Meal replacement shakes are promoted as a healthy quick solution if you’re too busy to eat or for weight loss, they’re packed with protein and superfoods in a convenient powder. How do shakes compare to food for nutrition and cost? Let’s Sciences it. Hey, welcome to my blog  I’m Dr Kelly Ronaldo. Let’s say you’re looking to meal replacement shakes because you’re too busy to eat but you still want to be healthy.

The first what are these shakes? There’s a bunch available on the market right now. Generally, there is a high protein powder with other nutrients from juice extracts, freeze-dried plants or synthetic vitamin and mineral mixes. These powders are blended with ice and water or with other add-ins like milk, fruits and veggies. How do you shake compared to whole food meals nutritionally? Well, it depends on what kind of meal it is you’re replacing for?

Comparison’s we’ll look at a McDonald’s Big Mac with fries, a coke, a salad with quinoa tomatoes, cucumber, almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette or a homemade blueberry banana smoothie with spinach, Greek yoghurt, almond butter and almond mil.  These three meals will go head-to-head with six popular shakes Isagenix Shakeology Keshava Sample Soylent and Arbonne, check out my other blog post description for all the nitty-gritty calculations.

All these shakes are healthier than McDonald’s, considering looking at the calories, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Though some of these shakes are too low in calories to really call them a full meal but we can pretty confidently say that replacing a fast-food meal with a shake is a healthier option. How do these shake stack up against the salad and homemade smoothie all of these shakes are formulated to taste like dessert using added sugar or sweeteners, like stevia. Added sugar is anything from honey and organic raw cane sugar to nectars and fructose and this is different from the naturally occurring sugars in say the blueberries which offer sweetness while also bringing along beneficial nutrients.

This salad and smoothie no added sugar these shake anywhere from 8 to 22 % of your daily added sugar cap. Now, this amount may or may not be an issue depending on what else you eat that day regardless I’m not a fan of the added sugar in the shakes.

Next fibre. The salad had the most fibre by far with the homemade smoothie ample Isagenix and cassava being pretty equivalent followed by Shakeology then Soylent. Our bond at the lower end adults should be aiming for around 30 grams of fibre per day and most British people are only getting half that. Fibre plays so many important roles from the diet including enhancing satiety stabilizing blood glucose, reducing cholesterol, keeping you regular and nourishing the trillions of gut bacteria that make up the microbiome plus high fibre diets reduce the risk of some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

So fibre is important but it’s not just the amount of fibre but also the different types of fibre that matter while all these shakes have some fibre the way they have processed means that they don’t have very many types. All these superfood blends of fruits and veggies were processed into juice extracts which removes all the fibre many add back individual types of fibre like gums, inulin or resistant maltodextrin. The jury is still out on whether the added fibre is as beneficial as naturally occurring fibre and research into ideal diets for the microbiome is still early but the best evidence we have shows that diverse fibre intake supports a diverse microbiome and diverse microbiomes are the healthiest due to processing methods.

These shakes inevitably have less fibre diversity than the whole food smoothie by removing the fibre it’s really inaccurate to say that these shakes are the equivalent of eating fruits and vegetables. Some of these shakes get their vitamins and minerals through an added mix. The research consensus is that supplementing individual nutrients is less beneficial than consuming them in whole food.

There’s just something synergistic about the whole food package of fibre water and nutrients that are greater than the sum of its parts. Many of these shakes have a few additional bells and whistles, some include digestive enzymes which seems pretty unnecessary because our GI tract produces these enzymes at the right time and place some also include a probiotic blend of beneficial bacteria.

Now since these shakes are supplements meaning they’re not regulated by the British government. We have no idea whether these bacteria are still alive plus we’re still super early in probiotic research. So we don’t know whether these are the right types and amounts of bacteria to be supplementing.

Finally the cost factor. The McDonald’s meal was by far the most expensive ample was the priciest shake of the bunch at over six dollars per serving Shakeology and kochava were more expensive than the homemade smoothie and Isagenix Soylent and Arbonne less expensive sure. There are some caveats to these comparisons many of these shake powders can be blended with additional milk,s fruits and veggies so that alters their nutritional profile and their cost there are other preferences that could be fulfilled by these shakes like eliminating dairy in soy or focusing on plant proteins though these preferences can also be incorporated into whole food smoothies.

Overall meal replacement shakes are generally a healthier option than fast food. But not a whole food smoothie or a balanced meal. You definitely don’t want to be replacing all of your meals with them. Replacing meals every once in a while is okay but when looking at healthy habits in the long run that are equivalently convenient whole food options that would be better my nourish.

Now the conclusions, when making major dietary changes it’s best to consult a registered dietician for individualized advice and this is probably a different person than your acquainted selling shakes of social media putting all this data together. I would opt for a whole food smoothie in place of a powdered shake on busy days for both nutritional and cost reasons. It can be just as quick and convenient as a powdered shake but you’ll be retaining the dietary fibre and skipping the added sugar no matter what don’t forget to rinse out your cup to avoid that dreaded smoothie cement that’s what science tastes like.

Thanks for coming to my blog and check out my blog post is coming for all of my references and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on all things from my website.


  1. Best Meal Replacement Shakes Buyer’s Guide
  2. The Eatwell Guide
  3. Investigation of mechanisms involved in postprandial glycemia and insulinemia attenuation with dietary fibre consumption
  4. Unravelling the Effects of Soluble Dietary Fibre Supplementation on Energy Intake and Perceived Satiety in Healthy Adults
  5. Why USN Diet Fuel is the Best Meal Replacement Shake in the UK

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