What are the worst meal replacement shakes?


Here are the worst meal replacement shakes. Keep reading to learn what to look for and what to avoid when buying meal replacements.

Written by Jack Schrupp & endorsed by Baylee Reller, RDN

How to avoid the worst meal replacement shakes

What is a good meal replacement? 


A good meal replacement should be a convenient way to replace the nutritional value of a meal. It should contain a balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

A good meal replacement should also contain at least 200 calories. The number of calories you need will depend on your age, gender, weight, etc. but hitting this number is a good way to ensure your meal replacement meets your basic nutritional needs.

For some, liquid meals are less filling than solid meals, so picking a meal replacement with at least 20 grams of protein per serving is also recommended. Protein is the most satiating nutrient, meaning it keeps you feeling full for longer than fats and carbs. By eating enough protein, you can curb cravings and prevent overeating.

Finally, a good meal replacement should be made with only real foods. I cannot stress this last point enough. Most meal replacements are made with a cocktail of ingredients that look nothing like real food, which is a huge health concern. Keep reading to learn more.  

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What is a bad meal replacement? 


There are three things that can make a meal replacement bad. The first is a lack of essential nutrients. If your meal replacement does not contain a balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, it is not going to meet your nutritional needs.

Ideally, a meal replacement would also contain a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, but this is not super important if you are eating a balanced diet. Plus, simply spiking a meal replacement shake with vitamins and minerals, which is what most companies do, is not a natural or healthy way to get the nutrients you need. It would be like eating a multivitamin instead of eating fruits and veggies.

The second red flag when it comes to meal replacements is lots of Added Sugar. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake come from Added Sugars. Eating too many Added Sugars can raise your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The third thing that can make a meal replacement bad is food additives. Unfortunately, many meal replacements, especially ready-to-drink shakes, contain a cocktail of emulsifiers, thickeners, flavors, and sugar substitutes. Ingredients like these can cause painful side effects and long-term gut health problems. Specifically, additives can alter the composition of your gut microbiome – the collection of microorganisms living in your gut. Keep reading to learn why this is a huge problem. 

The worst meal replacement shakes


Nine times out of ten, what makes a meal replacement good or bad has nothing to do with the amount or source of essential nutrients like fats, carbs, and protein. What really matters are is the presence of absence of ingredients like emulsifiers, thickeners, flavors, and sugar substitutes, as regularly eating additives like these can cause serious health consequences. With that in mind, here are the top 5 worst meal replacement shakes on the market:

1. Ensure

ensure-worst-meal-replacement-shake

Ingredients:

Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar, Milk Protein Concentrate, Blend of Vegetable Oils (Canola, Corn), Soy Protein Isolate, Nonfat Milk. Less than 0.5% of: VITAMINS & MINERALS (Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Potassium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Magnesium Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12), Natural & Artificial Flavors, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, and Sucralose

2. Boost

boost-worst-meal-replacement-shake

Ingredients:

Water, Sugars (Corn Syrup, Sugar), Milk Protein, Vegetable Oils (Canola, High Oleic Sunflower and Corn), Soy Protein, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3, DL-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Ascorbate, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Folic Acid, Choline Bitartrate), Minerals (Sodium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Hydrate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Ferrous Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Manganese Sulphate, Copper Sulphate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Molybdate, Chromium Trichloride), Cellulose Gel and Gum, Soy Lecithin, Flavour, Carrageenan, Stevia Extract, Dimethylpolysiloxane

3. SlimFast

slim-fast-worst-meal-replacement-shake

Ingredients:

Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin, Gum Arabic, Milk Protein Concentrate, Cellulose Gel, Soy Fiber, Buttermilk Powder, Sodium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Phosphate, Artificial Flavor, Dextrose, Guar Gum, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Acesulfame Potassium, Aspartame. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin E Acetate, Ferric Orthophosphate, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Gluconate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Chromium Chloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Folic Acid, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenite, Phytonadione (Vitamin K1), Potassium Iodide, Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), and Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).Sweetened with Nutritive Sweeteners, and a Non Nutritive Sweetener

4. Soylent

soylent-worst-meal-replacement-shake

Ingredients:

