Vegan Meal Replacement Shakes: It’s a Green, Green World
Veganism – a word we hear more and more often from people all around us. Regardless of the reason behind it, this lifestyle choice is a major step in anyone’s eating habits.
Although there’s no doubt vegans can get plenty of nutrients, today’s market offers less and less healthy options to choose from. And when you live an active life, getting vegan meal replacement shakes might be your only solution.
But should we really rely on one drink to get so many micronutrients our body requires to stay healthy? It’s time to find out what are the exact benefits of this seemingly miraculous supplement along with the healthiest products to choose from.
Before we get to that, though, there is one question to answer…
What are meal replacement shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are beverages with highly nutritional content that help consumers reach a healthy balance of calories and nutrients.
This product usually comes in the form of powder, which allows consumers to mix it with other beneficial ingredients such as veggies, fruit or plain water. However, you’ll also find ready-made options to drink whenever you want.
A good-quality meal replacement shake will offer the vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants your body needs on a daily basis. Furthermore, these options are low in carbs and calories, which makes them perfect for losing weight in a healthy manner.
Why use meal replacement shakes?
Clearly, one of the biggest reasons why people turn to these products is to lose weight – and unlike other options, this one is actually helpful.
Research already proved that introducing MRS to your diet helps you lose weight faster (1). During one study, for example, showed that people who drank meal replacement shakes lost 12.3% more weight than those who chose regular, food-only diets (6.9%).
They help you meet daily nutritional needs…
Today’s market is full of foods that barely offer as many nutrients as we need daily – and if you’ve just started a weight loss program, your body already receives less than usual.
Most meal replacement shakes out there contain calcium, iron and vitamin D (2). All these nutrients are essential for tissue regeneration, muscle growth and bone resistance – and unfortunately, they’re particularly hard to get from whole-food meals (3).
…in a convenient way
Getting plenty of vitamins and protein in a sip is the most convenient solution for anyone. We live in the century of speed and you may not have time to cook your own food or go to the restaurant (at least) three times a day. Meanwhile, a shake provides you with a healthy dose of nutrients that you know you’re going to get any time.
Improved control over your meals
We all crave unhealthy foods sometimes, but during weight loss, you may have an even harder time avoiding these cravings. Thankfully, studies proved that the less unhealthy meals you eat, the less cravings you’ll experience over time (4).
If you feel that you’re more prone to unhealthy choices during the afternoon, for instance, it might be the best time for a meal replacement shake; this way, you’ll prevent giving in to unhealthy foods and maintaining a balanced diet.
What does being a vegan mean?
Veganism is a lifestyle choice that promotes and supports animals in every way possible. You probably already know that vegan people don’t eat meat; however, they also avoid dairy, eggs and any other food originated from animals.
Furthermore, vegans don’t use materials designed from animal skin, whether it be clothes or furniture made of natural leather.
Why people choose to go vegan
Although veganism rules are the same for everyone, people have different reasons for choosing this path (5). Here are the most popular motivations they have:
Ethical reasons. Aside from being killed for meat, animals are also kept in cages for dairy products, wool or other benefits. Ethical vegans strongly believe in animal rights for freedom.
Health. Certain studies proved that plant-based diets can reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes and other long-term conditions. Many people choose to consume more fruit and vegetables to stay healthy for a longer time.
Environment. According to UN reports, meat-originated products cause more pollution than the plant-based ones (6). Some people feel that becoming vegan can help humanity save resource and protect itself on the long run.
The challenges of being vegan
Unless you’ve been vegan your entire life, you’ll find that veganism involves exploring the market a bit more (7). If you’re used to drinking milk, you should try out nut or soy milk instead, while eggs can be replaced with scrambled tofu. Double-check the label on every food you buy at the supermarket because it can be deceiving (that deliciously sweet bread may actually contain honey!).
