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Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is the best way to stay healthy, but sometimes a busy lifestyle or other circumstances make it hard to prepare a full meal.

Meal replacement systems are meant to help you get a meal’s worth of nutrients when you don’t have the time or access to enjoy a proper meal.

The most popular alternatives include shakes, bars, and powders. Products high in protein and fiber help increase fullness and satiety, so we focused on products that prioritize these.

You may want to incorporate meal replacement products into your diet to either gain, lose, or maintain your weight. Because they are pre-measured portions in terms of calories, carbs, fat, and protein, they make reaching these goals easier to track.

However, just as everybody has different nutritional needs, not all meal replacements are created equal. Therefore, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to replacing a meal.

Still, some alternatives may provide you with added energy and nutrients to get you through the day.

All the products included have been vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards. We took into account the following criteria when looking for the best meal replacement products:

  • Third-party testing and other quality certifications. We focused on products with these types of certifications because they verify a product’s safety. They can ensure that a product is standardized, made with high quality ingredients, free of contaminants and banned or harmful ingredients, and doesn’t contain ingredients that aren’t declared on its label.
  • Ingredient quality. We made sure to prioritize products made with high quality ingredients that could help improve your diet quality.
  • Nutrient ratio. We selected products that could make nutritionally balanced meal replacements, although some make more suitable snack replacements if consumed on their own.
  • Price. We looked for shakes and bars that would fit into different budgets, with options that range from $1.75–$4.5 per serving.

Here are the 8 best meal replacement products.

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher price range.

Generally, prices range from $1.75–$4.5 per serving, or $27.99–$67.15 per multipack or tub. Though this may vary depending on where you shop.

Note that serving sizes vary by product. Some products are sold in multipacks, while others are available as multi-serving tubs.

Pricing guide:

  • $ = under $2.50 per serving
  • $$ = between $2.50–$5 per serving
  • $$$ = over $5 per serving

Most filling meal replacement shake

Ample Original Complete Meal Shake

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: grass-fed whey protein, coconut, macadamia, and sunflower oils, tapioca flour, MCTs, sunflower lecithin, organic psyllium husk, dried honey, sea salt, organic wheatgrass and barley grass, lemon juice powder, organic guar gum, cinnamon, natural flavors, probiotic blend, monk fruit, and stevia extracts
  • Available flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and berry

Available in two sizes that provide 400–600 calories per bottle and a canister option, Ample Original Complete Meal Shake offers a high protein, high fat, and high fiber meal to help keep you full.

Each bottle comes with a chocolate-, vanilla-, or berry-flavored powder, which you prepare by mixing with water, milk, coffee, or your favorite juice.

The shakes are gluten- and soy-free, and they pack a wide range of high quality nutrients, including prebiotics and probiotics to support a healthy gut.

Additionally, Ample products are manufactured in a good manufacturing practices (GMPs), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registered facility and boast both NSF International and NSF Sports certifications, meaning that they’re free of substances banned by athletic organizations.

Note that the fluid you use to mix the powder may change the nutrient composition.

Here’s the nutrition information for the Ample original vanilla-flavored shake:

  • Calories: 400
  • Protein: 25 grams
  • Carbs: 11 grams
  • Fat: 28 grams

Pros

  • made with grass-fed whey protein
  • contains six different strains of probiotics
  • provides 7 grams of fiber per serving, making it a fiber-rich product

Cons

  • provides 440 mg of sodium per serving, making it a high sodium product
  • limited flavor variety

Best nut- and dairy-free meal replacement shake

Soylent Original Plant Protein Meal Replacement Shake

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: water, soy protein, maltodextrin, sunflower and canola oils, cellulose, vitamin and mineral mix, modified food starch, corn fiber, soy lecithin, natural flavors, salt, gellan gum, and sucralose
  • Available flavors: original, creamy chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, mint chocolate, cafe mocha, cafe chai, and banana

The Soylent meal replacement shake is another high calorie alternative suited for people looking to fit more nutritionally balanced calories into their day.

