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Meal replacement shakes are lifesavers when you don’t have the time (or the ingredients) to prepare food or do groceries.
All you need to do is grab your favorite ready-to-drink bottle or mix your meal replacement powder with water, and you’re good to go.
A meal replacement is designed to replace a nutritious meal and provide the nutrients you need for energy, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Unlike a typical meal, which potentially contains up to 700 calories (or more if you’re not eating healthy), a meal replacement shake contains fewer calories per serving.
When taken with a calorie-restricted diet–that is, a diet that is low on calories but doesn’t deprive you of nutrients–it can help you lose weight.
Maintaining a calorie deficit is one of the keys to losing weight. This means that your energy expenditure should be higher than your caloric intake from food. For those calorie-counting, a calorie deficit of 3,500 loses about 1 kilogram of weight.
We know how hard it is to pick the right meal replacement shake for you, given there are so many options on the market. So we rounded up the five best meal replacement shakes for losing weight.
KnowYourDNA is dedicated to providing readers with reliable information on products that help them achieve their health goals.
We pick products based on:
Our in-house medical experts ensure the accuracy of our information.
|Best Meal Replacement Shakes||Type of meal replacement||Calories per serving||Proteins (g)||Carbohydrates (g)||Fats (g)||Fiber (g)||Sugar (g)||Number of Nutrients||Number of Flavor Options|
|Huel||Powder mix||110||20||5||1.5||2||< 0.5||27||1|
|PhenQ||Powder mix||180 to 190||16 to 17||21 to 22||3 to 3.5||4||2||13||3|
|Keto Chow||Powder mix||120 to 130||25 to 35||7 to 9||< 1||6 to 8||≤ 1||26||40+|
|310 Nutrition||Powder mix||110||15||6||2.5||5||0||25||6|
Best Ready-To-Drink Meal Replacement
|Nutritional Information||Soylent Chocolate High Protein Nutrition Shake|
|Calories per serving||250 calories|
Don’t let its namesake scare you. Soylent isn’t made of people. The brand produces a range of meal replacement products to nourish people.
Our top pick is the Soylent Chocolate High Protein Nutrition Shake because it’s rich in protein and uses high-quality ingredients.
The meal replacement drink is also vegan and doesn’t contain any gluten, dairy, or nuts.
Read our full review of Soylent nutrition shakes here.
Best Meal Replacement Powder Mix
|Nutritional Information||Huel Complete Protein Shake|
|Calories per serving||110 calories|
|Sugar||Less than 0.5 grams|
Huel has an extensive range of meal replacement powders and shakes, including gluten-free alternatives for most of its products.
In terms of weight loss, Huel’s Complete Protein Shake is the best option from their lineup.
You can drink up to two servings without exceeding your daily caloric limit or the recommended intake for proteins, fats, and carbs.
It’s a vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and soy-free powder which makes it suitable for people with dietary restrictions and intolerances to gluten and soy.
Read our full review of Huel protein shakes here.
Best Meal Replacement for Healthy Weight Loss
|Nutritional Information||Kachava Meal Replacement|
|Calories per serving||240 calories|
KaChava is perhaps the healthiest meal replacement shake we could find. It has fewer calories than your average meal but is packed with nutrients.
Not only is it infused with essential vitamins and minerals. It contains ingredients with many proven health benefits, such as:
To top it off, KaChava is a vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free option.
Unlike many meal replacement shakes, most of its ingredients are organic, which makes it a healthier option overall.
Read our full review of KaChava protein powder.
Best Meal Replacement On A Budget
|Nutritional Information||PhenQ Meal Replacement Shake|
|Calories per serving||180 to 190 calories|
|Protein||16 to 17 grams|
|Carbohydrates||21 to 22 grams|
|Fats||3 to 3.5 grams|
PhenQ is a budget-friendly alternative to Ka Chava. It's gluten-free and has all-natural ingredients.
Unlike most meal replacement shakes which derive proteins from plants, PhenQ isn't shy about using whey protein isolate—an animal protein.
It provides a complete amino acid profile that promotes satiety and curbs appetite. It also has a blend of digestive enzymes to help break down food.
Best High-Fiber Meal Replacement to Lose Weight
|Nutritional Information||Supergut Meal Shake|
|Calories per serving||180 calories|
Supergut is a nutritionally-complete meal shake that's loaded with fiber. Getting enough fiber is not only good for your gut and overall health. It's also proven to help you lose weight.
Most studies show you need 30 grams of fiber daily to lose weight. Supergut shakes can supplement your diet with 20 grams of fiber per serving.
There are six flavors, including two vegan options that are both dairy-free and allergy-safe.
Aside from meal replacement shakes, Supergut has a high-fiber meal bar with three flavors.
Best Keto Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Loss
|Nutritional Information||Keto Chow Meal Powder|
|Calories per serving||120 to 130 calories|
|Protein||25 to 35 grams|
|Carbohydrates||7 to 9 grams|
|Fats||Less than 1 gram|
|Fiber||6 to 8 grams|
|Sugar||1 gram or less|
Why We Recommend It
Keto Chow is great for people who want some variety in taste. The gluten-free meal replacement is available in sweet and savory flavors.
