The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Michael Kummer.
Introducing the idea of using a meal replacement often receives mixed reactions, especially among the keto community. It’s assumed that most are made with poor quality ingredients, knock you out of ketosis, and taste awful.
But with both the keto diet and busy schedules on the rise, the market has grown to include a multitude of low carb products for quick and easy meals.
In this blog post I will tell you everything you need to know about keto, the difference between keto meal replacements and other keto powders out there, and review the top 5 keto meal replacements.
To jump right to the review, click here.
Keto Meal Replacements Reviewed
Since I travel a good amount and generally have busy mornings, I’ve tried most of the keto meal replacements that have hit shelves. Some have been key in keeping my diet in check, while others fell short. Here are the five I will be reviewing today:
|Keto Meal Replacement||Rating (out of 5)|
What is a Keto Meal Replacement?
With all the exogenous ketones, proteins, and other powders marketed for keto dieters out there, it is pertinent to define exactly what a keto meal replacement is.
A meal replacement is “a drink, bar, soup etc. intended as a substitute for a solid food meal, usually with controlled quantities of calories and nutrients.”
By throwing keto into the mix, this sector of meal replacements must also mirror the nutrition of a usual keto-friendly meal: high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. Stats that would seamlessly fit into a ketogenic diet.
Since I follow a paleolithic keto diet, an important factor for me to examine is ingredient quality. The foundation of all my meals is whole foods, so I expect any meal replacement I use regularly to have a mostly clean ingredient label.
During this review, I prioritized the following:
- Ingredient quality
- Does this actually keep me full?
- Does it keep me in ketosis?
- How does it taste?
- What is the cost per meal?
Ingredient Quality (aka How closely does it resemble a real-food meal I would eat?)
It’s not difficult to combine servings of whey protein and coconut oil and label it a keto meal. This meets the macronutrient ratio requirements and has clean ingredients. Many keto protein powders do just this by suggesting their usage be in lieu of meal.
But if used as a meal, keto protein shakes are severely lacking nutritional value. Specifically micronutrients and calories.
To be considered a full meal, each serving should be around 300 calories, diverse in recognizable ingredients, and meet the macronutrient breakdown of a keto diet.
Does it Actually Keep Me Full?
Let’s look at a typical meal I would eat: grass fed beef, spinach, and broccoli cooked in olive oil.
This dish provides me with all the essential amino acids, a mix of saturated and unsaturated fat, a multitude of vitamins and minerals, and fiber. A robust meal like that keeps me full for 4-5 hours.
When trying out each keto meal replacement, I kept tabs on how long after consuming I felt satiated and whether or not that met the expectations set by a real food meal.
Does it Keep Me in Ketosis?
By following a ketogenic diet, the body switches from using carbohydrates as a primary energy source to burning fat for fuel. This leads to more mental clarity and focus, weight loss/management, and stable/increased energy levels – hence why I enjoy eating this way and would like any product I introduce into my diet to keep me feeling good.
While I did not measure my ketone levels after trying each meal replacement, I have been following a paleo-keto diet consistently for 2+ years now and intuitively know when I’m not in ketosis. For me to remain in keto, my daily macros should fall within the following ranges:
- Fat content: 50-70%
- Protein content: 20-40%
- Net carbs: (sugar alcohols, fiber, etc): Fewer than 20 grams.
Additionally, I kept all other meals and snacks consistent throughout the review period. In the hours after consuming each keto meal replacement, I kept track of the following:
- Energy levels
- Focusing ability
- Any other abnormal symptoms
How Does it Taste?
While we like to think of food primarily as fuel, there is no denying that the flavor of said fuel makes all the difference.
It is difficult to find a keto product that is not too slimy (from the high fat content), overly sweet (due to added artificial sweeteners), or leaves you with chunks of powder amidst your drink (due to a lack of proper emulsifiers/fat blending). I kept all of these in mind as I drank each keto meal replacement.
What is the Cost Per Meal?
Another important factor when choosing a meal replacement is the price. In addition to having quality ingredients, a well-rounded nutrient profile, being keto-friendly, and great tasting, it should be on par (or cheaper) than a meal you would typically eat.
Considering the meal size varied between each meal replacement, I took into account both the total cost of the product as well as standardizing them by calculating the price per 400 calories.
Top 5 Keto Meal Replacements
1. Ample K
|Cost / meal||3|
- 70% of calories come from fat, 3g net carbs, and it contains MCT’s
- Made from all real-food ingredients. Closest option to an actual healthy, keto meal.
- Supplements prebiotics, probiotics, greens, electrolytes and select micronutrients
- 400 calorie serving size + two flavor options. Kept me full for 4+ hours and tasted good
- Comes in both bulk canisters and convenient single-serve bottles
- It’s expensive. With the 15% off subscription discount, each meal costs $4.76.
This meal replacement comes in 2 flavors: Vanilla Cinnamon and Chocolate
Out of all the keto meal replacements I tried, Ample K is hands down my favorite. Not only did it meet the requirements of a keto friendly meal (70% calories from fat, 13% from protein, and 3% from net carbs), the ingredient label is super clean.
