Whether you're trying to lose weight or think of menu ideas for the elderly, homemade meal replacement shakes can have their place in an eating plan. To be considered a meal replacement shake, the beverage must be consumed as a substitute for a meal or part of a meal, according to Mather Hospital.
It's worth noting, though, that there's no officially regulated definition of a meal replacement shake. Therefore, that protein shake that you drink for breakfast or the green smoothie that you had for lunch can both be considered a homemade meal replacement shake. While there are commercial shakes available, they can be expensive and, sometimes, less than optimal when it comes to nutrition. Instead, it's easy to make your own meal replacement shake at home with a blender.
Read more: 10 Ultimate Smoothies for Any Time of Day
Shakes for Weight Loss
Meal replacement shakes are often used as a weight-loss tactic, and that strategy has some scientific evidence backing it up. A review of studies published in Diabetes Care in May 2019 concluded that using liquid meal replacements could lead to a modest reduction in body weight, BMI and systolic blood pressure in overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes.
If you're specifically looking to use the shakes for weight loss, take care to add a protein source to the beverage. Research published in June 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that higher-protein diets of between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, as well as meals containing between 25 and 30 grams of protein, led to improvements in appetite control, body weight management and risk of cardio diseases.
Finally, Diabetes Spectrum notes that meal replacement shakes can increase sensory-specific satiety, which refers to the decreasing pleasure of tasting, smelling or eating the same food or beverage until full or satisfied. According to the journal, monotonous meals such as meal replacement shakes can lead to sensory-specific satiety and help a person reduce calorie consumption.
Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes
Diabetes Spectrum notes additional benefits of meal replacement shakes beyond weight loss. For example, the beverages can offer a pre-measured amount of food with a known calorie amount — as long as you prepared it carefully — making it easy to determine your total caloric intake.
Additionally, meal replacement shakes are fairly easy to prepare, require little clean-up compared to traditional meals and can be consumed on the go. A meal replacement shake can make for an easy breakfast on a busy morning that can be consumed in the car or on the train.
For senior citizens, meal replacement shakes that contain protein can be beneficial to keeping up muscle mass and strength, meaning they could be a smart part of a senior weekly menu. A small study published in PLOS ONE in July 2017 reported that senior men who consumed a protein-based nutrition supplement such as a protein shake twice a day increased muscle strength and lean muscle mass.
Concerns About Meal Replacement Shakes
It's not all good news when it comes to meal replacement shakes. The biggest concern, according to Harvard Medical School, is that meal replacement shakes can be high in sugar. However, that's generally a bigger risk for pre-made, store-bought shakes, rather than homemade meal replacement shakes.
It is important, though, to be mindful of the ingredients you're adding to your shake. While yogurt, fruit, nut milks and flax or chia seeds are healthy on their own, they can add up to be high in calories when combined in a shake. That could lead to weight gain when consumed too frequently.
That's not the only reason to be hesitant about adding meal replacement shakes to your diet, whether it's for weight loss or as part of an elderly daily diet plan. Harvard Medical School suggests that even fortified meal replacement shakes aren't going to provide all the nutrients that whole foods can. Additionally, Diabetes Care highlights that if you're using meal replacement shakes for weight loss, it must be sustained indefinitely — which can be a difficult task.
Homemade Meal Replacement Shake Ideas
Because there's no official definition of a homemade meal replacement shake, all sorts of ingredient combinations are possible — it's all up to your creativity. When thinking about what ingredients to add to your shake, consider the nutritional value of each one. The Cleveland Clinic recommends adding dark, leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, noting that they're low in sugar and calories and provide iron, fiber, folate and phytonutrients.
Other recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic include neutral-flavored cruciferous vegetables, such as shredded cabbage, as well as nuts, nut butters and seeds, such as ground flaxseed, for fiber and protein, which will keep your blood sugar in check and leave you feeling satisfied. Additionally, Greek yogurt can serve as a source of protein, as can tofu.
If you're interested in using green smoothies as a meal replacement shake, the American Council on Exercise suggests an easy formula for making the beverage: combine leafy greens, a liquid base, fruit and a superfood. Add an optional protein, if desired.
Leafy green ideas include baby spinach, kale, collard greens, chard or lettuce, while liquid-base options include almond or coconut milk, coconut water, pomegranate juice or just plain water. For fruit, choose from bananas, mango, blueberries or strawberries. Superfood ideas include chia seeds, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger, while proteins could be a protein powder, nut or seed butter or avocado.
High-Calorie Meal Replacement Shakes
Of course, not everyone is looking for a weight-loss shake. If you need ideas for homemade meal replacement shakes that are higher in calories, such as for an elderly daily diet plan, University of California San Francisco Health offers up flavorful options, such as:
- Banana shake: Combine two bananas with vanilla instant breakfast powder, milk and orange juice concentrate.
- Blueberry shake: Blend tofu, a banana, frozen blueberries and milk.
- Orange shake: Combine orange juice, pineapple juice, low-fat cottage cheese and milk.
- Strawberry soy shake: Blend vanilla-flavored soy milk with strawberry yogurt, silken tofu, fresh or frozen strawberries, honey and vanilla extract.
- Diabetes Spectrum: "Meal Replacement Shakes and Nutrition Bars: Do They Help Individuals With Diabetes Lose Weight?"
- Harvard Medical School: "Supplemental Nutrition Drinks: Help or Hype?"
- Mather Hospital: "Are Liquid Meal Replacements Safe and Effective for Weight Loss?"
- University of California San Francisco Health: "ILD Nutrition Manual: High-Calorie Shakes and Smoothies"
- Diabetes Care: "The Effect of Liquid Meal Replacements on Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight/Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Cleveland Clinic: "6 Awesome Ingredients to Add to Your Smoothie"
- American Council on Exercise: "4 Green Smoothie Recipes to Kick-start Your Day"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- PLOS ONE: "A Whey Protein-Based Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplement Stimulates Gains in Lean Body Mass and Strength in Healthy Older Men: A Randomized Control Trial"