Nov 07

Meal replacement guide… what’s best for you?

Are you looking for a meal replacement guide?  Something that will help you lose weight by replacing your meal with something else?  The whole idea is ludicrous if you stop and think about it.  So I’ll be honest with you… I don’t like the idea of replacing a meal with something that doesn’t even resemble a meal.  But I will admit that they can be useful.

What is a meal replacement?meal replacements

Let’s start with a definition:  In the United States, the term “meal replacement” is not defined in federal Food and Drug Administration regulations, but generally refers to a calorie-controlled, prepackaged product in the form of a bar or beverage (ready to drink or powder), that replaces a regular meal.

The United States is the biggest consumer of meal replacements with over 37% of the several billion dollar global industry.  That’s probably due to the overwhelming increase in overweight and obese men and women over the last 20 years.

Types of meal replacementsreplacement aisle

  • Energy bars
  • Ready to drink
  • Powders
  • Weight loss programs and plans (ie Medifast, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig)
  • Shakes
  • Frozen entrees

How to use meal replacements

Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the use of meal replacements to determine their effectiveness in losing weight.  In the short term, they can be very effective.  However, they are not recommended for long term use.

One problem with using meal replacements for most of your meals is that when you go back to regular food, there is a very high likelihood of regaining weight.

Meal replacements have been found to be most effective in the long term use for just one meal, perhaps at lunch time.  By choosing an appropriate replacement, you can get enough protein, vitamins, and minerals, while reducing your total caloric intake by 200-250 calories per day.

How to choose a meal replacement

Meal replacement products can be found at the local grocery store and/or supplied by a medical or weight-loss professional. Key points to check:nutrition label

1. Meal replacements should have approximately 200–300 calories.

2. Products with protein (12–20 grams per serving) may keep some people full for a longer period of time (3–4 hours), though the research says this point is debatable.

3. Replacement bars and shakes with high sugar content should be avoided.

4. Products should be fortified with a third of the daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

5. Products in local grocery/health food stores that meet these guidelines include the following:

  • Kashi GoLean® breakfast cereal (1 cup serving): 190 calories; 13 g protein; 1 g fat; 10 g fiber.
  • Kashi GoLean® Roll Bar, Oatmeal Walnut (1 bar serving): 190 calories; 12 g protein; 5 g fat; 6 g fiber.
  • Luna Protein® Cookie Dough (1 bar per serving): 170 calories; 12 g protein; 6 g fat; 3 g fiber.
  • Detour® Caramel Peanut (1 bar serving): 170 calories; 15 g protein; 5 g fat; 2 g fiber.
  • Pure Protein® Chocolate Deluxe (1 bar serving): 180 calories; 20 g protein; 4.5 g fat; 2 g fiber.
  • Lean Cuisine® Grilled Chicken Primavera Pasta (1 entrée serving): 220 calories; 17 g protein; 4 g fat; 5 g fiber.
  • SlimFast® High Protein Creamy Chocolate (1/3 cup scoop serving): 200 calories; 15 g protein; 4 g fat; 4 g fiber.

Bottom line

The more I look at meal replacements, the more I can appreciate that there is a place for them in our modern society.  We’re all in such a hurry that we think we don’t have time to sit down for a meal, let alone prepare one for ourselves.  That’s a shame.  Sitting down for a relaxed lunch is a way to relieve stress and take a break from the hectic, hurried day.  Stress is killing us as much as anything else, so grabbing a quick meal replacement isn’t helping us in that respect.

On the other hand, if we’re going to grab something quick and wolf it down, it would be better for us to grab a meal replacement bar that has been fortified with protein, vitamins, and minerals, then to grab a Big Mac and fries. 

We also might learn to be satisfied with smaller portions.  Drinking a shake or eating a bar for lunch that is just as filling as a Whopper meal will show us that we don’t have to consume 1400 calories in one meal to feel satisfied.

The best meal replacement guidance that I can give you is to read the label.  Look at the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  High protein and low carbs is better.  Look for sugar.  Then look for at least 33% of the recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals.  And also look for any other added chemicals or unpronounceable items.  If you can find organic, that’s even better.

Or, if you’re in a hurry, grab an apple and a handful of nuts.  That’s a great snack and it’s all natural!

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