The Ultimate Guide on Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes

Last Updated 26th September 2019
Berry vegan meal replacement shakes

Let’s face it – finding a high-quality, healthy and effective non-vegan meal replacement shake is hard at the best at times. But if you choose to live a life without animal products or happen to be lactose-intolerant, things automatically feel about 10x trickier.

The good news is, that whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds, boost your protein intake or simply save yourself time on meal-prep, there is a suitable vegan meal replacement shake out there for you.

Thankfully, we’re here to make your search a little easier. We’ll be talking through the plethora of different dairy-free meal replacement shake compositions and ingredients available on the market, to help you make a perfectly informed and suitable choice. Let’s go!

woman holding vegan berry meal replacement shake

Are Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes Right for Me?

People use vegan meal replacement shakes for a huge variety of reasons – and contrary to popular belief, those reasons aren’t just limited to weight loss.

You might find that vegan meal replacement shakes are a good choice for you if:

– You’ve recently switched to a vegan diet and are looking for a convenient way to boost your protein intake
– You lack the time to prepare fresh, healthy meals on a daily basis
– You’re lactose-intolerant but would like to try a meal replacement shake
– You live a busy lifestyle and, therefore, often end up skipping meals
– You use meal replacement shakes but are looking to lower your impact on the environment
– You’re concerned that you’re not meeting nutritional requirements after switching to a vegan diet

And, of course, vegan meal replacement shakes can help with weight loss. To lose weight, you simply need to be in a calorie deficit, which can be created by reducing the number of calories you consume.

Vegan meal replacement shakes are a convenient, safe and effective way to control and lessen your calorie intake, whilst still ensuring your body receives all the required micro and macronutrients it requires to thrive. In fact, numerous studies have concluded that meal replacement shakes are an effective strategy for both weight loss and good health.

woman in forest holding drink in recyclable mug

What are Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes?

Vegan meal replacement shakes are designed to replace a full meal but in the form of a convenient and easy-to-make shake. A high-quality formula should provide sufficient energy and all the nutritional requirements of a healthy, balanced meal.

Dairy-free and vegan meal replacement shakes usually come in the form of a powder which is then mixed up with milk. However, they are increasingly available as a ready-mixed drink. Ideally, if a shake is being used to replace a meal, it should contain at least 200-400 calories once mixed with milk.

The Nutribuddy Shake Complete, for example, contains 230 calories if mixed with 400ml of almond milk. It contains enough protein, fibre, slow-release carbs, vitamins and minerals to constitute a full meal, whilst still being low in calories. It also has the added benefit of being quick and convenient to prepare.

Shake Complete vegan meal replacement shake by Nutribuddy

Are Vegan Meal Replacements as Effective as Non-Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes?

The short answer to this is yes. Vegan meal replacements can be just as effective, if not more effective, than non-vegan meal replacement shakes. But for the past few years, veganism has been booming, making protein (which should be present in all meal replacement shakes, especially if they’re being used for lunch or dinner) a heavily debated topic.

Whey, the reigning champion of non-vegan protein and meal replacement shakes, is created as a by-product of cheese manufacturing. This means it’s unsuitable for people with an intolerance to lactose or who choose to follow a vegan diet. However, it rather impressively contains all nine essential amino acids in one serving, making it a real nutritional powerhouse as part of a non-vegan meal replacement shake.

So how can vegan meal replacement shakes compete? Well, plant proteins such as soy, pea, brown rice and hemp do contain amino acids, but none include all nine. For this reason, it’s important to pick a vegan meal replacement shake which combines multiple plant proteins, which in turn, provide a complete protein source and full amino acid profile.

A study which looked into the protein content and amino acid profile of plant-based versus animal-based protein discovered that blends of plant-based proteins can provide protein characteristics that closely reflect animal-based proteins.

Therefore, in conclusion, vegan meal replacement shakes are equally as effective as non-vegan formulas, providing they include an appropriate mix of plant-protein types.

woman cutting organic fruit for vegan smoothie

What are the Benefits of Choosing a Vegan Meal Replacement Shake?

They’re better for the environment

With recent news news declaring that following a vegan diet is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your environmental impact, it should come as no surprise that opting for a vegan meal replacement shake is a fantastic way to lower your carbon footprint.

Even if you’re not vegan, you can still choose to drink a vegan meal replacement shake. After all, if it offers the same value in terms of price, nutrition and results, but also helps the environment, why wouldn’t you?

