Should you try a meal replacement weight-loss plan?

  • 2 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

If you find diets involving complicated meal planning and hours spent cooking overwhelming, you might consider a meal replacement weight-loss plan. Learn how this convenient plan can help even the busiest person meet weight-loss goals.

Meal replacement weight-loss plan

What is a meal replacement weight-loss plan?

Partial meal replacement weight-loss plans replace one or two of your regular meals with high-protein, low-carb shakes or bars, helping you reduce calories to lose weight. Of course, simply adding bars or shakes to your current eating plan will not promote weight loss.

Although there are different ways to implement this type of meal plan, a healthy approach rounds out the meal replacements with ample non-starchy veggies, fresh fruit, and lean protein.

Meal replacement plans work (as long as you follow them)

A review published in the journal Obesity concluded that meal replacements are an effective weight-loss intervention. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that substituting one or two daily meals or snacks with meal replacements is a successful weight-loss and weight-maintenance strategy. Indeed, research indicates that meal replacement plans may promote more weight loss than standard eating plans.

How meal replacements help you lose weight


Ready-to-go meals mean less time spent shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning up. Meal replacement bars and shakes may also be a good fit if you tend to eat on the run.


If you often skip meals or have a chaotic eating routine, adopting a structured eating plan can help keep you on track. Meal replacements mean fewer mealtime decisions, with the assistance of built-in portion control.

Improved nutrient quality

High-protein meal replacement bars and shakes help you get plenty of satisfying and muscle-promoting protein without going over your calorie budget.

If you graze on nutrient-poor snacks or rely on fast food, meal replacements could offer better nutrition than your usual choices. A weight-loss study of people with diabetes reported that people using meal replacements improved diet quality than those on a standard weight-loss diet.

How to choose a meal replacement bar or shake

You will likely see shelves of bars and shakes in your local grocery store, but how do you pick the best ones? Consider nutrition, convenience, and (of course) taste.

To promote weight loss, choose products that contain 150-200 calories and 15-30 grams of protein per serving. Look for five grams of fiber or more to support digestion and help you feel full. Many bars and shakes are fortified with vitamins and minerals, helping fill in nutrition gaps when your calories are limited.

Decide if you prefer bars, premade shakes, powdered shake mixes, or a combination of these options. Premade shakes and bars are convenient, requiring no measuring. Powdered options are more portable and won't melt, and you can easily mix them with water, milk, or plant-based milk in a shaker bottle. Nutrient content will vary based on your preparation method.

Commonly used meal replacement products include Muscle Milk Protein Shake, Premier Protein Shake, Slim Fast Advanced Nutrition Shake, Pure Protein Bar, and Atkins Meal Bar. Taste test a few different options before purchasing in large quantities.

Reasons why a meal replacement plan may not  be for you


You may not care for the taste. Most meal replacement products are sweet and use non-caloric sweeteners.

Social and family situations

It can be challenging to dine with others when you only eat a protein bar or drink a shake. If you have to prepare meals for the rest of your family, you may not benefit from the convenience of meal replacements.

Eating style

You might be a "foodie" and miss the experience of preparing and savoring meals. You may prefer minimally processed foods or may not find shakes and bars satisfying.

Check your nutrition intake

To ensure you get essential nutrition on a partial meal replacement weight-loss plan, monitor your daily nutrient intake with MyNetDiary-no guessing required!

Note: Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a partial meal replacement plan.

Adapted from original content by Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDCES

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Meal Planning & Diets->Meal Replacment Plans Weight Loss->Diets
Jun 2, 2021
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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