How do I Choose Healthy Meal Replacements?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Choosing healthy meal replacements typically means selecting those that provide essential nutrients for good health as well as the right amount of calories to meet your fitness goals. Meal replacements are food products you can consume to replace a meal. In most cases, people use these foods as tools for losing weight, but some people also use them as supplements to normal meals when they are hoping to gain weight. Generally, the healthiest meal replacements are those that contain balanced nutrients but do not provide a lot of added sugar or too much fat.

Analyzing the nutrition label is important when choosing a meal replacement.
Analyzing the nutrition label is important when choosing a meal replacement.

One important part of choosing healthy meal replacements is making sure they are not merely empty calories; some meal replacements contain a healthy dose of sugar and not much else. These meal replacements may fill you up for a short period of time, but then leave you hungry all over again. In such a case, the meal replacement does nothing for your health and may stimulate between-meal snacking. To gain the maximum benefit from meal replacements, you may do well to choose those that provide essential vitamins and minerals and include protein, carbohydrates, a small amount of fat, and fiber in their makeup. This type of meal replacement typically contains the nutrients your body needs and also helps you feel full for a longer period of time.

A juicer can transform fresh fruits and vegetables into healthy smoothies.
A juicer can transform fresh fruits and vegetables into healthy smoothies.

Calorie counts are also important in choosing healthy meal replacements. Often, nutritional experts recommend selecting meal replacements that contain at least 200 calories, with 400 calories being the maximum if you are hoping to lose weight. Though you may want to consume as few calories as possible if weight loss is your goal, your body needs calories for energy and overall good health. This level of caloric content may be low enough to facilitate weight loss yet high enough to protect your health.

People may choose to consume meal replacements when trying to lose or gain weight.
People may choose to consume meal replacements when trying to lose or gain weight.

Many people neglect to consider the sugar and sodium content of their meal replacements. This can be a mistake, however, as too much sugar and sodium can have health damaging effects, even if a food product is marked as low in calories. You may do well to select options that are low in sugar or contain natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar. Likewise, looking for lower-sodium meal replacements may be good for your health as well. Additionally, some people find it easier to make their own healthy meal replacements at home instead of trying to analyze the sometimes confusing food labels.

A low-calorie meal replacement bar may feature puffed rice.
A low-calorie meal replacement bar may feature puffed rice.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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