The Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Diabetics

Woman with a beverage
Woman with a green shake. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Diabetes is a chronic condition managed primarily through diet. Diabetics who are most successful in the management of their condition adhere a to a strict schedule of meals and snacks with equal amounts of carbohydrate in each. This consistency allows for greater control of blood sugar levels, which can help reduce the risk for diabetic complications. Weight loss will also improve diabetes management. Some individuals consider meal replacement shakes a convenient method for weight loss and blood sugar control.

Protein and Fiber

When choosing a meal replacement shake, it is important to first examine the nutrition facts label and the ingredient list. The number of different shakes on the market vary in protein, carbohydrate and calorie content; some shakes even contain fiber. A shake that is high in protein can help promote satiety, or the feeling of fullness. It can also prevent blood sugar spikes by slowing the release of sugar into the blood, thus promoting a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. Fiber acts similarly to protein in this respect.

Portion Control and Calorie Control

Meal replacement shakes are portion controlled and therefore may be a very important tool for diabetics who aim to lose weight. Energy balance is also a key factor in weight loss. The average meal replacement shake provides around 200 calories of energy; it is not considered a low-calorie food item unless it is used as it should be, as a meal replacement. If the energy provided in one shake is not enough to sustain you, consume something solid, like fruits and vegetables, to promote satiety.

Glycemic Control

Glycemic control refers to the maintenance of blood sugar levels as close as possible to the normal range -- which is less than 110 mg/dl -- with minimal fluctuation. A study published in the September/October 2010 issue of "Diabetes Educator" compared Glucerna Weight Loss Shake, Slim-Fast Shake and Ensure with Fiber Shake and found that even the shake that had the lowest effect on postprandial blood sugar levels, Glucerna, exceeded the American Diabetic Association’s recommended limit in 22 percent of diabetics. However, in the case of hypoglycemia -- abnormally low blood sugar -- meal replacement shakes with an appropriate amount of carbohydrate are easily absorbed and can help normalize blood sugar levels.

Choosing a Shake

Although the Glucerna brand of meal replacement shakes was developed specifically for diabetics, it may or may not be the right choice for you. Different people will tolerate different levels of protein, calories, carbohydrates and fiber. What works for one person will not work for everyone else. It is therefore important to choose the shake that is best suited to your needs. If you need assistance determining the best choice for you, consult your physician or a registered dietitian

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