Subbing in meal-replacement shakes for one or two meals a day is a safe and effective strategy for achieving significant, sustainable weight loss, concludes a study published in May 2003 in the "International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders." But not just any shake will do. The best meal-replacement shakes for women include the right amount of calories and nutrients and satiating ingredients that help fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal. Commercial meal-replacement shakes often contain too much sugar and other additives. Your healthiest option is to make your own meal-replacement shakes at home.
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Keep an Eye on Calories
Your meal-replacement shake should have enough calories to help you meet your minimum caloric needs for the day. The minimum number of calories a woman should eat per day is 1,200, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. If you eat two other meals during the day totaling 900 calories, your shake will need to contain at least 300 calories. Eating too few calories can make it difficult for you to get the nutrients your body needs for good health. On the flip side, your meal-replacement shake can cause you to gain weight if it exceeds your daily calorie needs for weight loss when combined with your other meals and snacks. Ask your doctor or dietitian how many calories you should be eating each day to achieve weight loss and maintain your health.
Pack in the Protein
Among the macronutrients -- protein, carbohydrates and fiber -- protein is the most satiating, meaning it helps you feel more satisfied and may help you eat less, avoid snacking and lose weight. Protein also increases thermogenesis, or heat production in your body, which boosts calorie burning. Lastly, if you're engaging in a strength-training program in addition to dieting -- a sensible strategy -- eating enough protein can support muscle gain and fat loss. Good sources of protein to add to your meal-replacement shake include silken tofu; pea, brown rice, casein or whey protein powders; low-fat Greek yogurt; and nuts and seeds.
Fill Up With Fiber
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and are also rich sources of fiber, a structural component of plant foods your body can't digest. That makes fiber virtually calorie-free, yet it takes up space in your stomach and helps create a feeling of fullness. Packing your meal-replacement shake with sources of fiber can make it more filling and satisfying. Try low-calorie blueberries and blackberries, fiber-rich apple slices with the skin on and a handful of spinach.
Other Ingredients to Add
Your meal-replacement shake should offer all the nutrients you would get from a full meal, including protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Choose a low-calorie base such as low-fat coconut milk, low-fat cow's milk or almond or soy milk. Add your choice of protein, fruits and vegetables. Other ingredients to add include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, almond butter or avocado, which are all sources of healthy fats. Avoid adding sugar or honey to your shake to keep the calorie count in check.