On top of this, meal replacement shakes, in general, mean less waste, longer shelf-lives and far less packaging than your average home-cooked meal, making them an extremely efficient and environmentally-friendly way to eat.

They’re a great way to help animals

Many people choose to take up veganism in a plight to save farm animals, marine life and even wildlife from the needless suffering which can sadly occur, especially in the case of cheaply-produced animal products. Vegan meal replacement shakes contain absolutely no animal products, and in most cases, are also cruelty-free – so if animal welfare is a concern of yours, vegan shakes are an obvious choice!

dairy cows in a field on a sunny day

They’re super convenient

With hectic work schedules, family responsibilities, cleaning, hobbies, a social life and numerous other tasks to complete on a daily basis, fitting in the time to cook a healthy meal can be difficult.

Thankfully, vegan meal replacement shakes offer a quick and easy way to consume a healthy, balanced and nutritionally-complete meal. Whether they’re used as an on-going weight loss aid or simply as a filler for busy days, their convenience and time-saving capabilities are undeniable.

They support weight loss/management

If you’re looking to lose weight or maintain your current weight, keep track of your daily calorie intake can quickly become draining – plus, with our busy, modern lifestyles, who really has the time?

Vegan meal replacement shakes, on the other hand, make the process far simpler. Because you’ll receive all the necessary nutrients and key vitamins in a defined, low-calorie serving, you’ll be able to control or lower your calorie intake without the worry of missing out on essential nutrition.

In fact, meal replacement shakes (vegan and non-vegan) are so effective for weight loss, that during a recent experiment, participants who used meal replacement products lost significantly more weight than those who followed traditional plans.

colourful vegan meal replacement smoothie bowl

They’re (generally) super healthy

While this statement will vary from brand to brand (not all shakes are nutritionally equal, so it’s important to check labels), vegan meal replacement shakes are formulated to contain all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals which the body requires to thrive.

On top of this, many high-quality vegan meal replacement shakes are quite literally packed with superfoods. The Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake contains chia seeds, flaxseeds, coconut and green tea, but in the form of a quick-to-prepare shake.

They’re highly price-effective

Upon first glance, you may feel that vegan meal replacement shakes are pricey. But when you compare this to the cost of your day-to-day meal shopping, you’d probably be pleasantly surprised at their value.

For example, the Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake costs just £0.67 per meal when you buy a 56 day supply and can be even cheaper if you choose to subscribe. Considering the huge punch of nutrition you get in this dairy-free meal replacement shake, it’s actually incredible value for money.

Nutribuddy Vegan meal replacement Breakfast Shake in jar

They can help to boost protein intake

While a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet should contain enough protein to meet daily nutritional requirements, some people may find it hard to sustain this – especially when a lack of time and knowledge is a factor.

Thankfully, good-quality vegan meal replacement shakes contain a range of plant proteins, making them an effective way to boost your plant-based protein and essential amino acid intake. And with studies suggesting that eating foods which are high in protein can help to promote satiety, this extra protein boost can even lend an extra helping hand during a weight loss regime.

They’re often a safer choice for people with sensitive stomachs

You don’t have to be vegan to use a vegan meal replacement shake over a whey-based one. In fact, many people opt for a vegan formulation out of choice as plant-based formulations are often hypoallergenic and free from common allergens such as dairy, egg and gluten.

However, if you’re looking for a vegan meal replacement shake and suffer from a sensitive stomach, do be aware that many do contain soy, which is another common trigger. All Nutribuddy shakes and products are hypoallergenic and free from dairy, gluten, egg and soy. Although it’s always best to check with your doctor before introducing a new product into your regime if you suffer from digestive problems, our shakes generally receive fantastic feedback from customers who suffer from IBS, coeliac disease or colitis.

Nutribuddy vegan meal replacement review for IBS
Testimonial from one of Nutribuddy’s customers, @blondepitaya

What are the Drawbacks of Choosing a Vegan Meal Replacement Shake?

If you’re used to drinking non-vegan meal replacement shakes, you may find the taste of vegan meal replacement shakes a little hard to get used to. Plant-based meal replacement and protein shakes are often described as ‘gritty’ and ‘earthy’ compared to whey-based formulations.