If you’re vegan and trying to lose weight, you need to make sure you get all the nutrients required throughout the day. Eating such a wide range of foods can get tricky, so it’s best to make your own lunch at home and look for vegan-friendly restaurants.
The most usual mistakes vegans make
Falling in the trap that every vegan food is healthy is very easy – and if you heard people who didn’t ‘feel good’ as vegans, they were probably on that track too. Simply replacing meals isn’t enough to meet your nutrient needs; you need to do it in a smart way.
Say you replace cow milk with almond milk. Although they’re both rich in vitamins, a cup of almond milk has just 1 gram of protein while cow’s milk has 8 grams. Considering that vegans are prone to protein deficiency, this is just one reason why you really need to know what you’re eating (8).
On the other hand, vegan junk food is shockingly accessible. Pasta, pizza or bread can all be vegan-friendly, which makes overdosing on carbs very easy. Indeed, our body requires every type of macronutrient (carbs, fat and protein) to be healthy, but too much of anything can ruin your weight loss goals (9).
Can a vegan diet be risky?
From a nutritional point of view, veganism comes with potential risks of micronutrient deficiency. Vitamin B12, for instance, is crucial for anybody’s health – but it’s almost entirely found in animal-originated foods. Just like vegetarians, vegans may also struggle with lack of protein, which is crucial for muscle growth and recovery. Furthermore, these people can also lack omega 3 fatty acids – an essential ingredient for lowering blood fat and preventing arthritis (10, 11).
How can meal replacement shakes help vegan people?
As a vegan, you should be extra-careful when choosing your meals for the day – but time and schedule won’t always allow it.
The Institute of Medicine suggests that you should get up to 35% of the daily recommended dose of calories in the form of protein, while 45% should come as carbs and another 20% as fat. Meal replacement shakes are a great way of eating healthy calories that come as a wide variety of nutrients – protein included (12).
However, the same goes for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Foods these days are so processed that no matter how well you look after your diet, you may still not meet your physical requirements. Instead of over-indulging on soy and other popular vegan choices, you can opt for a MRS you know for a fact contains what you need.
How your goals influence the choice of a shake
Of course, your current goals and needs have a strong influence on choosing the best vegan meal replacement shake. If you want to lose weight, for instance, you want your shake to be as low in sugar and carbs as possible. A good option in this case should have less than 10 grams of carbs and no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Meanwhile, if you want to grow some muscle mass (whether it be lean muscle or not), protein is the main factor to consider. The Dietary Reference Intake is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or 56 grams per day for a sedentary man and 46 grams for women. Considering that vegans may already get less protein than needed, your vegan meal replacement shakes of choice should contain at least 15 grams of protein per serving (13).
Due to hormone fluctuations, women are naturally more prone to vitamin deficiencies and need extra folate, calcium, vitamin D and iron (14). Therefore, ladies should choose a MRS that’s particularly high in these micronutrients – especially during menopause or post-pregnancy.
Dosage & the Right Timing
One of the best parts about MRS is that you can take one whenever it’s most helpful for your lifestyle. If you’re in a big rush first thing in the morning, a shake provides you with the right nutrients to prevent unhealthy cravings later on in the day. If your schedule prevents you from eating a healthy lunch, you can mix a shake with something quick and simple like salad to fulfill your calorie needs.
Jamie Mass, R.D., also highly recommends drinking half a serving of MRS about 30 minutes before workout and leave the rest for afterwards (15). This way, you give your body enough energy for the training and fill in the blanks for quick recovery once you’re done for the day.
Finding the right dosage
Studies proved that replacing two whole-food meals with shakes can speed up the weight loss process. However, if you’re new to using these products, limit your intake to one MRS per day to avoid unpleasant symptoms such as nutritional imbalance or dehydration (16). Once you find the right product, you may increase your dosage according to your schedule and goals.
Of course, make sure to read the label of every item thoroughly and take those recommendations into account.
