Healthy meal replacement shakes have recently been experiencing a resurgence in popularity. However, you may be surprised to hear that these dietary supplements have a long history and have actually been around, one way or another, since before the 19th century.
Native North Americans created a high-energy food block known as ‘pemmican’ that could last indefinitely and be consumed when other food wasn’t readily available. In the 1920s, the concept of meal replacements and synthetic foods became popular in science fiction, and in the 1960s, Tang and Space food sticks were created for space missions and made publicly available. Interesting, huh?
In the 1990s, healthy shakes and other meal replacement products were finally regulated and things have since moved on leaps and bounds. Now, healthy shakes are the product of choice and available in thousands of different blends, flavours and formulations to fit varying health and fitness goals and dietary requirements.
With so many seemingly similar products now on the market, it can be difficult to differentiate them and to understand what makes a shake suitable or unsuitable for you. Here, we compile all the info you need into one cheat sheet to aid you in your purchase decision to successfully start your journey toward better health, improved nutrition and reaching your weight loss goals.
The Lowdown on Healthy Shakes
Healthy shakes are designed as dietary supplements and not as standalone products. Intended for repeated daily use, a healthy shake should replace one meal a day (assuming it’s nutritionally balanced) and form part of a varied and well-balanced diet and wider active lifestyle.
The Benefits of Incorporating Healthy Shakes Into Your Diet
There are many reasons people choose to incorporate healthy shakes into their diet in place of one of their meals each day, but weight loss isn’t the only benefit! The benefits of using healthy shakes include (but are by no means limited to):
- Convenience – they can be made up in minutes and drunk ‘on-the-go’;
- Improved nutrition – a well-blended healthy shake will contain all of the vitamins, minerals and essential fats that the body needs in a meal. This isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve with solid food, as it takes planning and preparation to make;
- Sustained health benefits – when healthy shakes are well-balanced, the knock-on impact of your body consuming its optimum nutrition is long-lasting and can improve health in many areas – not just mass.
If you have any specific health concerns, you should speak to your doctor or healthcare provider before starting a course of healthy shakes. Take your intended product with you so they can read the ingredients list and truly understand what it is you’d like to consume.
Can You Replace Meals with Healthy Shakes?
Healthy shakes are often used as a meal replacement for one full meal a day – but they don’t have to be! If you’re already consuming a varied, fresh and hearty diet and getting plenty of exercise, you can use healthy shakes simply to ‘top up’ your existing intake of vitamins and minerals.
Be aware of what ingredients a healthy shake includes before you drink it. A complete balance of nutrition is required in order for it to be suitable as a meal replacement and any synthetic ingredients may throw off your already well-curated nutritional balance if you’re including it as a snack.
Of course, a high-quality, nutritionally complete meal replacement shake can be used to replace a meal – just be aware of what it is you’re really drinking before you commit.
Homemade vs Store Bought Healthy Shakes: Which is Best for Me?
Everyone loves the idea of finding time for everything, including meal planning and prepping in advance – superwoman, right?! But life rarely works out as planned, so this isn’t always (or for some of us, ever) achievable.
If you have good knowledge of nutrition alongside your personal dietary needs for optimum health and have the time to do so, then creating your own healthy shakes at home may be preferable. However, their continued use really is key to sustaining results (in weight loss and otherwise) so you must be able to commit to produce the shakes often enough that you can consume them every day – or top up your consumption with pre-made, store-bought healthy shakes on days where you can’t make them yourself.
If you’re not clued up on nutrition (and hey, most of aren’t dieticians!) or don’t have the time or inclination to develop and create your own fresh healthy shakes every day, then store-bought shakes are for you. They can be just as healthy and help you with weight loss just as much as fresh ones.
When choosing a pre-made shake, always check the labels to make sure they are made with only the best ingredients. Don’t worry, we have tonnes of guides to help you out! Why don’t you check out our essential guide to choosing the best meal replacement shakes.
Or, if you’re super busy (aren’t we all!) we have done the hard work for you and compiled all our knowledge of the best shakes into developing shake that we think you’ll love. Check out Nutribuddy Shake Complete – a shake made with only the healthiest natural ingredients that are organic and vegan too!
Healthy Shakes: Our Top 4 Tips
Healthy Shakes for a Meal or Snack: Nutrition Matters
Healthy shakes are not always as ‘healthy’ as they seem. The nutritional content of shakes varies between brands and individual blends and a product’s ingredients list should be not just read, but also understood before it is drunk.
If you’re including healthy shakes in your diet as a dietary supplement to replace a daily meal, the balance of vitamins, minerals and essential micro and macronutrients should be near-perfect in order for it to not just a replacement, but a beneficial one. It needs to be of better quality than the meal you’d have eaten instead – otherwise it’s just fewer calories with no added health incentives. You’ll also need to ensure that the healthy shake is enough to fill you up until your next mealtime so that you’re not tempted to snack and ruin the efforts made.
On the flipside, if you’re intending healthy shakes to be just a snack alongside your existing diet, then the nutritional value matters less (although you still don’t want it to be of junk food quality!).
