How to Replace Meals With Soups and Smoothies

Cutting calories from your diet to lose weight isn't an easy process, but using meal replacements is a convenient way to start. Healthy, nutrient-rich soups and smoothies can fill you up until your next meal on fewer calories than you'd usually eat, helping you achieve gradual weight loss over time.

A green smoothie with chia seeds. Credit: otarikokojevs/iStock/Getty Images

Make a Plan

When you're trying to lose weight, sustainable lifestyle changes are important. Replacing all of your normal meals with smoothies may help you drop a few pounds in a week, but it's not likely to satisfy your nutritional needs or help you keep the weight off over time. Before you make any dietary changes, meet with your doctor or a registered dietitian and make a plan for using your meal replacements, such as replacing one meal every day and alternating between using a bowl of soup or a smoothie as your replacement. Consistency will help you define your goals, cut more calories and see quicker progress.

Go for Healthy Choices

Filling up on an economy-sized smoothie from a coffee shop or a giant bowl of clam chowder at a restaurant may tide you over until your next meal, but it won't necessarily save you calories or do your health any favors. In fact, it will likely cause you to gain weight. To lose weight with your meal replacements without losing essential vitamins or minerals, opt for soups and smoothies that have low calorie counts but high amounts of nutrients. That means going for meal replacements that are filled with whole-food ingredients like fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains and eschewing those high in fat and sugar.

Lower Calories

Using a healthy soup or smoothie as a meal replacement will help you gradually lose weight by lowering the net total of calories you take in every day. Jefferson University Hospital registered dietitian Emily Rubin recommends finding meal replacements that contain no more than 200 calories. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/2 cups of canned minestrone soup offers about 195 calories, and the same amount of canned black bean soup has about 170 calories. A 16-ounce serving of a commercial bottled strawberry banana smoothie has about 180 calories.

Scientific Results

Both liquid meal replacements and soups are have been associated with weight loss in scientific studies. In one study published in 2010 in "Nutrition Journal," subjects who used daily meal replacements over a trial period of 40 weeks lost significantly more weight and body fat than subjects who reduced calories but stuck to regular, food-based meals. In another study, published in 2013 in the journal "PLoS One," researchers discovered an inverse association between body mass index and soup consumption.

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