Category: Meals

Meal Replacement Programs Are Fast and Easy – But Are They Healthy?

Meal replacement programs can be a very convenient way to diet. But the ingredients for these products may not be all that healthy.

meal replacement

What Are They?

A meal replacement program uses prepackaged foods. They are most commonly in the form of shakes and bars. Some also come in the form of cookies and soups. The programs are designed to use one of these foods as a replacement for at least one of your meals and in some cases, all of your meals.

Some popular meal replacement diets and products include:

  • The Medifast diet program
  • The Optifast diet program
  • The Herbalife diet program
  • Slim Fast
  • Ideal Protein

Pros:

This type of weight loss program is attractive for several reasons:

  1. You don’t have to cook one or more meals. That’s great if you’re a busy person or just don’t like to cook.
  2. It’s convenient. Again, if you’re a busy person, it’s easy to throw a shake or bar into your purse (or lunchbox) and take it with you to work or a day of play.
  3. You don’t have to think about it. For at least one of your meals, you don’t have to count calories or worry about what to eat.

Cons:

OK, so there’s a lot of good reasons to use a meal replacement diet. But here’s the problem I have with them. These prepackaged foods don’t always have healthy ingredients. Very common ingredients include:

  • Soy
  • Sugar (Not exactly a diet food!)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial flavors
  • Preservatives

If you’re trying to improve your health by losing weight, what’s the point in eating unhealthy foods to do it? The good news is, there are healthy ways to replace a meal. Healthy meal replacement protein drinks and even bars can be made at home.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this; meal replacement diets can be an easy way to lose weight, but check the ingredients of the foods you’re going to eat. Make sure they’re made with healthy, natural ingredients; not a long list of chemicals or even natural foods that are actually unhealthy.

Make Healthy Carbs Part of Your Healthy Diet Plan

Healthy carbs are complex carbs. Unhealthy carbs are simple. The difference means a lot to your health and weight-loss goals.

Cut Out the Junk

Although I believe cutting down on carbohydrates is the best way to lose weight, not all carbs are created equal. You definitely want to cut down on and even eliminate if possible, the simple carbohydrates found in most junk foods. These foods include:

  • Sodas
  • Candy
  • Ice Cream
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Doughnuts and other Pastries

These foods contain loads of sugar and/or white flour, which are simple carbohydrates.

Avoid the White

Although not typically thought of as junk food, white pastas, white bread and white rice are more simple carbs that should be avoided. The problem with simple carbs is that they are highly refined foods that lack the fiber of whole foods. They can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels, increasing your risk of diabetes and other diseases as well as make you fat. Whole wheat products are a little bit better, but not much.

Eat Whole Foods

eat whole foods

The best carbs are complex carbs. They are found in whole fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grain and sprouted grain products. Complex carbs contain fiber, which slows down the digestion and helps to prevent blood-sugar spikes. They also contain nutrients that are lacking in the simple carbs.

The best carbs to eat are:

  • Raw or cooked vegetables, but limit white potatoes.
  • Fresh or frozen fruits. Just be sure frozen fruit doesn’t have any added sugar. And don’t drink your fruit. Fruit juice lacks the needed fiber.
  • Nuts – Limit these to a couple of handfuls per day if you’re trying to lose weight. They are high in calories.
  • Seeds – Limit these for the same reason.
  • Legumes (beans)
  • Whole and sprouted grains

Check the Label

Whole foods that you prepare at home are best, but if you buy bread, cereal or other processed foods, be sure to check the nutrition label. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a good rule-of-thumb is to look for a carbohydrate to fiber ratio of 10 to 1. In other words, there should be at least 1 gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrates. They found these foods to have on average; less sugar, sodium and trans-fats.

When choosing a diet program or designing your own, low-carb doesn’t mean no-carb. Carbohydrates are necessary for optimal health. Just be sure you’re including healthy carbs in the form of whole foods and you’ll do fine.