Last, but not least, although they are very helpful for a healthier diet, remember that these shakes cannot become a substitute for every meal of the day.
What to look for in a vegan meal replacement shake
The most useful ingredients
When choosing supplements, most people look at flavor and consistency; of course, these things matter, but the ingredient list is the most important aspect to choose the right option. If you’re a vegan looking for the best vegan meal replacement shake, these ingredients should be included in every serving:
Protein: I cannot state the importance of this macronutrient enough – particularly when it’s so hard for vegans to meet their daily recommended intake; protein gives you energy, satiety to avoid cravings and is a crucial element for quick muscle recovery.
Essential vitamins: Your body needs 13 essential types of vitamins to stay healthy (including vitamins A, C, the B complex and vitamin D); it may sound like a lot, but a good-quality shake should contain at least some amount of them (17).
Minerals: If you want strong bones, regular blood pressure and healthy muscle synthesis, calcium, zinc and iron should be on your MRS list. These nutrients also play an important part in strengthening your immune system while reducing inflammation (18).
Healthy fats: Everybody fears the word ‘fat,’ but we still need it to stay healthy. The Harvard Medical School already proved that healthy fats promote muscle movement, brain functions and prevent heart disease (19). One of the best sources of good fat is fish, but since vegans don’t consume it, meal replacement shakes are a great way to supplement the daily intake.
Ingredients to avoid
No matter how good a product may seem, there are a few red flags that signal it’s not really as healthy as it seems (20). Look out for one of the following ingredients:
- Artificial sweeteners:
may come disguised as saccharin, Splenda or aspartamine;
- Psyllium/Coconut flour:
two fillers that can cause gastric problems your body doesn’t really need;
- Trans Fats:
this is the type of fat everybody should fear
- Artificial flavors:
are often accompanied by preservatives and unhealthy chemicals
According to Clare Collins, nutrition professor at the University of Newcastle, “you need to get enough fiber, folate, B vitamins, iodine, iron, zinc and other essential nutrients, so that you don’t end up with some sort of nutrient deficiency because your diet is so restricted.” He also advises consumers that “Before you jump in and try meal replacements [on a regular basis], it’s a really good idea to go and see your GP for a health check.” (21)
Furthermore, Utah certified personal trainer Kaytlin Neil tells consumer to look for a shake that provides “adequate vitamins, minerals, protein and carbs’ along with ‘any sort of guarantee with the shake or social proof.” She also mentions that “Diets fail because they often restrict too much too quickly, leaving dieters hungry. Meal replacements are delicious ways to cut calories without depriving yourself.” (22)
What are the benefits of vegan meal replacement shakes for non-vegan people?
Although vegans clearly have a lot to win from consuming vegan MRS, they turn out to be a great option for absolutely everyone.
Firstly, each serving is packed with micronutrients we all tend to lack at some point. Some of the most common ones include iron, magnesium and vitamin D – all of which are essential for proper body functions.
For millions of people, animal-originated protein such as whey or casein causes unpleasant digestive symptoms due to lactose intolerance (23). Once again, vegan meal replacement shakes still meet the daily protein intake requirements while being easily, smoothly digested every time.
Take Home Conclusions
Adopting a vegan lifestyle is a big change that has a notable impact on your daily nutrient intake. However, eating a wide variety of foods according to your goals and needs can help you stay healthy on the long term.
Meal replacement shakes are a quick, convenient way of achieving a healthy balance between macronutrients and micronutrients. When choosing the right product, you should check the protein amount per serving, vitamins and minerals and look out for dangerous ingredients such as artificial sweeteners or trans fats.
This option is also highly recommended to non-vegans mainly because plant-based shakes are easier to digest and may offer more nutrients per serving than other types. A regular adult can consume one or two shakes per day and use them to replace an otherwise unhealthy meal – or a meal they don’t have time to enjoy.
