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Health vs. Unhealthy Meal Replacement Drinks

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Meal replacement drinks offer an excellent alternative to solid food when you don’t have time to prepare a wholesome meal or when you are trying to lose weight.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular are also the unhealthiest brands, including Soylent or SlimFast. So I broke up this article into two sections: Healthy and Unhealthy meal replacement products.

The original version of this review combined products of various categories, including conventional, vegan and Keto shakes. I have since broken them apart into separate blog posts to improve their readability:

If you are wondering why I haven’t included such brands as Ambronite, Huel, and Soylent, it’s because I have since moved them into a separate blog post that focuses on a plant-based diet.

Healthy Meal Replacement Drinks

Product Comparison
Ample Original (5/5)
100%FOOD (3/5)
Super Body Fuel Schmilk (4.5/5)

My perfect meal replacement drink would be 100% Paleo-compatible and meet the following nutrition criteria:

  • Delivers all essential nutrients ( protein, fat, and carbs)
  • Has only organic ingredients
  • Macadamia nut, avocado, coconut, or olive oil as the source of fatty acids
  • Egg-white or beef protein as the source of amino acids
  • Little sugar with a low glycemic index (keeps blood sugar levels under control)
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Fortified with digestive enzymes
  • Loaded with micronutrients, such as essential vitamins and minerals

As with many things in life, nothing is perfect, and so I have yet to find a 100% Paleo-compatible meal replacement drink. The product that meets most of my requirements is Ample Meal with its Original and Keto formulas. As a result, Ample is my winner of this review, closely followed by Super Body Fuel.

Ample – Original Formula

Ample - Original Formula
Ample – Original Formula
 Highlights
  • Healthy sources of protein, fat, and carbs
  • Available with 400 or 600 calories
  • Fortified with crucial minerals and vitamins the American diet is deficient in
  • No artificial flavors
  • Pre-bottled – just add water

Try Ample Original

To save an additional 15%, you can use discount code MK15 upon checkout.

The Ample Original formula is what I used most when traveling because it provides a perfect balance of protein, fat, and carbs. I’m a big boy and eat a lot, so I usually stick with the 600-calorie version of Ample, which offers 36 grams of protein per serving and 14 grams of fiber. But if you are on a low-calorie diet, the 400-calorie version of this organic meal might be sufficient.

Ample’s premise is to provide a balanced, nutritious meal in a bottle prepared from premium, real-food ingredients. The Ample meal replacement powder is available in two sizes and three formulas: Original, Keto, and Vegan.

Besides the premium ingredients, what I like most about Ample is how quick and easy I can prepare a shake when I’m traveling. While I like the earthy taste of Ample Original, I prefer the silky texture of Ample K.

Nutrients in Ample Original

Nutritional Information
Calories 400 (600)
Protein 26g (36g)
Fat 22g (35g)
Carbohydrates 24g (35g)
Sugar 4g (6g)
Artificial ingredients None
Non-GMO Yes
Gluten-free Yes
Lactose-free No
Price $39.00 ($48.00) for 6 bottles
Cost per 100 kcal $1.63 ($1.33)

To learn more about the experience I have made with Ample Meal over the past 18 months, check out my in-depth review. Additionally, you might be interested in the recent improvements Ample Foods has made to its Original, Vegan, and Keto formulas, such as removing chia seeds as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

100%FOOD – Low Carb

100%Food - Low carb meal replacement shake
100%Food – Low carb meal replacement shake
 Pros
  • Most calories of all reviewed products
  • High protein content
  • True meal replacement drink
 Cons
  • Potentially discontinued product
  • High in carbs and sugar
  • Uses soy

Find on Amazon

Even though 100%FOOD’s meal replacement shake is not entirely Paleo compatible and it has 26 grams of sugar, it’s an exciting product nonetheless.

I wanted to give it a try to see how it tasted but appears as if the product no longer available for purchase. I don’t know for sure, but it looks like the manufacturer has discontinued this food replacement drink.

PS: The label “Low Carb” is misleading, because this product contains a ton of carbs!

Nutrients in 100%FOOD

Nutritional Information
Calories 670
Protein 50g
Fat 22g
Carbohydrates 67g
Sugar 26g
Artificial ingredients No
Non-GMO No
Gluten-free No
Lactose-free No
Price Discontinued
Cost per 100 kcal Discontinued

I know some of you were looking to compare “100 food vs. soylent”, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to make an in-depth comparison without access to the product. On paper, both Soylent and 100%Food score relatively similar with some differences:

Super Body Fuel

Super Body Fuel Meal Replacement Powder
Super Body Fuel Meal Replacement Powder
 Pros
  • You can mix it with any milk
  • The powder is Vegan and lactose-free
 Cons
  • If combined with dairy, it’s no more Vegan or lactose-free
  • Contains a lot of sugar (depending on what liquid you use)
  • Should be refrigerated for two hours before consumption

Try Super Body Fuel

Super Body Fuel offers a variety of oat-based meal powders to cater to different tastes and dietary lifestyles, including:

I have covered Super Fuel and Keto in separate articles, so this review focuses on Milk Fuel and Athlete Fuel.

