How to Choose the Right Meal Replacement Option

February 19th, 2020

By Megan Zakarewicz, DO, primary care physician board-certified in medical weight loss, Grand View Health Medical Weight Loss

Ideally, we would all be able to eat three nutritious meals per day. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world, that is not always an option. Last week on #WeightLossWednesday, we discussed how using meal replacements can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  Today, I’d like to discuss how to choose the best meal replacement.

First, it is important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate meal replacements. While Europe and Canada define meal replacements by strict requirements, the U.S. does not. This lack of regulation allows food manufacturers to make the claim of “meal replacement” on many products. But some of these products are no healthier than milkshakes or candy bars. To make the best choice, ignore the claims on the front label and go straight to the Nutrition Facts label, most often found on the back of the package.

Look for these four items on the Nutrition Facts label:

Calorie content – Ideally, meal replacements should fall between 150-250 calories. One of the greatest benefits of a good meal replacement is being able to keep calories low and nutrients high.

Macronutrient composition – Macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Ideally, a meal replacement will have about 5 grams of fat per serving. Good options will also have at least 15 grams of protein per serving. This protein should come from a good source, ideally either whey isolate (a very filtered form of whey protein) or a plant-based protein. Try to avoid whey concentrate or soy-based products. Finally, a meal replacement should contain no more than 25 grams of carbohydrates with at least 3-5 grams of fiber per servings.

Micronutrient composition –Each meal replacement serving should contain at least one third of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals (also known as micronutrients). This helps to ensure your body is getting everything it needs each day.

Avoid additives – A good meal replacement will have exactly what you need in terms of calories, macronutrient and micronutrient composition. It will also be free from extra things you don’t need, like added sugar, high fructose corn syrup and fillers.

There are several good options available that will meet these guidelines and your needs. After reviewing dozens of options that meet the above criteria, we chose a few favorites. As a convenience to our patients, we offer several meal replacement options through Grand View Health Weight Management.

Using these high-quality meal replacements is a great way to help our patients meet their caloric requirements, while also meeting their macronutrient and micronutrient needs. If you’d like more information on how to use meal replacements to help you reach your goals, please contact our office at 215-453-2669.

Learn more about Grand View Health Medical Weight Loss.