The best vegan meal replacement shake
So now you know what veganism means and how it impacts your health and diet. With all the popularity MRS are gaining, though, the market is filled with deceiving options. If you don’t want to spend days searching for a good product to test, check out our recommendations.
As its name suggests, this meal replacement contains enough organic ingredients to be amazing. At 20 grams of protein originated from hemp, chia and quinoa, the USA-made powder blends easily with any other beverage you like. It contains less than one gram of sugar and 5 grams of carbs per serving, making it perfect for weight-loss diets; as a plus, the micronutrients extracted from 9 nutrient-dense fruits and veggies make this product a notable source of nutrients.
- Free from genetically modified ingredients
- 11 natural flavors for enhanced tasting experience
- Contains all-organic alkalizing greens grown in USA
- Customers claim that some flavors are too strong
This product offers 20 grams of protein per serving, which is great for both active people and those trying to lose weight. It contains plenty of vitamin B12, which vegans need in particular. Despite the fact that it has only one gram of sugar, it comes with a delicious natural chocolate flavor that turns it into a tasty meal you can grab anytime. Although there are 18 carbs per serving, they come from dietary fiber, which turns out to be beneficial.
- The green coffee bean extract offers energy and promotes fat burn
- Contains proteolytic enzymes that ease your digestion
- Includes a mix of pea, potato and chlorella protein for all the essential amino acids
- Some customers claim that the new formula changed the product taste
Don’t let the simple packaging of this product fool you. The 310 Meal Replacement Shake contains a powerful mix of protein, healthy carbs along with vitamins and minerals to support healthy nutrition. Whether it’s vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium or folate, all these ingredients help users meet their nutritional needs according to their diet. A major plus of this item is that it’s completely free from sugar, thus preventing cravings later in the day.
- Only 90 calories, which is great for weight loss diets
- Contains probiotics, which are essential for efficient digestion
- 17 minerals and vitamins that meet your nutritional needs
- Some customers reported a chalky texture
If you’re always on the run and need a quick way to recharge your batteries, this shake is packed with all the nutrients you need. Manufactured in Northern California, each organic serving has a healthy blend of vitamin D, calcium, iron and vitamin B12. The shake is naturally sweetened using stevia, which can regulate blood pressure and prevent osteoporosis.
- 50% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12
- Friendly package that’s easily carried around during busy days
- 4 delicious flavors that match all preferences
- 11 grams of protein, which may not be enough for active lifestyles
Looking for a shake that actually makes you feel full? Of the 12 grams of carbs it contains per serving, Garden of Life has 9 grams of dietary fiber that promote satiety until your next meal. This healthy option packs up a mix of vitamins and minerals topped with beneficial fats both vegans and non-vegans need. At 170 calories per serving, the naturally-flavored product offers an organic blend of vegan protein sources such as brown rice and pea that offer every essential amino acid you need.
- Only non-GMO ingredients
- Mild, natural flavors that make it a good meal choice any time of the day
- 28 grams of plant protein, which is perfect for muscle recovery and active lifestyles
- Some people claim the resulting shake is too thick for their taste
Each of the meal replacement shakes mentioned above make healthy substitutes for meals on a daily basis. Of course, the final option should reflect your lifestyle, physical goals and taste preferences; however, our overall favorite is the Lean 1 Plant-Based Meal Replacement.
First of all, this product has 20 grams of plant protein blend – enough to support the extra need for essential amino acids vegan people often have. Of the 18 grams of carbs it contains, there are 10 grams of dietary fiber. As studies already proved, fiber is essential for controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining healthy digestion.
This option is particularly high in vitamin D and vitamin B 12, which vegans often struggle getting from their diet. Last, but not least, the green coffee bean extract is a bonus that promotes fat burn in a healthy way, thus helping you lose weight (or maintain the current one) on the long run.
Considering the wide range of nutrients it contains, Lean 1 Plant-Based Meal Replacement is an amazing choice that meets vegan needs in a quick, tasty way.