7 November 2017Partial Meal Replacement Plan for Weight Loss

What is the diet?

Partial meal replacement plans replace 1-2 regular meals with 1-2 high protein/low carb shakes or bars, depending upon the chosen caloric level. This results in a lower calories intake while keeping intake of non-starchy veggies, fruit, and lean protein high.

Although there are different ways to implement this type of meal plan, I like Kaiser Permanente's approach since there is a strong emphasis on eating plenty of non-starchy veggies, fresh fruit, and protein. You can find a detailed description of their plan (including plans at multiple caloric levels) in their slideshow at KPHealthyMe.com.

This is a basic description of Kaiser's 1200 calories plan:

2 meals + 2 meal replacements + 2 servings fruit
1 meal + 3 meal replacements + 2 servings fruit + 2-4 cups of non-starchy veggies

1 meal =
4 oz cooked lean protein + 2-4 cups of non-starchy veggies + 1 serving fruit + 1/2 cup cooked whole grain or starchy veggie (or 1 oz slice of high fiber bread or equivalent)

Sample meal: 4 oz baked salmon + 1 cup cauliflower + 1 cup broccoli + 1 small pear + 1/2 cup cooked quinoa

1 meal replacement =
140-210 calories, 15-30 g protein, and carb grams less than or equal to protein grams. High protein/low carb bars and shakes fortified with vitamins and minerals are typically used for the meal replacement.

Sample meal replacement: 1 carton (330 ml) of Muscle Milk Non Dairy Protein Shake


  • Less time spent shopping preparing, cooking, and cleaning-up after meals.
  • Less decision-making and effort related to meals.
  • Works well for people who tend to skip meals and eat on-the-run.
  • Built-in portion control.


  • Taste - most meal replacements are sweet and use non-caloric sweeteners.
  • Could be awkward eating with others if you only eat a bar or drink a shake.
  • Would be challenging to follow if you have multiple food allergies or sensitivities.
  • Meal replacements are fortified processed foods, not whole foods.


Cost depends upon the brand of bar or shake you purchase. The cost might be as low as $1.00 per bar or as high as $4.00 per prepackaged shake. If you purchase your meals outside of the home, then replacing that meal with a bar or shake will typically be less expensive. If you typically cook from scratch, then replacing that meal with a bar or shake could be more expensive.

Social Support

If you follow a partial meal replacement program on your own, then you will have to find and develop your own support network. Online support is an option. MyNetDiary has a Community Forum that helps people connect with each other.


Partial meal replacement plans can work if you follow them as intended. That is, they will create a calories deficit and support weight loss. However, simply adding high protein/low carb bars or shakes to an existing diet is not the same thing as following a partial meal replacement plan. The idea is to replace a meal with a calories-controlled, nutritious food item that can help the individual lower their calories intake while still meeting protein, vitamin, and mineral needs.

Do I like this diet? Yes and no. I think it works well for people who tend to skip meals and eat on the run. But I don't think it works well for foodies, for people trying to eat unprocessed whole foods, or for folks with multiple food allergies. Also, people with diabetes who take insulin (or any medication with a high risk for hypoglycemia) should talk with their healthcare provider about safety issues before starting this type of plan.

More Resources

For more information on meal replacement plans, check out these posts at MyNetDiary blog:
Use of Protein Shakes in Weight Control
Meal Replacements at Lunch Can Help You Lose Weight

For basic information about other diets, I recommend WebMD's Weight Loss & Diet Plans A - Z and U.S. News & World Report's Best Weight Loss Diets.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Meal Planning & Diets/Meal Replacment Plans Weight Loss/Diets

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