It should work for anyone who wants to lose weight with a ketogenic diet.
While the calorie distribution slightly varies depending on the flavor, Keto Chow usually contains very few carbs and more protein in comparison.
One key difference between Keto Chow and other items on our list is that it derives its proteins from animal sources, like milk isolate and beef powder.
Read our full review of Keto Chow shakes.
Best Low-Calorie Meal Replacement Shake
|Nutritional Information||310 Nutrition Shake|
|Calories per serving||110 calories|
310 Nutrition is a cross between Keto Chow and KaChava and has some of their best features. But there’s a reason why it’s our top pick for keto dieters.
Unlike Keto Chow, it’s not just keto-friendly and gluten-free.
310 Nutrition also has a vegan meal replacement formula that doesn’t contain any soy, dairy, sugar, or artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.
Read our full review of 310 Nutrition shakes.
Yes. It’s possible to lose weight with a meal replacement shake.
When paired with a low-calorie diet, a good meal replacement can help reduce the calories you consume and lead to weight loss.
Studies show that meal replacement can help you lose more weight than a food-based diet that provides the same amount of calories.1,2
It’s also more sustainable for long-term weight loss.
After a year of dieting, more people who followed the reduced calorie diet (RCD) dropped out compared to people on partial meal replacement (PMR).2
Before you replace meals or try weight loss diets, be sure to talk to a licensed nutritionist or a registered dietitian who can:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently doesn’t regulate meal replacements. So we used European guidelines as a baseline for choosing.
We also asked the help of our in-house nutrition expert, Dr. Rizza Mira, to create a list of criteria for the best meal replacement shakes for losing weight.
“The best meal replacements provide at least 15 grams of protein and contain about 50% of the daily requirements for essential vitamins and minerals,” says Dr. Mira.
Our team compared products based on these standards:
These criteria helped us narrow down the best meal replacement powders and ready-to-drink (RTD) shakes for weight loss.
According to the European Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1413, a meal replacement that’s intended for weight reduction must meet these qualifications:3
This calorie limit ensures you meet your body’s nutritional needs while reducing the number of calories you consume per day (also known calorie restriction).
Calorie restriction is important because it helps you lose weight by ensuring you consume fewer calories than you would normally eat without depriving yourself.4
“Too much deprivation of calories can lead to malnutrition, including essential vitamins and mineral deficiency. This can lower immune system response and make one prone to infections,” says Dr. Mira.
Proteins must make up 25 to 50 percent of a meal replacement’s total calories.3
Studies show that high-protein meals can control one’s appetite and promote satiety or a feeling of fullness. In turn, this reduces your food intake.5
Fats should not exceed 30 percent of the product’s total calories. While fat isn’t as effective as protein at suppressing hunger, it does produce satiating effects.5
Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet. Men and women typically require 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day.6
With only seven percent of American adults meeting their daily fiber needs, something packed with fiber, like a meal replacement shake, is a great option.6
Good meal replacements should contain at least 3 grams of fiber.
While it’s best that you eat fiber-rich foods, alternative sources (like meal replacement supplements) can still make up for any deficit in your daily fiber intake.7
A meal replacement replaces a complete meal. So it should reduce your overall calorie intake without depriving you of essential nutrients.
According to the Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1413, a meal replacement should contain these 22 nutrients:3
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||Iron|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||Magnesium|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||Manganese|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)||Phosphorus|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||Selenium|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||Sodium|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||Zinc|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)|
A meal replacement doesn’t need to have all the nutrients mentioned above. But meal replacements that provide more vitamins and minerals, especially in higher amounts, are better.
Not all meal replacements are created equally. Some meal replacements are, unfortunately, packed with sugar, sodium, additives, and unhealthy fats (saturated fats).
These ingredients increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other health problems. Too much sugar is also detrimental to weight loss.
Foods high in sugar cause your blood glucose levels to suddenly rise and fall. A “sugar crash” can leave you hungry and cause you to eat more.8
The addition of certain fats and fibers to a meal replacement may also be beneficial for weight loss.
“Fats help you feel full for a longer time because they release the hormone cholecystokinin. This hormone decreases the time it takes for one to empty the stomach. Fiber adds bulk to the diet. That’s why there is a feeling of fullness when one consumes more fiber,” says Dr. Mira.
For example, linoleic acid has been shown to reduce appetite, decrease food intake, and suppress weight loss.9 Soluble fiber slows digestion, increases satiety, and helps control your appetite.10
That’s why we carefully examined each product’s ingredients before coming up with a list. Ideally, meal replacements should:
European regulations add that while the addition of amino acids isn’t required, it can help improve the quality of the proteins used in a meal replacement.3
Remember that if your goal is to reduce the number of calories you consume per day, you should look at the overall quality of a product and not just its calories.