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Are meal replacements good or bad?

Published on January 17, 2017 at 15:16 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 13:24

Meal replacements weren’t born yesterday. They've been around for decades, and although sold as true “convenience products” for those with a hectic lifestyle, people have embraced them, but for the wrong reason: weight loss. This flavoured powder cocktail is definitely not the number 1 option for several reasons. Let's find out why. 

Meal replacements aren't that bad on their own, but you still have to know how to use them. Most meal replacements aren’t equivalent to a real meal in terms of calories and nutrients. After analyzing several of them, they often provide only half of the calories of a meal. This is normal: people expect this because they still think that in order to lose weight, you have to cut calories or worse, skip a meal. On the other hand, they don’t think that they can deprive themselves that much, so they won’t even consume the minimum number of calories to ensure the body’s proper functioning. It’s therefore unhealthy to consume only 800 calories per day. 

The result of these diets is often temporary. In fact, almost everyone who followed a restrictive diet regained the lost weight, and even more. To what do we owe this weight gain? A simple way to explain it is to discuss the effects of the restriction on the body. By depriving the body of nutrients for several weeks, the energy balance becomes negative, which leads to a calorie deficit. This deficit paves the way for weight loss. Since we can’t keep this pace very long - let's admit that it’s not enjoyable to always have to count everything or to have to consume small sachets of protein powder - we terminate the diet. By the time you decide to end the diet, you generally feel comfortable with the weight loss that has occurred. However, we then start to eat normally, as before the diet, and it is at this time that the body, anticipating a next period of food restriction, goes into "survival" mode to prevent it from happening.

So, in the majority of cases, consuming just a simple meal replacement is not enough. You should eat or drink twice the amount recommended by these companies to actually replace a meal. Also, keep in mind that liquid calories, such as those provided by liquid supplements or protein shakes, are less satiating than solid food. As a result, you may experience hunger more quickly. 

If you still decide to opt for the substitutes, not for weight loss, but because of their practicality, know that you can complete them with a serving of fresh fruit, a small bran muffin and a piece of low-fat cheese (if your meal replacement provides <15 grams of protein). 

In closing, I'll give you a smoothie recipe that I love to make on days when I'm in a rush, which can actually replace a meal in terms of nutrients and calories: 1 cup of fresh spinach, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, ¼ avocado, ¾ cup of Greek vanilla yogurt and ¼ cup of toasted wheat germ. Enjoy your lunch!

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier 

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