They’ve been commercially available for many years but as food technology and research have moved on, they’re becoming more favoured by those in the know.
Why were doctors worried about meal replacements?
In the old days, meal replacements were plain milkshake-like powders. There was little research into how good they were from a nutritional standpoint and rules around food supplements were fairly relaxed anyway. That meant the manufacturers didn’t need to prove many of their claims to any official body.
There was also little emphasis of how people were guided in the use of the meal replacement shakes and how they were supervised. Users often found that they immediately gained weight once they stopped using the shakes, especially if they’d been using them to replace all their meals.
So are newer meal replacements better?
In a word ‘yes’, they are. Here’s why:
- The newer generation of good quality meal replacements have been well studied from a nutritional standpoint and conform to national standards (eg the FDA guidelines in the US).
- They have a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein and calcium.
- They also come in a greater variety of flavours and formats – such as soups and bars as well as shakes.
- The other advantage is that some meal replacements can modify hunger so you’re less inclined to snack.
- Research comparing meal replacement programs against structured diet programs shows that meal replacement is twice as effective as other diets.
- Obese patients using meal replacements also say that they are more satisfied with them, possibly because they can suppress the appetite.
- They are also safe and effective for people with diabetes and help to keep blood sugars stable.
How to use meal replacements for the best weight loss.
Unless your dietician or doctor has advised you otherwise, research indicates that partial meal replacements are better than all-meal replacement.
- That means, for weight loss, using meal replacements for 2 of your 3 daily meals and having one balanced low fat meal each day.
- And for maintaining your weight loss, having 2 meals and 1 meal replacement is most effective.
These meal replacements need to be used as part of a proper weight loss program. This will include exercise as well as portion control and calorie limitation, otherwise the body’s metabolism slows down and this makes weight loss more difficult.
Other tips include:
- Mix shakes with low fat milk for the best results in improving the hunger suppression element.
- Use fruit and low calorie snacks if you need them.
- Be watchful of your portions when you eat a normal meal.
Which are the best meal replacements for weight loss?
The best meal replacements for weight loss are the ones you use and stick with. This may mean that you need to try a few brands before you find one that suits you, keeps you feeling full and has flavours and formulations that you enjoy.
Different brands are popular in different countries. The first person to ask about quality, well balanced and healthy is your pharmacist. Some brands are only available from your doctor in some countries.
Dr McCloud’s, Optifast (one of the older brands but is well researched), KicStart and SlimFast are popular brands.
Some meal replacement programs come with personal and/or online support which can be worth its weight in gold.