Diet shakes have a simple concept: stimulate weight loss by lowering the number of calories you take in every day. When you use shakes as occasional meal replacements, that strategy can work well. But commercial diet shakes aren’t always made from healthy ingredients. Mixing up your own shakes at home, however, gives you control over exactly what goes into them and how many calories you’ll drink per serving.
To consistently lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you expend each day. That means a shake should contain fewer calories than what you’d eat at a meal. When you accumulate a calorie deficit of 3,500, you'll have lost 1 pound. University of New Mexico researchers Len Kravitz and Michelle Kulovitz suggest preparing meal replacement shakes that are at least 100 calories but less than 230 calories.
To make a shake that will keep you full, choose a high-protein base. Protein is more satiating than any other type of nutrient, so protein-rich shakes may stave off hunger for longer periods of time than shakes that have lots of carbs or fats. It's also smart to add fiber-rich ingredients, which may be lacking in commercially produced shakes. According to a research review published in the journal "Nutrition" in 2005, people who eat the most fiber tend to have the lowest body weights and body fat percentages.
There are plenty of low-calorie, nutritious options that you can toss into homemade shakes. For example, get your protein from healthy shake bases, such as 6 ounces of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt at 100 calories and 18 grams of protein; 1 cup of skim milk at 80 calories and 8 grams of protein; or 1 cup of cubed silken tofu at 150 calories and 16 grams of protein. For fiber, flavor and color, add 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries for 32 calories and 4 grams of fiber; 1 cup of raw kale for 33 calories and 2.4 grams of fiber; and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for 12 calories and 1.8 grams of fiber.
Sustainable Weight Loss
According to Dr. Monica Zangwill, many people who follow meal replacement diets regain the weight they lose when they stop drinking shakes and return to food-based eating plans, which may be higher in calories. Before you transition to a diet for weight maintenance, talk with your doctor. You may be able to prevent regaining some weight by subbing in occasional healthy shakes for higher-calorie desserts or snacks or by simply snacking on the whole-food components you would normally use to mix up a shake. Kravitz and Kulovitz note that as long as you stick to two balanced meals daily and drink diet shakes with healthy ingredients, you can use one shake as a daily meal replacement indefinitely with no ill effects.