The Best Meal Replacement Shakes

by | Jul 16, 2019 | Last updated Mar 29, 2022

Meal replacement shakes are a common approach to weight loss. Due to their popularity, there’s no shortage of products on the market to choose from. You’ve got keto diet-friendly shakes, vegan shakes, gluten free shakes, low-calorie diet shakes, plant-based protein shakes, shakes with added probiotics, superfood shakes and shakes that are high in certain vitamins and minerals… just to name a few!

If you’re looking around for a meal replacement shake that is right for you, then it’s probably nice to have a lot of different options to choose from. On the other hand, while trying to make a decision you might also find yourself wondering… “What actually sets one meal replacement shake apart from the others?” Or perhaps… “What is the absolute best meal replacement shake for me?”  

In order for meal replacement drinks to be effective, it’s important that the diet shakes you choose meet the following criteria:

  1. Fits into your calorie budget for the day providing just as many calories as you would have with a full meal, but not much more that that
  2. Contains a good balance all of the nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals) you need in addition to calories
  3. Fills you up and leaves you feeling satisfied until your next meal or snack
  4. Made with high-quality ingredients and is free of artificial flavors and added sugars
  5. Convenient and feels like a shake that could be a sustainable part of your well-balanced meal routine
  6. Appropriate for your journey and personal health goals

The thing to remember about meal replacement shakes is that, rather than being used as a way to supplement your diet, the best meal replacement shakes are intended to replace an entire meal while ensuring that you receive all of the essential nutrients that your body needs at the same time – helping you maintain a nutritionally well-balanced diet while also pursuing your weight loss goals. 

Why meal replacement shakes are just one piece of a weight loss journey

If you’re looking for a new meal replacement shake, chances are that you’ve already got some pretty specific health goals in mind. Maybe it’s building muscle, cutting body fat, or gaining weight. Often times though, it’s weight loss goals that leads people to seek out the best meal replacement shakes. 

It’s important to find a weight loss shake that you can easily pair with all of the other habits, food choices, and behavior changes that you’re focusing on during your weight loss journey. This piece is critical! You see, the thing about meal replacement drinks is that… you probably can’t rely on them to maintain your weight loss forever. 

Meal replacement shakes can be a healthy addition on any weight loss journey, but they probably shouldn’t be the only thing you’re relying on. Instead, your weight loss journey should utilize nutrition, fitness, and psychology to improve your habits and behaviors in the four pillars of health: (1) nutrition (2) exercise (3) sleep and (4) stress. Considering all these elements is key to successfully maintaining long-term weight loss. 

Try to find a meal replacement shake that you can use as needed when you are feeling tempted to make less-healthy food choices. Or one that you can have on hand as a backup for those times when you really need something quick and easy. Otherwise, if you’re having a weight loss shake for each and every meal… how will you ever learn to navigate eating situations where meal replacement shakes aren’t an option?  

What should I look for in a good meal replacement shake? 

Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients 

One of the easiest ways to narrow down meal replacement shake options is to start by eliminating all of those shakes that contain added sugars, artificial flavors, or other additives. If you scan the label and notice these types of ingredients, there’s a good chance that it’s a heavily processed shake and that you might miss out on some of the nutrient density provided by shakes that were manufactured using more whole foods. 

Since a meal replacement shake is used to replace an entire meal, a good rule of thumb is to find a replacement that provides at least one-third of your recommended daily intake for calories and essential macronutrients including protein and fiber – in other words, it should be a balanced meal in itself. The best weight loss shakes will contain at least one-third of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for these nutrients. 

But these aren’t the only nutrients worth considering. A great meal replacement shake should also be high in a variety of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals to ensure that you’re receiving all of the same nutrition that you would from a meal of whole foods. Here’s why all of this is important.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are responsible for everything in our bodies from growth and development to disease prevention. There are so many different vitamins and minerals that fall into this category, each with their own purpose, and each of us with our own needs. The best meal replacement shakes will contain a variety of micronutrients to help ensure that all of your nutrient levels are staying within normal limits.

Calories

Meal replacement shakes help you lose weight by providing all of the nourishment that your body would receive from a full meal in a calorie-restricted form. This can be especially helpful when you don’t have time to enjoy a full meal, but you don’t want to find yourself in a situation later on where you are feeling ‘hangry’ and likely to overeat.

In order for this to out work as intended, it’s important that your meal replacement shake contains enough calories to keep you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal. The only way to satisfy true physical hunger is by nourishing your body with the energy that it is craving.