This shake offers plant-based nutrition and is vegan, kosher, gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free. It’s also manufactured in an FDA inspected, global food safety initiative (GFSI) certified facilities.

Here’s the nutrition information for Soylent Original Plant Protein Meal Replacement Shake:

  • Calories: 400
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 37 grams
  • Fat: 24 grams

Pros

  • contains no artificial flavors or colors
  • wide range of flavors

Cons

  • some consumers report experiencing headaches and nausea after consuming
  • with 300 mg of sodium per serving, it’s a high sodium product

Best low budget meal replacement shake

Keto Function Keto+ Shake

  • Price: $
  • Ingredients: MCT oil powder, grass-fed whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed bovine collagen, Dutch cocoa powder, sea salt, natural vanilla flavor, Himalayan pink salt, proprietary mineral complex, stevia and monk fruit extract, and organic caffeine
  • Available flavors: Dutch chocolate

Keto Function Keto+ Shake also provides a 75-to-20-to-5 ratio of fat, protein, and carbs to help you maintain your keto lifestyle when you’re short on time or keto-friendly meal choices.

This one is also sold in powder form, which can be mixed with water, coffee, or plant-based milk. Note that the nutrition composition may change depending on the fluid you use to mix the shake. Moreover, it contains added electrolytes and 20 mg of caffeine for an energy boost.

However, the gluten-free, Dutch-chocolate-flavored shake is also on the lower calorie side and should be complemented with some keto-friendly foods, such as jerky, cheese, or nuts to get the most out of your meal.

Additionally, the shake is manufactured in an FDA registered, GMP certified facility.

Moreover, it contains added electrolytes and 20 mg of caffeine for an energy boost.

Here’s the nutrition information for Keto Function Keto+ Shake:

  • Calories: 195
  • Protein: 12 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fat: 15 grams

Pros

  • another keto-friendly product that helps satisfy a sweet tooth
  • provides 2 grams of net carbs
  • contains added electrolytes

Cons

  • contains 20 mg of caffeine per serving, which may limit its use after certain hours
  • only one available flavor
  • doesn’t provide enough calories to replace a full meal

Best plant-based meal replacement protein bar

ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: organic peanuts, organic tapioca fiber, organic protein blend, organic chocolate chips, organic tapioca syrup, organic vegetable glycerin, organic roasted pumpkin seeds, sea salt, and organic monk fruit
  • Available flavors: coconut chocolate almond, peanut butter chocolate chip, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate mint, and vanilla almond crunch

ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars offer a balanced nutrient ratio of carbs, protein, and fat.

You can find these paleo-friendly bars in multiple flavors. They’re also vegan, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic, non-GMO, and gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free.

However, given their low calorie count, try to pair them with some high quality carb and protein sources like Greek yogurt, hummus, or edamame to increase your meal’s nutritional value.

Here’s the nutrition information for the peanut butter chocolate chip bar:

  • Calories: 240
  • Protein: 14 grams
  • Carbs: 24 grams
  • Fat: 12 grams

Pros

  • only paleo-friendly option on this list
  • wide range of flavors
  • users report great flavor and texture

Cons

  • need to be paired with other foods to make a complete meal
  • some consumers report headaches after consuming them

Best tasting meal replacement shake

OWYN Complete Nutrition Shake

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: water, pea protein, organic flaxseed oil, oat powder, organic pumpkin seed protein, tapioca dextrin, sunflower oil, organic cane sugar, natural flavor, vitamin & mineral powder, sunflower lecithin, cinnamon powder, monk fruit extract, Himalayan pink salt, and natural caffeine (from green coffee beans)
  • Available flavors: chai and chocolate

OWYN provides a nutrient-rich, plant-based option for people looking for a vegan shake free of allergens such as soy and peanuts. Additionally, OWYN is relatively low in sugar, coming in at 5 grams, and is fortified with vitamins and nutrients, including vegan omega-3s.

