Liquid Meal Replacements
By: Jessy Griffel, RD, LD
In light of “diet month,” I am sure you have heard of millions of weight loss strategies. But have you heard anything about meal replacements? A meal replacement is defined as any food that’s eaten or drunk as a substitute for a meal or part of a meal. You can use a meal replacement to supplement or replace breakfast (easy option for breakfast on the go) or use them as the sole source of nutrition to help promote weight loss or weight gain. There are several types of meal replacements, but we are going to focus on liquid meal replacements.
Liquid meal replacements can offer a premeasured amount of food with specific calorie, protein and nutrient levels, eliminating the need to weight, measure, or estimate portion size. Another benefit is that these products transport easily. They come in a can or bottle, and require little to no preparation or clean-up! This is very convent for individuals on the go.
Some research suggests that the monotony of consuming the same type of meal replacement with a similar texture each day leads to "sensory-specific satiety," i.e., the decreasing pleasure of tasting, smelling, or eating a food until full or satisfied. The result of this monotony can be reduced appetite and fewer calories consumed.
Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFAA, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and wellness center director at Denver Wellness & Nutrition by Sodexo, agrees. "For clients who have had their brains fixated on food for so long, these liquid meal replacements can work."
Obviously, like any product on the market, liquid meal replacements come with some disadvantages. They often don’t provide enough phytochemicals; which are found in plant-based food, i.e. fruits and vegetables. Additionally, a strong support system is required for individuals who have been on liquid meal replacements as sole nutrition when they are reintroducing real foods back into their diet.
Prepackaged liquid meals do not help you learn how to effectively estimate portion size of real foods. Knowing how to best manage your food intake is a critical aspect of long-term weight management.
Additionally, some of the liquid meal replacements that are marketed as low calorie often contain sugar alcohols, which commonly cause gastrointestinal distress such as bloating and diarrhea. Lastly, adding liquid meal replacements to your daily routine can be costly, ranging anywhere from $1.25 to more than $4 per serving.
Consult a Professional
As you look for ways to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle choices, it is important to contact your primary care provider or meet with a Registered Dietitian to find the tools that are unique to your activity level, health and taste buds.