Protein

Protein is well-known for its impact on satiety levels, or in other words, for helping to curb appetites, ratchet down cravings, and keep people feeling fuller for longer. The exact mechanisms of how that process works, exactly how much protein you need to feel satisfied, and more are still under investigation. 

You can use this equation to estimate how much protein you need on a daily basis, and then check to make sure that the meal replacement shake you are using provides at least one-third of that amount:

Your weight (lbs) x 0.36 = grams of protein needed daily

Your weight (kg) x 0.8 = grams of protein needed daily

Fiber

While protein is known for helping to keep you feeling full even a while after your meal has passed, protein is known for helping to fill you up right away. Since fiber is mostly found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it can be one of the main nutrients you miss out on when you have a meal replacements instead of a full meal. 

For women, make sure the shake you choose has been supplemented with between 7 and 10 grams of fiber per serving. And for men, look for a meal replacement that contains between 10 and 12 grams of fiber per serving.

In order to promote weight loss, the best meal replacement drinks for women should be calorie restricted yet still provide enough calories, protein, and fiber to promote fullness between meals. In addition to these basic macronutrients, the best meal replacement shakes for women should also be fortified in some of the micronutrients that women are more likely to be deficient in, such as iron. Because nutrient amounts can vary significantly between different meal replacement products, it’s important to review the Nutrition Facts label on the back of each product so that you know exactly what you are getting in any shake..

To find the best weight loss shake for men, look for a meal replacement that provides enough calories to replace an entire meal and one that provides adequate amounts of key macronutrients like protein and fiber. In addition, micronutrients like calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium are important to keep an eye on, especially if staying active and sweating on a daily basis since you will be losing these electrolytes in that process.

In some cases, you might have unique nutrition needs due to things like an injury, a medical condition, an increased energy expenditure during high-performance sports, or even an allergy, So if possible, it’s a good idea to consult with a medical provider or an expert in nutrition when trying to find the best meal replacement shakes. That way, they can help make sure that all of your individual needs are being met by the meal replacement you choose.

Here’s what the best tasting meal replacement shakes all have in common

Let’s be honest, when it comes to shakes of any kind… meal replacement shakes, diet shakes, weight loss shakes, protein shakes, etc… taste is an extremely important factor to consider. Even the best meal replacement shake probably won’t outshine a home cooked meal, but it’s still important to find one that does taste satisfying to you. If the weight loss shake you choose doesn’t taste appetizing to you, then chances are that you’ll be a lot less likely to stick with that shake and that shake only until your next meal or snack. Experiment with different flavors as well as brands until you find ones you really enjoy – if you don’t love a vanilla shake try a chocolate flavor or peanut butter. Most brands offer several flavor options.

Here’s where the kicker comes in though! Many of the diet shakes and shakes for weight loss out on the market today use a ton of heavily-processed sugars, artificial flavors, and various preservatives to make each shake taste fresh and delicious. If you’ve ever tried any type of dietary supplement or shake, you might have noticed a metallic, bitter, or chemical-like taste. This is typically due to the large quantities of essential vitamins and minerals, and various other nutrients that have been added to the product. Sugars and artificial flavors are often used to mask this taste. 

If you want to avoid the extra additives and find a weight loss shake that still tastes great, look for a shake that is made with as many whole foods as possible. Since whole foods are naturally higher in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients of all kinds, not as many extra nutrients will need to be added which helps to reduce some of those odd aftertastes. Additionally, don’t be afraid to do some experimenting with your shake preparation! Maybe you find that you can prepare the shake with just water and that alone tastes fine to you. But if not, explore the different flavor options or consider blending your shake with a flavored plant-based milk. Try unsweetened almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, oat milk or any of the many other options available.   

What are the best meal replacement shakes overall?

Here at Noom, we know that everyone is on their own individual weight loss journey. We are each walking our own path, and what works best for me might not be what works best for you. So rather than suggesting that there is only one type of meal replacement shake that is best for all, we would rather encourage you to figure out which meal replacement shake is best for you

When making this decision, remember the criteria around meal replacement shakes that we covered earlier. Find a shake that is: convenient, affordable, nutritionally-sound, minimally processed, appropriate for your health goals, and most importantly, satisfying to you! To help you get started deciding on the best meal replacement shake for yourself, we decided to pick out our favorite meal replacement shakes and let you know why we love them. 

That being said, the most important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is changing your habits — for life. Let Noom help you reach your health goals!