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How do I Choose the Best Meal Replacement Drinks?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Meal replacement drinks (MRPs) are suited for substitution of the occasional meal, providing high levels of protein, some carbohydrates, and typically minimal fat levels. There are many of these on the market, and they can usually be broken down into “light” versions that are meant to be low calorie and might support dieting, and regular versions that have a higher calorie content and often higher nutrition levels; MRPs are generally thought of as different than diet shakes like Slim-Fast®, which typically contain much more sugar. In addition to choosing between diet or standard versions, people considering meal replacement drinks must weigh other factors, like total nutritional value, cost, preparation types, and palatability of each drink.

The vast majority of meal replacement drinks use whey or egg powders to bulk up protein in the drink, which is often ideal for people who want to add additional protein to their diets. A simple comparison of the different brands is useful in determining protein content, and this can be done at any store that sells these, or people can search for online comparisons to decide which drinks seem the best. Other useful factors for comparison include fat level, presence of vitamins and nutrients, amount of additives like sugar, and calorie count. Weight loss MRPs contain about 200 calories, while those unintended for weight loss will have more.

There are two main preparation types of meal replacement drinks and these are intricately linked to cost. Ready to drink forms come in cans or bottles and are certainly convenient. Other drinks come in powders that are mixed with water or other liquids before consumption. These are usually less expensive because the person pays for less packaging, but when choosing drinks, people may prefer to pay more for the ease of ready to drink types.

Clearly, one consideration that’s important to anyone is how meal replacement drinks taste. Since many are low sugar, people may find they enjoy one type, brand or flavor over others. The only successful way to determine this is to do a taste trial of the brands a person has identified as nutritionally the best. Instead of purchasing MRPs in large volume at first, it’s wise to get samples or the smallest quantity available and try them out to decide which ones taste best.

In most cases, meal replacement drinks alone don’t make a good diet or substitute for eating healthy foods. They are meant as occasional substitutes for single meals. The low calorie content of even normal MRPs makes it tempting to think of using them as the only food people consume, but this may be detrimental to health. When choosing meal replacement drinks, people can help themselves by making sensible choices about limiting consumption and relying most on a diet that contains lots of nutritious grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Rotergirl — On Aug 12, 2014

@Pippinwhite -- I know what you mean about those replacement shakes. Some of them have a ton of sugar in them and you have to be careful.

I kind of prefer the protein bars. They usually taste pretty good, although you have to be careful about them, too. They're apt to have a lot of sugar in them, which kind of defeats the purpose of cutting calories. I'd rather have fewer calories than less fat any day. Extra sugar often replaces the fat so the flavor will be better.

I like the chocolate shakes the best. The vanilla and strawberry are just too sweet, and the strawberry tastes fake. Ugh.

By Pippinwhite — On Aug 11, 2014

If you're drinking meal replacement shakes to lose weight, you really need to check the labels. Some of those shakes have as many carbs as a candy bar!

I always look for the kind that have fewer carbs and are high in protein. This means they will keep me more satisfied, longer, and I won't get too hungry until it's time to eat.

I like to drink these for breakfast, since I'm not a heavy eater in the morning. These are just enough so I'm not hungry, and won't be tempted to snack before lunch, unless it's something healthy like peanut butter and crackers or similar.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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