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What to Look for in a Meal-Replacement Drink

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Whether you’re hoping to lose weight or simply don’t have time to make a whole meal, meal-replacement drinks can be a lifesaver. As long as you pick the right one—because not all meal replacements are good for you.

Finding the right meal-replacement drink will require a little bit of research on your part, but once you’ve found what you’re looking for it can be a tremendous asset when you need something quick, convenient, and nutritious.

Unsure what to look for? Read on to learn more about what is included in nutritious meal replacements, the benefits they offer, and how they fit in your lifestyle.

What a Meal Replacement Should Be

There are a variety of meal replacements out there, but a good one should at least meet these key requirements:

  • Easy to prepare

  • Filling

  • Nutritious

You won’t always see these three points on product packaging, but if you do a little digging you’ll find the information you need. Let’s look at each of these points in more detail.

A Full Meal with a Fraction of the Effort

Most people turn to meal replacements because they’re convenient. We don’t always have time to put a whole meal together—sometimes it’s hard to even find the time to sit down for a meal. A good meal-replacement drink can save you when you don’t have any time to spare, especially if you can take it with you on-the-go. (Plus it’ll prevent those embarrassing stomach growls.)

Tip: Look for a product that is easy to mix and that doesn’t require additional ingredients. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to put a meal-replacement drink together—only to find out that you don’t have the fancy blender they recommend or that you’re missing an ingredient that’s not included in the drink mix.

Drink Your Fill

It wouldn’t be a meal replacement if it weren’t filling enough to take the place of an entire meal. Many products claim to be meal replacements, but are really glorified shakes that will leave you craving another snack in an hour or two. The best meal-replacement drinks will keep you satiated until your next meal.

Tip: Let the nutrition label be your guide. If you see a meal replacement that includes 3–5 grams of fiber, then you’ve struck gold. Fiber, in addition to aiding with digestion, helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. (Protein is another ingredient you’ll want to keep an eye out for, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.)

Fill in Your Nutrition Gaps

A meal with a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is always going to be your best bet for a good, solid meal. This is why it’s recommended to limit meal replacements to one a day at the most—a few times a week would be better.

But that doesn’t mean meal replacements have nothing to offer. In fact, they’re an effective way to help you fill in the nutrition gaps in your diet. A meal replacement should contain at least a third of the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and the B vitamins). If you know you’re short on certain vitamins, let this knowledge guide you to the meal replacement that will help you meet this need.

Vitamins and minerals aren’t all you’ll get from a meal replacement, though. Carbs, protein, and fat are important too. When grouped together in the right amounts, these nutrients work together to benefit your body in a variety of ways, including keeping you satiated.

Here is a good guideline for finding the right balance of carbs, protein, and fat:

  • Carbs: 10–20 g

  • Protein: 10–20 g

  • Fats: 3–5 g

Don’t sweat too much about hitting these numbers exactly. If you’re close to the ranges listed above, you’ll be in good shape.

Tip: One serving of a nutritious meal-replacement shake should be around 250 calories. But don’t get too hung up on counting calories—the ingredients on the nutrition label are far more important.

What to Avoid in a Meal-Replacement Drink

Now that you know what to look for, here are a few things to watch for that you don’t want in a meal replacement:

  • Sugar and fructose corn syrup

  • Additives and filler ingredients

A meal replacement should have the micro- and macronutrients you need—and nothing more. Beware of the products that have a long list of ingredients, and especially those that have more than a few grams of sugar. These meal replacements aren’t going to be much better than a candy bar out of a vending machine.

When to Drink a Meal Replacement

Meal-replacement drinks can take the place of any snack or meal, but they are most beneficial when they’re replacing something unhealthy. Like a fast-food meal or sugary snack. You may want to keep a log of your food habits to help you strategize when it will be best to incorporate meal replacements into your diet.

Many have used meal replacements to help them meet their weight goals, as well. While meal-replacement drinks shouldn’t replace every meal, they can supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle. You won’t need to spend a lot of time counting calories when you drink a meal replacement, either.

Simplify Your Life with the Right Meal-Replacement Drink

Meal-replacement drinks have a lot of benefits. They’re an easy way to help you get the nutrients you’re lacking in your diet. They can help you meet your weight-management goals. And they can be your stomach’s best friend when you’re in a hurry. Meal replacements come in many flavors and ingredient combinations, so you can rest assured that there’s one out there that will fit your lifestyle and taste preferences.

Unicity has several meal-replacement options. Visit to learn more.

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