We’ve said before that meal replacement shakes are no substitute for a healthy balanced diet, and that the majority of your daily calories should be obtained from whole foods. In fact, we covered the topic in detail in our balanced diet guide. However, the convenience of a meal replacement shake cannot be denied. When those shakes also contain essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, the appeal is even higher!
As part of a whole foods plant-based diet, a shake for breakfast can help you get out of the door fast, and leaving a pouch of your favourite flavour at work can give you an extra option instead of that soggy sandwich. A low calorie shake can make an excellent snack - you know, instead of diving into the biscuit tin - that will keep you full until your next meal, without all the empty calories.
How long should I use meal replacement shakes for?
One of the many joys of these kinds of shakes is that they are generally designed to fit into your daily eating and drinking plans, providing additional nutrients and offer a quick and easy meal option without the need to prep your own food. They’re a great nutritional snack option for the elderly, as well as a convenient and flexible breakfast or lunch option. As such, you can keep integrating shakes into your nutrition plans for as long as you’d like, there are very few reasons to force yourself to stop them if you don’t want to.
If you’re setting out with meal replacements to achieve a specific goal, then you might want to dispense with them when you reach it, but otherwise there is very little reason why a meal replacement shake cannot be a healthy part of your routine in the long term.
When to stop using meal replacement shakes:
However, there are some instances where you may find yourself choosing to put down the shaker and focus on traditional foods instead. Here are some of the main reasons you might want to consider limiting how long you use your meal replacement shakes:
1. You’ve achieved your goals
If you’re looking to lose weight, a shake for breakfast or lunch can help you to strike the balance between calories and nutrition. Once you’ve hit that target and you’re looking to the future, your needs might well change and meal replacements might not be your shake of choice. If you want to continue with them, an option which is high in protein and lower in calories might be beneficial for maintaining your hard work.
Our How Do Meal Replacements Work for Weight Loss guide explains more.
2. It’s time to mix things up
Some people are more than happy to have the same meals or snacks every single day - in fact, it can make planning your meals much easier if you don’t need to think about mixing your choices up every day. However, you may find that you’re looking for more variety in your dining and snack choices - in that case, you may want to take a break from the shakes and look into recipes or foods that could offer a wider range (we have loads of inspiration over on our recipes pages).
Likewise, you could also try adding other ingredients to your shakes to change up the texture and taste - check out our What Can You Add to Meal Replacement Shakes guide for more.
3. You’re not getting the right nutrients
Not all shakes are created equal! Depending on the type of shake you choose to include in place of your breakfast, lunch or dinner, you need to make sure that it includes all the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body requires on a daily basis. This is especially the case if you’re having shakes as replacements for all of your daily meals. Check the ingredients list and make sure you’re happy with everything that’s in the shake if you’re committing to it long term.
4. They’re making you feel unwell
Unless you’ve been specifically requested to swap daily meals with shakes, then there’s no need to keep on with them if they’re causing you any kind of stomach issues. Sometimes a certain ingredient may not agree with you and you could find yourself experiencing discomfort in one form or another. We cover meal replacements and stomach upsets here, but generally, it’s not the act of replacing a meal with a shake that is likely to make you feel unwell, but it’s far more likely to be the ingredients included within it. Again, check the ingredients list for anything that could be making you feel ill, or simply go back to regular meals if you can.
What it boils down to is this: It is your decision how long you use meal replacement shakes, as long as you are using them safely and still nourishing your body with whole foods. They shouldn’t completely take over your diet (how dull would that be after a while!) but they make an excellent addition to your day.
Tips for how to enjoy a meal replacement shake
If convenience is your priority, then a shake can give you everything you need to keep on going. Vivo Life’s vegan meal replacement WHOLE doesn’t only give you 20g of protein per serving, it also provides essential fatty acids, live cultures and 22 vitamins and minerals. If you’re making it with water or plant milk, it takes 30 seconds in a shaker. Alternatively, if your choice of shake is less dependent on calories and more dependent on the nutritional boost that you can get, you don’t have to drink it! Why not add it to a smoothie or porridge with your favourite ingredients - I like the salted caramel biscuit flavour in my morning porridge with a touch of cinnamon!