But don’t let that put you off. As the vegan meal replacement shake market grows, products are continuously improving. Now, there are tons of delicious, palatable shakes available on the market. The Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake, for example, has a special smooth flavour for those who prefer an uber creamy texture. And remember, if you’re a super smooth criminal, you could always use a blender!

On top of this, another disadvantage of vegan meal replacement shakes, in some cases, is their lower gram-for-gram protein content. That doesn’t mean you can’t get the same level of protein and amino acids in a vegan formulation, but it does mean you generally need a larger serving size. In some cases, this could mean that picking a plant-based meal replacement shake over whey can lead to slightly higher costs over the long-term.

Green Vegan Meal Replacement Shake topped with strawberries

A Step By Step Guide to Choosing the Best Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes

Ingredients are Key for an Effective and Safe Vegan Meal Replacement Shake

When searching for a vegan meal replacement shake, it’s essential to take your time and make the right choice – after all, your health is at stake. If you’re replacing a meal with a shake, you need to pick a product which contains all the essential nutrients your body needs to thrive. Otherwise, you’ll be left feeling tired, groggy and could even end up with dangerous deficiencies.

So, choose your brand wisely by checking labels and carefully analysing ingredients and nutritional values. Firstly, opt for a formula which contains all the nutritional components of a balanced meal, including protein, carbs, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Secondly, we’d recommend avoiding products which are packed with artificial ingredients and chemicals (senna leaves and laxatives are a particular no-go) and opt for products which take a more clean and natural approach. If you recognise all of the ingredients on the label, that’s a positive sign!

For more in-depth information on the ins and outs of vegan meal replacement shake ingredients, check out our guide to the best and worst meal replacement shake ingredients.

Nutribuddy vegan Shake Complete natural ingredient list
Nutribuddy Shake Complete’s natural ingredient list. Photo by Laura Lucas

What about Protein? Which Vegan Protein is Best?

When you first switch over to a vegan or vegetarian diet or even just seek to reduce your consumption of animal products, getting your head around plant protein can seem like an impossible task.

But it’s not actually as complicated as you may believe. As we mentioned earlier, protein is essentially made up of several smaller components called amino acids. The fact is, a single animal product is much more likely to contain a complete amino acid profile than a single plant protein. However, by consuming a mix of plant proteins on a daily basis, you’ll be able to consume a full range and are highly unlikely to fall short.

Yup, the stigma of not getting enough protein on a vegan diet is well and truly a myth! In fact, a 2002 study concluded that combining a range of plant foods supplied all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals and vitamins necessary for excellent health.

And when it comes to what vegan protein is best, there’s no single best source. In fact, the best thing to do is consume a varied range of plant proteins to ensure you’re consuming all the essential amino acids. So, whether it’s soy, hemp, pea or rice protein, just make sure that the vegan meal replacement shake you pick contains a blend of at least 2 different plant proteins.

Paper sacks of green peas, kidney beans and other vegan protein sources

Which is Best, Organic or Non-Organic?

According to the Soil Association, organic food is always free from pesticides, has no artificial colours or preservatives, is always free range, has no routine use of antibiotics and contains no GM ingredients.

But the real question is, is organic food actually better for you? Well, it seems so! According to multiple studies, organic food contains between 19 and 69% more of the antioxidant compounds which are closely linked to better health.

So, when it comes to shopping for a healthy vegan meal replacement shake, it makes total sense to go organic if you can. However, it’s super important to remember that organic doesn’t inherently mean healthy. It’s still important to check the label and make sure that an organic vegan meal replacement shake is still nutritionally complete and free from added nasties.

organic produce for organic meal replacement shakes

Which Sweeteners are Best in terms of Calories and Safety?

You’re probably well aware that while sugar in moderation is okay, too much of the stuff isn’t good for your health.

Unsurprisingly, this means that most vegan meal replacement shakes on the market have chosen to keep their sugar content low or go completely sugar-free. Instead, many have gone down the sweetener route. But which sweetener best in terms of safety, calorie-content and taste?

Stevia definitely tops our safe yet tasty sweetener list. This all-natural, calorie-free (yes, you heard right!) South American herb offers 200-300x the sweetness of sugar, is completely non-toxic and has no effect on blood sugar levels. Thankfully, numerous vegan meal replacement shakes, including the Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake, are now opting to use stevia as their sweetener of choice.