FILTERED WATER, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MALTODEXTRIN, HIGH OLEIC SUNFLOWER OIL, ALLULOSE, CANOLA OIL, CELLULOSE, VITAMIN AND MINERAL PREMIX, NATURAL FLAVORS, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, GELLAN GUM, SUCRALOSE. VITAMIN AND MINERAL PREMIX: MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE (Magnesium), POTASSIUM CHLORIDE (Potassium), TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE (Calcium), DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE (Potassium), ASCORBIC ACID (Vitamin C), CHOLINE CHLORIDE (Choline), DL-ALPHA-TOCOPHERYL ACETATE (Vitamin E), NIACINAMIDE (Niacin), FERROUS BISGLYCINATE (Iron), ZINC OXIDE (Zinc), MANGANESE SULFATE (Manganese), D-CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE (Pantothenic Acid), COPPER GLUCONATE (Copper), THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (Thiamine), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (Vitamin B6), RIBOFLAVIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE (Vitamin A), POTASSIUM IODIDE (Iodine), FOLIC ACID, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE (Chromium), VITAMIN K1, SODIUM SELENITE (Selenium), SODIUM MOLYBDATE (Molybdenum), BIOTIN, ERGOCALCIFEROL (Vitamin D2), CYANOCOBALAMIN (Vitamin B12)

5. Glucerna

glucerna-meal-replacement-shake

Ingredients:

Water, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Less than 2% of:, Glycerin, Fructose, Corn Maltodextrin, Soy Protein Isolate, Short-chain Fructooligosaccharides, Corn Oil, Soluble Corn Fiber, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride, Acesulfame Potassium, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Ferrous Sulfate, Gellan Gum, Sucralose, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Sodium Molybdate, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12

drink wholesome vs the worst meal replacement shakes


As you can clearly see, the popular meal replacement shakes above are so loaded with additives that they look more like a science experiment than food. If it does not intuitively make sense why this is a bad thing, keep reading. 

drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why we make the best meal replacement shakes is that we, unlike other meal replacement companies, do not use food additives. Additives can cause painful side effects, even when consumed in small quantities.

Here is a list of the most common food additives in meal replacement shakes:

acacia fiber, acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, ascorbic acid, aspartame, calcium carbonate, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dicalcium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, maltodextrin, mono- and diglycerides, ‘natural’ flavors, rice bran extract, rice dextrin, rice hulls, rosemary extract, silica, silicon dioxide, sodium alginate, sodium bicarbonate, soluble corn fiber, soy lecithin, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, tocopherols, tricalcium phosphate, xanthan gum, xylitol, zinc oxide

Firstly, additives are hard to break down because they are not real food. This means they spend extra time in your gut, feeding your hungry gut bacteria. Gut bacteria release gas as they eat, so more time to munch away means more gas.

As you might imagine, excess intestinal gas can cause bloating, flatulence, and stomach pain. It can also slow down food as it moves through the colon, leading to constipation.

In some cases, partially digested food additives have the exact opposite effect, causing your colon to absorb extra water. This can trigger osmotic diarrhea.

our ingredients: 

egg whites, almonds, oats, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit

Regularly eating food additives can disturb regulatory pathways in your intestines, leading to problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some additives, especially artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, can also alter the composition and function of your gut microbiome. An altered or dysbiotic gut microbiome is a leading driver of inflammation and linked to the onset and progression of many chronic diseases.

drink wholesome is dairy-free.

Another reason why we make the best meal replacement shakes is that we do not use dairy-based proteins like whey and casein. Whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt making, are known to cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects because they contain lactose – a sugar most adults cannot fully digest.

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chocolate meal replacement powder lifestyle image 2

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

A final reason why we make the best meal replacement shakes is that we do not use protein concentrates or isolates. Practically every other meal replacement is made from one or both of these protein sources, which have been stripped of everything but the protein. 

Making protein concentrates and isolates requires heavy processing using machinery and chemicals. As a result, what you end up putting into your body looks almost nothing like real food.

Your gut is designed to break down unprocessed or minimally-processed real foods. Regularly eating heavily-processed protein concentrates and isolates, it follows, can disturb your gut microbiome.

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Instead of using protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best meal replacement shakes with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Minimally-processed protein sources like these are a gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.

Unlike protein isolates and concentrates, egg whites and almonds contain enzymes that help you break them down. Almonds are also prebiotic, meaning they improve the diversity of your gut microbiome. Egg whites, on the other hand, are low in fiber, low FODMAP, alkaline (maintaining healthy pH levels in your gut), and bioactive (promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria). 

In summary, we make the best meal replacement shakes with a short list of simple ingredients. The difference between our shakes and the top 5 worst meal replacement shakes is night and day. Order samples to experience the difference for yourself.

Unlike ready-to-drink shakes, our meal replacements have to be mixed with milk or water. This is a small inconvenience for safe, quality nutrition, however, and also allows you to customize the shake to suit your needs and preferences.

★★★★★

no stomach issues

“The only meal replacement I could find that doesn’t have soy, dairy, or pea protein. I love how it tastes (not chalky at all) and most of all I love how it makes me feel. No bloating or gas for the first time!” – Kayla

Read more reviews or take the quiz.

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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