Both are oat-based meal powders, low in plant-based protein and fat. Neither product contains any gluten or lactose. However, Super Body Fuel designed Milk- and Super Fuel with the goal for you to mix them with whole milk. That not only increases their calories, protein, fat, and carb contents, but it also introduces lactose.

If you are lactose intolerant or, like me, try to stay away from dairy, you can certainly use nut- instead of cow milk. However, those healthy dairy alternatives often offer fewer calories, fat, and protein. As a result, you might have to add some avocado oil to bolster your shake’s calorie count.

Note that the nutritional table below assumed whole milk. If you use any other fluid, such as almond or cashew milk, the macros below are going to change.

Both products are available in various flavors, including:

  • Plain (Unsweetened)
  • Original (Milk Fuel only)
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee

Nutrients in Milk Fuel (Athlete Fuel)

Nutritional Information
Calories 500 (630)
Protein 24g (47g)
Fat 19g (21g)
Carbohydrates 58g (62g)
Sugar 23g (23g)
Artificial ingredients No
Non-GMO No
Gluten-free Yes
Lactose-free No
Price $25.00 ($50.00) for 20 meals
Cost per 100 kcal $0.63 ($0.76) – without milk

For the flavored versions, Super Body Fuel uses monk fruit extract as a natural sweetener that does not have any sugar or calories. From all the products I had tried, I liked the taste of Milk Fuel and Athlete Fuel (when mixed with almond milk) the best.

Unhealthy Meal Replacement Drinks

Product Comparison
Boost High Protein (3/5)
Ensure Original (2/5)
Ensure High Protein (2/5)
Ensure Plus (2/5)
Ensure Max Protein (2/5)
Ensure Enlive (2/5)
Ensure Clear (1/5)
SlimFast (1/5)

I generally do not recommend any of the products below because they contain numerous unhealthy ingredients, such as soy, vegetable oils that have high amounts of omega-6, corn and more. However, I wanted to mention them anyway for the sake of completeness and because they are popular, despite their low ingredients quality.

Boost – High Protein

Boost High Protein Drink
Boost High Protein Drink
 Disadvantages
  • Insufficient calories
  • Not a true meal replacement
  • Contains a lot of sugar

Try Boost High Protein

Much like most of the other low-priced products in this review, the Boost High Protein Drink cannot replace a meal and contains numerous artificial ingredients that make it a poor choice for a healthy lifestyle. If you are looking for a protein shake, I’d recommend a high-quality protein powder, such as the ones I reviewed in another article.

Ensure Nutritional Shakes

Ensure Meal Shakes
Ensure Nutritional Shakes
 Disadvantages
  • No replacement for a meal
  • Unhealthy ingredients

Find Ensure on Amazon

Ensure offers a variety of “nutritional shakes” including:

  • Original: Low in protein and fat but high in carbs
  • High Protein: Moderat amounts of protein but low in fat
  • Plus: Reasonable amount of calories, but mostly from carbs and sugar
  • Max Protein: Classic protein shake – Low in calories but high in carbs
  • Enlive: Reasonable amount of calories, the right amount of protein but high in carbs and sugar
  • Clear: Low in protein, zero fat but plenty of carbs

I would not consider either of the above a real meal replacement drinks. Most Ensure shakes lack sufficient calories and the ones that have almost enough calories to classify as a meal replacement shake, derive them from carbs (sugar). Overall, Ensure doesn’t offer any product I would consider buying, and I recommend that you stay away from those shakes.

Ensure Original Nutrition Shake

Ensure Original Nutrition Shake
Ensure Original Nutrition Shake
 Disadvantages
  • Not a meal replacement
  • Insufficient calories
  • Contains a lot of sugar
  • Contains artificial and unhealthy ingredients

Try Ensure Original

Ensure High Protein Nutrition Shake

Ensure High Protein Nutritional Shake
Ensure High Protein Nutritional Shake
 Disadvantages
  • Not a meal replacement
  • Insufficient calories
  • Low in calories and fat
  • Contains artificial and unhealthy ingredients

Try Ensure High Protein

Ensure Plus Nutrition Shake

Ensure Plus Nutritional Shake
Ensure Plus Nutritional Shake
 Disadvantages
  • Not a meal replacement
  • Delivers most calories from carbs and sugar
  • Contains artificial and unhealthy ingredients

Try Ensure Plus</