So what should you avoid? Well, you’ve probably heard of sucralose, which boasts 600x the sweetness sugar (yep, it totally trumps stevia in that department). But you probably aren’t aware of itspotentially dangerous health effects, , including raised blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as potential gut and organ damage if used long-term. No thank-you, sucralose!

While the safety of sweeteners will continue to be a hotly debated topic, your best bet is to opt for stevia or a shake which is low in sugar. After all, sugar isn’t inherently bad – just don’t consume too much of it!

wooden spoon and glass jar of sugar

What’s the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes?

If you’re a dedicated bargain hunter, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth opting for a pricier brand – after all, the variation in vegan meal replacement price points is huge.

Truthfully, there are some very cheap vegan meal replacement shakes on the market. And while we’re all for a bargain (who isn’t?!), in this situation, it’s important to understand what you’re actually putting in your body rather than just picking the cheapest option.

Generally, vegan meal replacements shakes which are made with wholefoods are more expensive than those who use synthetic vitamins blends. But while you may be tempted at the chance to save yourself some money, synthetic supplements aren’t (and shouldn’t be) a substitute for whole foods. Whole foods are complex and offer incomparable nutrition, are packed with essential dietary fibre (which in turn, can prevent certain diseases) and contain high levels of antioxidants to boot. As Harvard Health states,“nutrients are most potent when they come from food.” On top of this, synthetic nutrients are not as easily absorbed and used in the body.

Vegan meal replacement shakes which contain all, or a majority, of organic ingredients, are also likely to be more costly. This is because organic farming is simply far more time consuming – without the addition of chemicals and pesticides, more intensive labour is necessary. Organic farms tend to be smaller than non-organic ones and crops often take longer to grow due to the absence of growth hormones. Ultimately, the choice of whether to eat organic is totally up to you – but the extra expense is justified and may be better for your long-term health.

Bright berry vegan meal replacement shake with green straw

What Do Customer Reviews tell Us about Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes?

Nowadays, it’s so easy to grab a smartphone and write a review, that it’s become difficult to know who to trust. But with the vegan meal replacement market growing, reading up on genuine customer reviews can make the decision-making process a whole lot easier.

So where should you go for impartial feedback? Well, while many brands do have websites filled with genuine customer reviews, you can never be completely sure whether they’ve been manipulated or not. For that reason, heading to an impartial site such as TrustPilot, who implement strict measures to ensure their reviews reflect genuine experiences, is likely to be your best bet at finding authentic feedback.

Our Verdict

Vegan meal replacement shakes can be a fantastic addition to those who lead a busy lifestyle and require complete nutrition on-the-go. They’re also highly effective as part of a healthy weight loss regime and can make the process of reducing calories simpler to understand and easier to follow.

Ultimately, dairy-free meal replacement shakes can be just as effective as non-vegan meal replacement shakes. But do remember that, on both sides, not all shakes are created equally.

Whilst shopping for a meal replacement shake, it’s imperative to check and analyse labels, ingredients and nutritional values to ensure you’re opting for a complete, balanced shake made with high-quality, natural ingredients. Vegan meal replacement shakes aren’t inherently healthy, after all – they’re just as likely to be ridden with chemicals, laxatives and synthetic ingredients as non-vegan formulations.

Thankfully, with the vegan market growing, you’ve got plenty of high-quality, healthy vegan meal replacement shakes to choose from. Here at Nutribuddy, we pride ourselves on creating nutritionally complete, healthy, whole food products which are 100% vegan, cruelty-free and packaged in recyclable or reusable packaging. We genuinely care about our customers, animals and the environment and strive to consistently work with all 3 at the forefront of our mind.

So, why not buy our meal replacement shakes as part of the great value Grab ‘N’ Go Goody Box?

Nutribuddy Grab N Go Goody Box - Breakfast Shake & Shake Complete meal replacement shakes

Stock image credit: Unsplash, Pexels & Pixabay

Stock image credit: UnsplashPexels & Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

Author Bio!

Alice Nutribuddy Author Bio

Post by Alice

After graduating from University with a 1st class marketing degree, I ventured into the world of freelance marketing. I now work as Nutribuddy’s Marketing Assistant on all things content and social media! Originally from North Wales but now based in Chester, I spend my free time writing on my blog, hanging out with my sausage dog and travelling. As a self-confessed animal-lover who’s trying to lead an increasingly eco-friendly lifestyle, I’m super happy to be working with an ethical, cruelty-free and vegan brand like Nutribuddy!