Are Meal Replacement Bars & Drinks Really Effective? Dietitians Say Cons Outweigh The Pros

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 26, 06:16 am

Meal replacements have become popular among people especially those who have little time to actually sit down for a meal and enjoy it. Those people resort to ready-to-consume meal replacement bars and drinks, but are these really helpful? What does a human body gain or lose with meal replacements?

Companies that manufacture meal replacement bars and drinks claim that it carry the same sustenance and nutrition found in a balanced, actual meal. It's true that meal replacement bars and drinks are beneficial but there is a catch.

Sharon Akabas, associate director of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, said that meal replacement bars and drinks are only helpful when they are replacing a daily diet's unhealthy food item, CNN reported. For instance, some people would go for a burger or a can of soda if they didn't eat the meal replacement bar or drink the shake. When they choose to consume meal replacements, their health becomes better than when they consume unhealthy food.

Meal replacement bars and drinks aren't really made for fast-paced people; they were originally intended for athletes who needed extra energy for workouts. Now, things have changed and meal replacement bars and drinks became a staple in desk drawers or in busy people's pockets whenever they don't have time to commit to an actual meal, according to WebMD.

Rachel Lustgarten, a registered dietitian at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said that meal replacement bars and drinks help with food portion control. Lustgarten said that "people looking to lose weight or control weight" shouldn't rely on meal replacements entirely even though they appear to be helpful in weight loss due to their "portion-controlled, high in protein and low in sugar" quality.

Charles Mueller, clinical associate professor of nutrition at New York University, said that eating whole, healthy food is better than going for meal replacements. Muller said that meal replacement bars and drinks are intended for people who have a hard time eating or keeping food down.

Healthy individuals who eat meal replacement bars and drinks are "missing out on the healthy bacteria; you're missing out on all the nutrients contained in food; you're missing out on the dietary fiber," Muller warned, as reported by CNN. Dietary fiber is also called probiotics, which stimulates the body's gastrointestinal lining. Meal replacements are not that capable in doing probiotics' function.

According to WebMD, the consumption of meal replacement bars and drinks should only be once or twice a week, with once a day as its maximum. Meal replacements should also come alongside a few vegetables, vegetable juice, or fresh fruits as fiber supplements.

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