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Choosing a vegan meal replacement shake

There is good evidence that when combined with a calorie-controlled diet and exercise, meal replacements can be an effective weight loss strategy. They help people eat fewer calories by temporarily replacing one or two meals per day with a protein-based supplement. As there are more plant-based options on the market than ever before, it’s important to know what to look for when choosing a vegan meal replacement shake.

Meal replacement shakes fall into one of two categories.

1. Very Low Energy Diets (VLED)

VLEDs are usually recommended by doctors when patients need to lose a lot of weight, quickly – usually in preparation for surgery or dialysis. It’s is not recommended to follow a VLED for more than four weeks without medical supervision.

In Australia, VLED products are regulated. They must contain:

  • at least 12g protein
  • 200-400 calories
  • 20g carbohydrate
  • at least 25% of RDI for all essential nutrients

They also contain soluble fiber to keep the bowels moving.

There are currently no vegan VLED products available in Australia, but we can choose from a growing range of meal replacement shakes to help us achieve our weight loss goals.

2. Meal replacement shakes

Meal replacements aren’t regulated like VLEDs, and they aren’t always a “complete” meal. For example, they mightn’t have the full 12g of protein…or they may only have 100kcals, or no carbohydrates…all of which make them unsuitable to replace a meal.

Often, they are simply protein powder with greens or superfood powders added.

A good meal replacement must have carbs. Weight loss products often omit carbs because of the general misconception that carbohydrates must be limited as much as possible in order to lose weight. But as every cell in the body runs on carbohydrates, avoiding them will cause cravings for sugar and high calorie foods, and sooner or later you will overeat.

I recommend choosing a meal replacement that has at least 10g of carbs per serve, or you can try blending in a Weetbix biscuit to a carb-less product.

Choosing a vegan meal replacement

Plant-based meal replacement shakes have at least as much protein as the dairy-based products. There is no trade-off in terms of protein content with the traditional dairy-based products.

When deciding on a product, I use the TGA’s criteria above as a guideline for quality. To recap, they are:

  1. contains at least 12g protein per serve
  2. has 200-400 calories
  3. has 10-20g carbohydrate
  4. provides at least 25% of RDI for all essential nutrients

It’s important to choose a good quality protein source, such as soy, hemp or sacha inchi. Or, opt for protein blend, such as rice and pea protein.

My top picks for vegan meal replacement shakes (2022)
  1. Nature’s Way Figure Shaping Protein
  2. Vegan Lady and Man Shake
  3. Nutrify All-in-One
  4. Isowhey plant based
  5. Spiru-tein

Considerations

  • Meal replacements can help to get weight loss started, aiding motivation. However, the emotional aspects of overeating are not addressed. Any weight lost is often regained if the underlying emotional factors are not dealt with.
  • Meal replacements are not recommended for people who have, or have previously had an eating disorder.
  • Replacing more than 1 meal per day is not recommended without medical or dietetic supervision.
  • Keep track of the vitamins and minerals that are in supplements, including meal replacements. Selenium, iodine, vitamin B6 and zinc have upper limits and can be toxic in large doses.

I recommend speaking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian or Registered Dietitian to make sure you are getting all of your essential nutrients while losing weight.

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