Meal Replacement Shakes Can Help You Lose Weight If You Do It Right

While meal replacement shakes might seem a thing of the past, they’re actually effective and can help you meet your weight loss goals when done correctly. If you're looking to get your diet back on-track, swapping a nutrient-rich shake for a meal or snack is a beneficial alternative, according to experts. Before heading to the grocery store or your local juice bar though, check out these tips to ensure your new regimen is not only effective but also healthy.

Be aware of nutrition

When you’re looking at pre-made shakes or smoothies, check the nutrition label and pay close attention to the amount of sugar, fat and protein. Many store-bought shakes, for example, are high in sugar and low in fat, protein and fiber. This causes your blood sugar to spike and then drop so that you find yourself feeling hungry sooner with inconsistent levels of energy.

Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperfoodsRx Diet, told Prevention that shoppers should “look for shakes and smoothies with at least 325 to 400 calories, 15 to 25 grams of protein, at least 5 grams of fiber, and 10 to 13 grams of fat from a healthy source like avocado, fish oil, olive oil, or nuts.”

These store-bought meal replacement shakes are a good option when you’re on the go or need a quick lunch but don’t have time to make one. They can also help you jumpstart a lower-calorie diet plan when you’re on a time crunch.

Plan your calories

Make sure you’re not exceeding the number of calories you’d typically consume for whichever meal you are swapping for a shake because you still need to burn more calories than you’re taking in to lose weight—and when you’re drinking them, you could think you’re consuming less than you actually are.

If you’re trying to lose a pound a week, for example, you’ll need to burn approximately 3,500 calories a week according to the Food and Nutrition Information Center. That gives the average woman about 500 calories or less for each meal depending on whether or not you snack.

Know the difference

Oftentimes protein shakes and meal replacement shakes can be mistaken as interchangeable. What’s the difference and why shouldn’t they be swapped?

Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet, told Women’s Health that protein shakes may be packed with protein, but that’s about it. “And one-ingredient meals are just never a good idea,” says Gans. Each meal should have multiple nutrients.

If you're going to use a protein shake as a meal replacement though, consider adding a salad or other form of vegetables to get your daily allotment of nutrients and fiber.superfood-smoothies(Photo: superfoodly )

Making your own

Making homemade meal replacement shakes, like smoothies, allows you to control exactly what goes in, but adding the right ingredients is still important to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients and calories to sustain your energy.

According to Julie Morris of Superfood Smoothies, “The key to making a meal replacement smoothie is to aim for balanced nutrition: a little protein (as in nuts or protein powder), a little fat (as in avocado or coconut), a little carbohydrate (as in a serving of fruit), and a little bit of a vegetable (as in a handful of kale or some frozen cauliflower).”

For weight loss, Morris suggests adding chia seeds because of their high-fiber content. They’ll also thicken up your shake or smoothie while still being low calorie.

And if you’re active and need energy for the gym or a busy day, you can add a variety of all natural powders to your shake.

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“Some of the most popular varieties include maca powder (a Peruvian root which supports adrenal function); matcha powder (sourced from young green tea leaves known to bolster the metabolism); and cordyceps powder (a type of medicinal mushroom that promotes oxygenation and better respiratory function),” Morris said.

So whether you buy your shake or make your own, make sure you plan accordingly, and you’ll be on your way to dropping those unwanted pounds in no time.