Many customers note that both the chocolate and chai flavors are pleasant and don’t contain the chalky texture that some protein shakes have. Customers also note that they don’t experiencing the bloating and gas that can be common with other protein supplements.

Though this shake has a decent amount of protein at 20 grams and is relatively low in sugar, it only contains 300 calories. Therefore, you may need more than one shake or add additional food in order to have a complete and balanced meal.

  • Calories: 300
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Fat: 10 grams

Pros

  • customer reviews applaud this shake’s flavor and texture
  • made from 100 percent plant-based protein
  • free from allergens like peanuts, dairy, and soy

Cons

  • only 300 calories, so it won’t completely satisfy on its own
  • limited to two flavor options

Best dairy-free meal replacement shake

Ripple Nutrition Protein Shake

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: water, pea protein, cane sugar, sunflower oil, contains less than 0.5% of natural flavor, salt, dipotassium phosphate, tricalcium phosphate, mixed tocopherols (to preserve freshness), sunflower lecithin, monk fruit extract, gellan gum, and guar gum
  • Flavors: salted caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee

The Ripple Nutrition Protein Shake is a good option for people seeking a dairy-free and plant-based protein shake. Ripple’s protein shake is high in calcium, which makes it a good substitute for other dairy-based protein shakes.

Customers remark positively on the creamy texture and rich flavor of this shake. This shake is also relatively low in sugar, compared with competing protein shakes, coming in at 9 grams of sugar per shake.

As with other protein shakes, this shake is only 200 calories, so you may need to supplement its lack of calories with another shake or with more food, depending on your goals and dietary needs.

  • Calories: 200
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbs: 12 grams

Pros

  • good for people with a dairy allergy
  • customers positively review their flavor and texture

Cons

  • not enough calories to constitute a full meal

Best organic protein bars

GoMacro MacroBars (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)

  • Price: $$
  • Ingredients: organic brown rice syrup, organic peanut butter, organic protein blend (organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic pea protein), organic puffed brown rice, organic fair trade chocolate chips (organic coconut sugar, organic cocoa, organic cocoa butter), and organic peanuts
  • Other flavors: oatmeal chocolate chip, salted caramel chocolate chip, double chocolate + peanut butter chips, coconut + almond butter + chocolate chips, peanut butter, banana + almond butter, blueberry + cashew butter, maple sea salt, lemon + lemon, sunflower butter + chocolate, dark chocolate + almonds, mocha chocolate, and cashew caramel

GoMacro bars are USDA certified organic as well as gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and non-GMO.

Additionally, some of the GoMacro bars like the Protein Pleasure (peanut butter and chocolate chip) and the Everlasting Joy (coconut, almond Butter, and chocolate chips) are low FODMAP options.

GoMacro bars land between 240 and 290 calories depending on the flavor and have about 11 grams of protein each.

This isn’t enough calories to completely replace a whole meal, especially if you’re not trying to achieve a calorie deficit or you only have three meals a day, so it’s a good idea to include more food.

These bars are also higher in sugar than some others on our list coming in at 14 grams per bar.

  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 11 grams
  • Protein: 11 grams
  • Carbs: 39 grams

Pros

  • certified organic
  • all bars are vegan, kosher, and gluten-free
  • company is committed to sourcing ingredients sustainably

Cons

  • not enough calories to completely replace a meal
  • higher in sugar than some other bars

