How to choose a healthy meal replacement shake

Whether you’re constantly running out the door in the morning only to realise you forgot breakfast, or you find yourself working through lunch, a meal replacement shake can be a quick and healthy choice to fuel your body and satisfy cravings.  

It’s also a much better option than skipping meals or raiding the closest vending machine.  

Most meal replacement shakes are created to provide protein, carbohydrates, and a range of vitamins and minerals, so you can stay on-track with your healthy eating goals. But with so many shakes on offer, how do you decide which one is best for you? And what’s the healthiest choice? 

We’ve asked Sanitarium dietitian Eliza Baird to share her top 4 tips on what to look for when choosing a healthy shake to sip.  

1. Check the type of shake

If replacing a meal, make sure you select a meal replacement shake and not a protein shake by accident- as these are two different products with different purposes.  

Protein shakes and meal replacement shakes might seem similar. Both are used to boost nutrition or fuel fitness goals, but Eliza explains the key difference between the two: 

“Meal replacement shakes contain a blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. They are created to provide the balance of nutrients you would otherwise get from a meal, but in a convenient, easy-to-drink format,” says Eliza. 

“While protein shakes are a protein supplement. They are typically made from whey, casein or plant-based protein, and are used to help build and repair muscles after a workout. They don’t usually provide all the nutrients found in a meal replacement shake.  

“So, if you are looking to replace a meal you’d otherwise be skipping, it’s best to choose a meal replacement shake. This way, you’ll be getting the energy and nutrients, and many of them are high in protein as well anyway! It’s a win/win.” 

2. Look for fibre

Dietary fibre is essential for good gut health and staying regular, but some meal replacement shakes don’t stack up when it comes to fibre.  

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When deciding on a meal replacement shake, Eliza recommends checking the nutrition information panel and choosing one that contains at least 7 grams of fibre per serve. This will help to keep you on track to reaching the recommended amount of fibre in your day -25g-30g of fibre of day.

“Meal replacement shakes that contain at least 7g per serve are considered an ‘excellent source’ of fibre, helping to keep you regular while feeling good on the inside, as part of a balanced diet,” says Eliza. 

 “Sanitarium’s meal replacement shake, pb nutrition, is a great example. Each serve contains an impressive amount of dietary fibre with 8.8g per serve in the chocolate shake and 7.3g in the vanilla shake.” 

3. Check for vitamins and minerals 

A quick way to know you are getting a shake with plenty of vitamins and minerals you need is to simply check the product name.  

“To be labeled a ‘meal replacement’, shakes must contain at least 25 percent of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for 16 mandatory vitamins and minerals,” says Eliza. 

“These include zinc, iron, vitamins A, B12, C & D calcium, iodine, magnesium and more which provide a variety of health benefits such as combatting tiredness and fatigue, maintaining healthy cognitive function, good bone health, and immune support within a balanced diet. So, my tip is to always choose a shake that states it’s a meal replacement and better yet, look out for one with a Health Star Rating of 5 stars.” 

4. Choose a shake created by experts 

If you are still finding it hard to choose, defer to an expert. "If you’re unsure, look for a meal replacement shake that’s been formulated with the help of dietitians,” suggests Eliza.   

These shakes are designed to replace a meal, so it helps to have nutrition experts on the scene, making sure you don’t have to compromise on the nutrition you would otherwise be getting from the foods you’d eat at mealtimes. 

“Dietitians can play an important role in guiding this process and ensuring your shake delivers maximum goodness and taste with each sip.” 

Meal replacement shakes are intended to be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet and not to be used as a sole source of nutrition.