The fat comes from sources like coconut and macadamia nut oil, protein from grass-fed whey, egg whites and pea protein, and fiber from chicory root and acacia. The added probiotics, electrolytes, and greens (vanilla cinnamon only) are a unique bonus that makes Ample really stand out from the other keto meal replacements I tried.
The serving size for Ample K is 400 calories – 2 scoops mixed with water. The sufficient calories, quality real-food ingredients, and high fiber content (13g) kept me full for around 4.5 hours until dinner. It was smooth, creamy, and just a little sweet. I really enjoyed drinking it and it kept me in fat burning mode.
The only real downside of Ample K is the high price. For a one time purchase of 15 servings, you’ll be paying $84 or $5.60 per meal. If you choose to subscribe, each canister will be $71.40 or $4.76 per meal.
While on the pricier side, Ample still comes in at less than $5 per meal if one subscribes. Plus considering all that you’re getting – a replacement for any probiotic, electrolyte, and greens supplements + a full meal – I would deem Ample K more than worth it.
Ample K comes in both single-serve bottles and a bulk canister. I travel frequently, so the bottles really come in handy for throwing in my bag and then filling up with water once I get through security at the airport.
Overall, Ample K is my top choice among all the keto meal replacements and the one I continue to use regularly. It’s filling, tastes great, and contains high-quality ingredients I feel great about putting into my body.
2. Keto Science
|Cost / meal||4|
- 80% of calories from fat, 2g net carbs, and supplements both MCT’s and collagen
- Quality ingredients – primarily real foods plus added vitamins and minerals
- Competitive: $29.99 for 14 servings or $2.14 per meal.
- Two flavor options
- Small serving size. Each “meal” is 224 calories
- Low in fiber (1g) and did not fill me up for more than 1.5 hours
- In order to equal a full meal (400 calories) more product is required, increasing price per meal to $3.82
- Had a bit of an unpleasant aftertaste
This meal replacement comes in two flavors: Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Cream
Off the bat I was impressed by both the ingredient quality and price of Keto Science’s meal replacement. The label was pretty clean including ingredients like whey, collagen, avocado oil, and grass fed butter. And after seeing it priced at $29.99 for 14 servings ($2.14), I thought it couldn’t be beat.
But after trying it out, I discovered several areas where Keto Science fell short. First was the small serving size (unless steep calorie restriction is your goal). At only 224 calories per “meal,” I knew it would not sustain me for very long — maybe 2-2.5 hours. But, I only ended up making it 1.5 hours before needing a handful of nuts.
In addition to the low calories, the extremely low amount of fiber (1g) didn’t help when it came to keeping me full. If I was to use this product again in the future, I would likely increase the serving size to 400 calories and possibly add some psyllium husk for fiber, bumping up the price per meal to $3.82+.
Also, while the flavor wasn’t awful, I did notice a lingering aftertaste that tainted the initially pleasant chocolate flavor. This was an effect of the vitamin and mineral fortification used to round out Keto Science’s nutrition.
Overall, I think Keto Science has the potential to be a budget friendly option for those looking for a snack to hold them over short term. To be used as a full meal, I would recommend increasing the serving size and adding in a fiber source to make it more filling — which at that point it loses the benefit of being affordable and convenient.
|Cost / meal||4|
- 68% calories come from fat, 2g net carbs, and it contains MCT’s
- Competitive pricing: only $2.13 per serving with the 15% off subscription discount
- Well-rounded micronutrient profile
- Comes in 4 flavors
- Overall low ingredient quality. It contains artificial coloring and no real food ingredients besides coconut cream and whey.
- Each serving is only 250 calories which is not a full meal. It didn’t keep me full for long.
- Micronutrients are from fortification, not food sources. Also, only 3.5 g of fiber per serving
- I tried the chocolate and did not like the flavor. It was overly sweet.
This meal replacement comes in four flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Strawberry
Based on the nutrition facts alone, Ketologic checked most of the boxes of a solid keto meal replacement. The macronutrient breakdown could easily fit into a keto diet: 68% of calories from fat, 16% from protein, and 9% from net carbs. Vitamins and minerals also did not fall short: all being present to some capacity, except iron. Additionally, Ketologic supplements MCT’s.
While ingredient quality is not the best with coconut cream and whey protein being the only real-food ingredients, it does not contain any artificial sweeteners and is gluten-free. It is also competitively priced at $50 for a one time purchase of 20 servings, or $42.50 if you choose to subscribe. This works out to cost $2.50 or $2.13 per serving, respectively.
Now, where Ketologic fell short: serving size and satiety level. Each “meal” is only 250 calories and contains 3.5g of fiber — not ideal if you’re looking for something that keeps you full for a long period of time. After I had Ketologic for lunch ( the recommended 2 scoops shaken up with water), I felt satisfied and energized for about 2 hours. But then the lightheadedness hit and I was hunting for a snack. The overly sweet flavor didn’t help mitigate sugar cravings either.
