Are Meal Replacements Healthy?


     Do you find yourself on the go constantly? Are you too busy to cook a full course meal or pack a lunch every day? Or maybe you are just looking for a way to drop weight FAST. At some point using a meal replacement such as a shake or a bar may have crossed your mind. The real question is, are meal replacements a healthy option? If you are thinking of or are currently using a meal replacement now, be sure you know all the facts.

     Meal replacements are usually advertised to guarantee weight loss and save you time with a busy schedule. This may be true; however, it is very important to know these should be used occasionally and not as a substitute for whole foods. Even though most meal replacements contain a significant amount of protein, they were originally created for athletes who required extra energy for workouts in addition to a whole food diet. Since they need to maintain a long shelf life, the majority contain “processed” ingredients. It’s crucial to read the ingredients and make sure you are not eating anything that you can not pronounce or sounds like another language entirely.

      I am sure you have seen the shakes and/or bars that glorify weight loss and the front of the label reads, “Tons of Added Nutrients”.  If you have ever used a meal replacement you know that, yes the pounds may drop, however, when you switch back to a whole food diet you gain all your weight back and sometimes even more. This is due to being at calorie deficit (less calories than your body burns in a day) that when you go back to whole foods, there is typically a calorie increase. This is what may cause the weight gain so rapidly. You can essentially do the same thing with whole foods and ensure the meals you are eating are still putting you at a calorie deficit.

     So back to the real question at hand, are meal replacements healthy? In my opinion they are okay to use occasionally and in moderation. If one day you don’t have time to pack your lunch and you have a bar on hand, go for it! Or maybe you are someone who burns a ton of calories and you need a great pre/post workout snack. This option may be a good addition to your meals. Since drinking shakes and eating bars for every meal doesn’t come naturally, the chance of you naturally maintaining this over a life time is extremely slim. So again, pack that banana, almonds, apple, etc. when you are on the go and get the guaranteed nutrients from whole foods that your body deserves. Just a little Food4Thought!