Ample Original Complete Meal Shake
Soylent Original Plant Protein Meal Replacement Shake
Keto Function Keto+ Shake
ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars
OWYN Complete Nutrition Shake
Ripple Nutrition Protein ShakeGoMacro MacroBars (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
Best formost fillingmost flavorslow-budgetplant-basedbest-tastingdairy-freeorganic
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Flavors•chocolate
•vanilla
•berry
•original
•creamy chocolate
•strawberry
•vanilla
•mint chocolate
•cafe mocha
•cafe chai
•banana
•Dutch chocolate•coconut chocolate almond
•peanut butter chocolate chip
•chocolate fudge brownie
•chocolate chip cookie dough
•chocolate mint
•vanilla almond crunch
•chocolate
•chai
•salted caramel
•vanilla
•chocolate
•coffee
•oatmeal chocolate chip
•salted caramel chocolate chip
•double chocolate + peanut butter chips, •coconut + almond butter + chocolate chips
•peanut butter, banana + almond butter
•blueberry + cashew butter
•maple sea salt
•lemon + lemon
•sunflower butter + chocolate
•dark chocolate + almonds
•mocha chocolate
•cashew caramel
MacrosCalories: 400
Protein: 25 grams
Carbs: 11 grams
Fat: 28 grams
Calories: 400
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 37 grams
Fat: 24 grams
Calories: 195
Protein: 12 grams
Carbs: 6 grams
Fat: 15
Calories: 240
Protein: 14 grams
Carbs: 24 grams
Fat: 12
Calories: 300
Protein:11 grams
Carbs: 31 grams
Fat: 10 grams
Calories: 200
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 12 grams
Fat: 7 grams
Calories: 290
Protein: 11 grams
Carbs: 39 grams
Fat: 11 grams
Key ingredient features•made with grass-fed whey protein
•contains no artificial sweeteners or flavors
•includes pre- and probiotics
•plant-based protein
•contains no artificial flavors or colors
•made with grass-fed whey protein
•contains hydrolyzed collagen
•made with high quality, organic ingredients•made with plant-based protein
•allergen-free
•plant-based protein
•dairy-free
•high in calcium
•certified organic ingredients
•plant-based protein
•kosher, vegan, gluten-free

When shopping for a meal replacement, make sure to get one that provides a good ratio of macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fat — that best fits your lifestyle.

Generally, try to go for an option containing at least 15–25 grams of protein, 10–15 grams of fat, over 10 vitamins and minerals, and over 3 grams of fiber per serving — and avoid those with added sugars.

What’s more, look for high quality brands that use whole food ingredients and third-party quality testing to ensure you’re getting the best possible alternative to a nutritious meal.

Also, consider the product’s packaging to ensure it’s convenient enough to fit your needs, and consider complementing it with nutrient-rich foods if going for an option that’s below 400 calories per serving.

Still, remember that meal replacement systems are meant to be a convenient way to get your nutrients when you’re short on time, on the go, or don’t have access to high quality foods.

They may also come in handy if you’re having a hard time getting a high number of calories into your day or doing endurance activities, such as biking or hiking.

However, they shouldn’t replace your everyday meals. Instead, aim to eat whole, nutritious meals the majority of the time and only opt for meal replacements every once in a while.

Lastly, though meal replacements may be a successful weight loss strategy for adults, there’s not enough evidence to support this practice among children and adolescents (1).

Making lifestyle modifications would be the best approach for sustainable, long-term weight loss.

Benefits

Aside from being convenient for when you just can’t enjoy a proper meal, meal replacement products offer multiple benefits.

For starters, since they provide fixed and known amounts of calories and nutrients, they’re a helpful strategy that aid with portion management for weight loss (2, 3).

Additionally, a 2018 study of 200 people showed that meal replacement products may help long-term adherence to weight loss programs because their simple structure and convenience make weight loss easier to follow (4).

They may also help improve metabolic markers such as blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and insulin, and blood cholesterol levels (5, 7).

Similarly, a 2015 study of 1,767 participants showed that people who consumed meal replacement products in combination with conventional foods tend to make dietary choices that improve dietary quality (6).

These choices include consuming more fruits, vegetables, and yogurt and reducing fat and sweets intake (6).

Studies also found a greater vitamin and mineral intake in people who include meal replacement products as part of their weight loss diet than those following a low calorie diet made exclusively of conventional foods (4, 6).

