Meal replacements (MRs) are prepackaged foods that can be used as part of a weight loss prescription. For our purposes, we will be discussing those that are used in a clinical setting. They can be used to replace one or multiple meals a day.
MRs have many benefits when you are trying to lose weight. They simplify food choices, eliminate decision making and food prep, are cost-effective, evidence-based and are a concentrated source of nutrition. They are portion and calorie controlled, typically containing >15 grams of protein, >3 grams of fiber, and <10 grams of sugar. The high protein content of these foods helps to maintain muscle mass while losing weight. Reducing calories while increasing protein can produce better long-term weight loss results.
MRs are often incorporated into a low-calorie diet (LCD) or very low-calorie diet (VLCD). LCDs are typically 1000-1500 kcal/day. An example of an LCD would be to have MRs for breakfast, lunch, and a snack, and then consuming a lean snack and dinner (~450 calories).
VLCDs are <800 kcal/day, placing a person in nutritional ketosis (carbohydrate intake of <50 g/day). This diet is highly effective, but it is aggressive and should be started under the supervision of a medical provider. It can help to improve many medical conditions including hypertension, high cholesterol, insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Despite its numerous potential health benefits, it can have significant side effects and is contraindicated in certain populations. It is important to ensure you are consuming an adequate amount of high-quality protein when consuming so few calories. MRs are an easy way to help provide this protein and nutrition. An example of a day on a VLCD would be to have 2-3 shakes, 1 protein bar, and 1 whole food meal such as grilled chicken breast and one cup steamed broccoli.
At Weigh to Wellness Denver, we use New Direction Meal Replacement products. The protein bar flavors include shortbread cookie, chocolate almond, peanut, caramel cocoa, peppermint cocoa crunch, dark chocolate smores & cinnamon. These are 160 calories and include 15 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, plus 17 vitamins and minerals. Beverages include mocha, strawberry, hot cocoa, vanilla and chocolate and contain 200 calories and 27 grams of protein plus vitamins and minerals. There is also a high protein chocolate pudding, cream of broccoli and cheddar soup meal replacement.
LCDs and VLCDs should be medically monitored to ensure you are losing weight safely and still obtaining adequate nutrients. Please contact us at Weigh to Wellness Denver if you are interested in learning more about this approach and to see if you are a candidate. You can also purchase any of the New Directions products at our office if you are just looking for a convenient snack or meal replacement to incorporate into your day.