Overall, Ketologic is a decent option if you’re looking for a quick and easy option to hold you over short term. Unless you adjust the serving size to something more substantial like 400 calories (bumping up the price to $3.40 per meal), I would not recommend this as a meal replacement.
|Cost / meal||4|
- 75% of calories come from fat, 0g net carbs, and contains bovine collagen
- Relatively simple, identifiable ingredient label
- Priced well at $49.95 for 18, 300 calorie servings. This equates to $2.78 per meal.
- 6 flavors to choose from
- High amount of erythritol (9.33g) per serving can contribute to kicking you out of ketosis or cause GI upset
- Does not supplement any micronutrients. Includes Xanthan gum which can cause bloating/stomach upset.
- Didn’t keep me full for as long as a normal meal would – only about 2.5 hours.
- Flavor was overly sweet with strong sugar alcohol aftertaste
This meal replacement comes in six flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Banana Creme, and Strawberry
To be completely honest, I did not enjoy Ketologie very much. I was initially impressed with macronutrient breakdown, 0g net carbs, and added bovine collagen, but the amount of erythritol (9.33g) and sheer lack of micronutrients is disappointing. Seeing xanthan gum on the ingredient list also raised some concerns.
Upon drinking Ketologie for lunch, I noticed a couple of things. First was the extreme sweetness of the chocolate flavor followed by a bitter aftertaste — a common effect nonnutritive sweeteners like erythritol have.
In addition to an off-putting taste, erythritol can have some negative effects in the body. Many people can tolerate high amounts of erythritol just fine (as noted in this study), but some individuals are hyper sensitive to sugar alcohols and experience both GI upset and a drastic decrease in blood ketone levels after consuming.
Personally, I felt significantly less focused and clear headed after drinking Ketologie for lunch. Regardless of whether the erythritol kicked me out of ketosis or just gave me a headache from being too sweet, this meal replacement is not something I would want to consume on a regular basis.
If you are someone who tolerates erythritol well and gets plenty of micronutrients elsewhere, this could be an option for you.
|Cost / meal||1|
- Contains ⅓ of your vitamin and mineral needs
- Comes in 17 flavors and tastes great
- Kept me full for 4 hours
- You need your own fat source (½ stick butter or ½ cup heavy cream) to make
- Very expensive for what it is – protein, flavoring, and vitamins/minerals. 21 servings of powder will cost you $70 for a one time purchase or $63 with a subscription
- Low quality ingredients – no real food sources besides cocoa and milk protein and it contains GI irritants like sucralose and xanthan gum
- Although physically full, I also felt sluggish and weighed down after consuming
This meal replacement comes in 17 flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Toffee, Banana, Cookies and Cream, Eggnog, Mocha, Orange Cream, Pumpkin Spice Caramel, Raspberry Cheesecake, Root Beer Float, Salted Caramel, Snickerdoodle, Strawberry, and Natural Strawberry.
I was on the fence about including Keto Chow in this lineup considering it isn’t a complete meal replacement as it stands alone. One must add their own fat source — melted butter or heavy cream is recommended — as well as water to the powder to create a ~540 calorie meal. But, it is extremely popular amongst the keto crowd for one reason: it tastes amazing.
With 17 sweet (and a whole slew of savory) flavors to choose from, there’s an option for everyone no matter what your preferences are. Additionally, the servings of melted butter (½ stick) or heavy cream (½ cup) required to prepare Keto Chow basically transforms it into a drinkable dessert. At that point, it’s inevitable that it will taste delicious.
But with this comes a multitude of downsides — first being the price. Although not the most expensive on this list, Keto Chow is priced pretty steep for what you’re getting: $70 for 21 servings of milk protein isolate, a bit of acacia fiber, flavoring, and a multivitamin.
Additionally, Keto Chow contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, which has been linked to general GI upset as well as inducing glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.
While I found the chocolate Keto Chow to be delicious and filling, I noticed that I felt a bit sluggish and weighed down — like it was just sitting in my stomach — for several hours after consuming.
Overall, I would not recommend relying on Keto Chow as a frequent meal replacement but instead an occasional keto-friendly treat that also happens to offer some protein, vitamins, and minerals.
After trying all 5 keto meal replacements, my number one recommendation would be Ample K. Nutritionally, it checks all the boxes: high quality ingredients, keto-friendly macros, keeps me full and tastes great. I’ve incorporated Ample into my routine regularly for the past 2 years now and definitely will continue doing so!
Brooke graduated with a B.S. in Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health from New York University and began her career in research, counseling patients of the VA NY HealthCare System to show the positive correlation between setting nutrition/exercise goals and improved disease state. Eventually, she moved into working with local fitness studios and brands, contributing nutrition content to their blogs, social media and hosting in-person workshops. Now working in marketing full-time, Brooke maintains her interest in health and fitness through CrossFit, cooking paleo meals, and bodybuilding competitions.