Cedars-Sinai Blog

Meal Replacement Shakes: What You Need To Know

Cedars-Sinai dietitian Christina Fasulo explains the do's and don'ts of meal replacement shakes and how to make your own.

"Even though they are a convenient way to get a somewhat nourishing meal, they will never completely replace a healthy diet of whole foods."

Meal replacement shakes have long been popular drinks for athletes trying to stay fit and dieters aiming to shed extra pounds.

But what if you're hopeless in the kitchen, don't have time to create a healthy meal, or simply like the convenience of drinkable food?

To better understand the do's and don'ts of meal replacement shakes, we spoke to Christina Fasulo, a registered dietitian at Cedars-Sinai.

What exactly is a meal replacement shake?

Christina Fasulo: Meal replacement shakes are pre-made shakes that are typically between 150-400 calories, with a combination of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. These shakes can serve as a convenient substitute to cooking a balanced meal or snack.

Can you swap all your meals with a shake?

CF: I would not recommend this because many of these replacement shakes are lacking some of the nutrients that you can get throughout the day from your meals, especially fiber.

Can meal replacement shakes be sustainable for a long period of time?

CF: No. Even though they can be a convenient way to get a somewhat nourishing meal, they will never completely replace a healthy diet based on whole foods.

How do you pick the best meal replacement shake?

CF: The key to picking the best shake is to get the one that has the lowest number of ingredients on the back or sports a list of healthy ingredients you recognize. If you're comparing meal replacement shakes at the store, I would suggest getting one that has at least 15 grams of protein, a healthy dose of fat, and minimal amounts of added sugar. 

Can making a smoothie be the same as drinking a meal replacement shake?

CF: Depending on what ingredients you put in your smoothie, it could be the same as a shake. You have control of the ingredients and can make a fiber-rich, nutrient-dense drink that can be more fulfilling, thicker, and more substantial.

Do you have a favorite meal replacement "smoothie" recipe?

CF: Yes, this chocolate banana shake is easy to make and healthy. It includes "hidden" veggies for vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and enough protein, fat, and fiber to keep you full.

  • 1 small frozen, pre-sliced banana
  • 1-1 1/2 cups plant-based milk
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen cauliflower rice
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!