Meal Replacement Shakes

Over the past few years, meal replacement shakes have become a popular item for discussion. The shakes allow people on a diet to replace high calories foods with a quick and nutritional alternative for a meal. A study recent study testing the effects of weight loss for patients with diabetes concluded that it decreased weight by 6.4-6.7% when compared to those not consuming the shake5. Below is a comparison of four different types of meal replacement shakes on the market. There are many more products available differing in content and purpose.

There are many reasons why a person would want to try a meal replacement shake. A randomized controlled trial study was done on obese adolescents. The control group was on a 1,300-1,500 kcal/d diet and the treatment group was on a meal replacement diet consisting of  Slim Fast® shakes, 1 prepackaged meal and 5 servings of vegetables and fruit. The results to this study showed that those on the meal replacement diet had a BMI decrease of about 2.5% more than those on a specific calorie diet with self-selected foods. In their conclusion, however, it was noted that continuance of weight loss was not maintained with prolonged use of the meal replacement shakes6.

Meal Replacement Shakes.jpg
Slim Fast2
Special K3
Special K
Ross Ensure4
Serving Size
1 scoop (48g)
1 scoop (26g)
296 ml (10 oz.)
237 ml (8 fl. oz.)
Calories from Fat
9 g
18 g
18 g
15 g
18 g
15 g
10 g
9 g
Total Fat
4 g
5 g
6 g
100 mg
240 mg
220 mg
109 mg
Total Carbs
17 g
25 g
29 g
33 g
Dietary Fiber
3 g
4 g
5 g
1 g
Serving Per Container
Price Per Container
Price Per Serving

Pros to Meal Replacement Shakes

  • Many are nutritionally adequate to replace a meal
  • Simple and quick
  • Can increase energy
  • Can reduces cravings
  • Can help with weight management


  • Can be expensive
  • Not all brands have the optimal nutrients needed to fulfill nutrient requirements
  • Some contain high amounts of sugar
  • Taste can vary
  • Doesn’t teach portion control

Suggestions for RDNs

  • Familiarize yourself with popular products on the market
  • Compare nutrient composition of products
  • Explain pros and cons to your patients

Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Kaylee Fennern

  5. Craig, J. (2013). Meal Replacement Shakes and Nutrition Bars: Do They Help Individuals With Diabetes Lose Weight?. Diabetes Spectrum, 26(3), 179-182 4p.
  6. Berkowitz, R. I., Wadden, T. A., Gehrman, C. A., Bishop-Gilyard, C. T., Moore, R. H., Womble, L. G., Cronquist, J.L., Trumpikas, N.L., Katz, L.E.L. Xanthopoulos, M. S. (2011). Meal Replacements in the Treatment of Adolescent Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obesity (19307381), 19(6), 1193-1199.
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