Lastly, meal replacement products can be a healthier alternative to fast foods while helping satisfy cravings for sweets and other unhealthy starchy meals (2).

Risks

Regardless of their multiple benefits, meal replacement products also have some disadvantages.

One of the primary downsides discussed by nutritional professionals is that they only offer a temporary solution for weight loss rather than encouraging permanent changes in eating habits (8).

This means that if consumed for weight loss purposes, they may not be effective in the long run.

In fact, one 2020 study of 260 participants found that in people who completed a meal replacement-based weight loss program, significant initial weight loss was followed by substantial weight regain (8, 9).

What’s more, evidence suggests that meal replacement products may even promote unhealthy relationships with food.

Since some provide as little as 130 calories per serving, they might be used to compensate for calorie overconsumption after indulging in a rewarding or palatable food — meaning that they may promote disordered eating habits such as binge eating in some people (10).

Finally, there are cases of products being contaminated with heavy metals or containing higher amounts of caffeine than reported on the label (11).

How often can I have a meal replacement shake?

Since meal replacement products are primarily meant to provide a meal’s worth of nutrients whenever life gets in the way, their intake frequency can vary significantly from one person to another.

However, if you have a busy schedule or are part of a supervised weight loss program, you could have them daily.

Are protein bars better than shakes as a meal replacement product?

Choosing one type of product over the other depends greatly on your personal needs.

For example, if you need to have a quick lunch during or between work meetings, then sipping on a shake will most likely be the most convenient option. However, suppose you need one on a hike.

In that case, it’s probably more practical to eat a protein bar since its packaging is easier to save for later disposal.

Furthermore, consider your appetite and whether you’re trying to lose weight when choosing between a shake or a bar.

This is because chewing your food increases appetite-related gut hormones. Thus, solid or chunkier foods such as protein bars produce higher feelings of fullness than liquid foods — leading to a reduced food intake (12, 13, 14, 15).

What meal is best to replace with a shake?

Like their intake frequency, deciding which meal is best to replace with a shake will most likely be influenced by your schedule or needs.

However, research suggests that replacing breakfast and/or afternoon snacks may improve your diet quality (2).

Breakfasts are often comprised of foods rich in saturated fats and high glycemic index (GI) carbs, which spike your blood sugar levels.

Therefore, by swapping it for a shake, you may enjoy a more nutritionally balanced meal. This is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes (2, 16).

Replacing your afternoon snack with a shake or bar may help control cravings for sweets and other processed foods (2).

Is it OK to only drink meal replacement shakes?

Filling your nutritional needs based solely on meal replacement products may lead to an insufficient daily caloric intake, as many products provide very few calories to make up a whole meal. In fact, some may be two to three times lower in calories than an average meal (17, 18).

Consuming too few calories can be detrimental to your health because your body will have a hard time maintaining normal bodily functions. It can also directly affect your mental capacities and concentration (19).

Moreover, while meal replacement products can be nutritionally balanced, they lack other nutrients or bioactive compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals present in fruits and vegetables that are also needed for optimal health (20).

Therefore, it would be best to pair your meal replacement shakes with other foods to increase your caloric intake and complete your meal’s nutritional profile.

Can I drink 2 meal replacement shakes a day?

Yes. In fact, studies have found that partial meal replacement plans — which consist of two meal replacements per day combined with additional meals made from conventional foods — are a successful strategy for weight loss (6).

However, it may be deficient in calories and nutrients for weight maintenance. Thus, it isn’t recommended for extended periods of time (6).

On the contrary, keep in mind that drinking two meal replacement shakes per day in addition to your meals, the extra calories can easily lead to weight gain by creating a calorie surplus.

Meal replacement systems are designed to help you fit a meal’s worth of nutrients whenever enjoying a wholesome meal isn’t an option.

You may find them as bars, shakes, and powders in a variety of flavors and comprising various nutrient compositions.

When shopping for meal replacements, choose high quality brands that use wholesome ingredients and consider which nutrient ratio and packaging work best for you.