Fruit Smoothies Aren’t Necessarily Healthy
We all need plenty of fruit and veg in our diet and the fruit smoothie market is booming. Supermarket and convenience store shelves are now full of vibrant, enticing smoothies which promise to provide your recommended fruit intake for the day, often all in one go.
However, this is rarely a good thing. While fruit does contain lots of essential vitamins, it’s also chockablock with natural sugar and can be high in calories, effectively ruining the process of calorie cutting. For reference, a large apple contains between 3-4 teaspoons of sugar.
The body processes sugars from fruit as it does anything else, so the fact they’ve come from a natural product is irrelevant – ultimately, it’s chemically identical to the sugars from processed foods. Excess consumption of fruit sugars can result in elevated blood sugar and over time, even lead to diabetes. The liver turns excess sugar into triglycerides which are stored in fat cells. This builds up the visceral belly fat that is linked to type 2 diabetes. Excess sugar consumption can also be damaging to teeth.
Protein and Fibre are Key for Serial Snackers
If you’re prone to snacking, the key to the successful use of healthy shakes is that they fill you up properly. Otherwise, you’ll just be reaching for the crisps and chocolate and end up cancelling out the benefits of drinking them in the first place.
To keep you fuller for longer, look for a healthy shake that’s high in fibre and/or protein (but not a standalone protein shake, unless that’s what you’re looking for!). Fibre contains a molecule called acetate, which is a naturally occurring appetite suppressant. Your body absorbs it as you consume fibre and sends messages to the brain to stop eating. This slows the digestion system and satiates appetite and works almost right away.
Fibre makes you feel full quickly, while protein keeps you feeling full for longer. When the body digests protein, it creates peptides, which also send appetite suppressant messages to the brain. As the protein takes longer to digest, these peptides are released slowly and gradually, maintaining the full feeling until all of the protein within your system is completely processed.
Whilst you may struggle to find a very low-calorie healthy shake that keeps you feeling full enough to resist snacks, it’s definitely worth the search! Ensure the shake you choose has sufficient ingredients to stop you reaching for the nibbles; even if it does contain a few more calories than you would have liked. If not, you’ll only binge later on!
If you’re a serial snacker and are looking for a healthy, wholefood shake to help curb your cravings, the Shake Complete might suit you perfectly. With slow-release low-GI carbs, 7g of plant protein per serving and a healthy dose of fibre, it’s low-calorie but will keep you feeling full for hours.
Homemade Healthy Shakes: Consider the Calories
The internet is full of healthy shake recipes created by brands and bloggers alike, which make for some great kitchen experiments when you have free time and an appetite for a culinary adventure!
Unfortunately, as with everything online, what you see may not be quite what you get. Frequently, such blends are adapted to create a healthy shake that looks good – no matter what impact that has on the nutritional content within. After all, they’ve got to look good in Instagram photos, right?
There are lots of pitfalls that are easily fallen into when it comes to making healthy shakes at home. It’s very easy to inadvertently consume hundreds of calories, even when it’s just intended to be a snack! Keep these handy pointers in mind and you should be able to experiment with recipes with no unintended consequences:
- Avoid excess fruit – fruits are delicious and nutritious, but excess amounts of them can result in extremely high sugar intake. Avoid mixtures involving too many and instead pick a recipe that just features one or two; for purposes other than colouring it and making it look pretty!
- Avoid fancy ingredients you don’t recognise – the nature of the internet means that recipes are posted by people from all over the world and therefore may contain ingredients that aren’t commonplace to you where you live. Even if you can get your hands on something that you’ve not heard or used before, consider it carefully before you try it – it could cause an allergic reaction or irritation and may not contain exactly what you think it does. Sometimes, simpler is better.
- Don’t rely on internet estimations for calorie counting – it’s not the easiest task in the world to count the calories in a homemade recipe and even if they don’t specify so, many of the calorie counts online are estimations rather than accurate calculations. There is usually no legal reason or defining ‘duty of care’ for these to be accurate, so don’t rely on such numbers if you’re trying to maintain a calorie-controlled diet.
- Don’t spend lots of money – whilst the initial outlay of purchasing ingredients to make up a healthy shake at home may be quite a big spend compared to the incremental money spent buying a pre-made shake or two at a time, ensure you’re getting good value. Don’t buy excess quantities of anything you won’t consume and avoid food wastage where you can. What’s more, don’t spend lots on anything you haven’t tried before – as it’ll only go to waste if you don’t like it!
Consider healthy shake recipes found online carefully before you invest your time, money and effort into making them. If in doubt, buy a shake either in powder form or pre-made from a reputable brand, such as Nutribuddy. These should be specifically developed to offer a whole nutritional balance, be low in calories and be of benefit to your health (and weight).
So, there you have it. When it comes to healthy shakes, don’t believe everything you read, but don’t stand on your laurels. Do your research and make sure you really know your stuff before you take anything in. There’s no cheating your way to a leaner and more toned physique healthily, but starting to consume a healthy shake a day can definitely expedite the process – and even make it more delicious and enjoyable!
With our busy modern lives, we understand it can be difficult to make time to make your own healthy shake. Why not check out Nutribuddy Shake Complete? We’ve already done the hard work for you by sourcing all the best organic ingredients and blending them into a delicious, nutrient-packed shake!