, contain enough protein, fiber, carbs, and calories to keep you full, and they provide many valuable micro and macronutrients to create a satisfying meal substitute.
- Carbohydrates: 20%+ (Recommended DV = 275g)
- Fat: 20%+ (Recommended DV = 78g)
- Fiber: 20%+ (Recommended DV = 28g)
- Protein: 20%+ (Recommended DV = 50g)
- Sodium: 20%+ (Recommended DV = 2,400 mg)
- Calories: 20% (Recommended DV = 2,000)
Although nutritional needs can vary greatly depending on a person’s build and activity level, the best place to start in picking a powder is to check the nutritional label of the shake to distinguish whether the product is better suited as a protein supplement or if it works as a meal. To be a meal replacement, the mix should have a fairly equal split between fat, protein, and carbs.
- Vitamin fortification:
A lot of meal replacement shakes add or “fortify” their recipe with synthetic vitamins and minerals. These will be the long list of hard-to-pronounce words towards the bottom of the ingredient label, oftentimes prefaced by “vitamin and mineral blend”. This is still a hotly debated practice as a growing body of research suggests synthetic vitamins are less nourishing than you’d expect. Some argue having some is better than not having any at all. Others argue these synthetic vitamins have no health benefit and, on the contrary, can actually be dangerous.
- Additives and preservatives:
One look at the ingredients label will tell you plenty about whether a powder is “clean,” or stocked full of additives, preservatives, fillers, extra sugar and even chemicals.
Steer clear of options including these three ingredients: Maltodextrin, Hydrogenated oils (Trans fat) and Added Fiber ( The fiber in your meal replacement powder should come from clean ingredients like fruits, veggies, and seeds)
- Artificial sweeteners:
Many meal replacement powders like to advertise how little sugar they use, How do they do this? They are probably full of sweeteners, and some of these have been known to wreak all kinds of havoc on the body. To keep things clean, try to avoid these 5 common sweeteners: Sucralose, Saccharin, Acesulfame K and Sorbitol, Maltitol, Xylitol (sweeteners ending in “ol)
- Diet compatibility
Most popular diet plans have their own recommendations when it comes to total protein, carb and fat intake. Some meal replacement powders are formulated to match the requirements of a specific diet plan, such as SlimFast or South Beach. Others are promoted as being compatible with a variety of diet plans. A keto-friendly brand may also be safe to use with another high protein/low carb diet plan, for example. This information should be fairly easy to discover, either on the package itself or a company’s website. Using the wrong meal replacement powder for a specific diet, such as a high carb brand on a diabetic food plan, can have a serious effect on the user’s health or weight-loss goals.