Meal replacement shakes provide an easy on-the-go meal or snack packed with healthy ingredients to keep you going. These shakes are typically full of vitamins, minerals, and all the micro and macronutrients you need to replace a full meal if need be.
Whether or not you’re on a diet, meal replacement shakes can be used to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle without needing to worry about packing a full meal.
These shakes are more commonly used by individuals looking to lose weight as these shakes are typically fewer calories than an actual meal, and some also contain some hunger suppressing ingredients you need to shed the extra fat.
When looking for a meal replacement shake, here are some things you should consider:
- Meal replacement shakes should include a good amount of fiber as well as other key ingredients like Sledestra, to keep you feeling really satisfied and reduce your overall appetite.
- Meal replacement shakes need to include protein to ensure you’re feeding your muscles as well as help to reduce food cravings and increase weight loss.
- Meal replacement shakes should contain a variety of micronutrients to help support optimal body and brain function.
Below, you’ll find the ranking of the top meal replacement shakes in 2021, researched by our health team at food4me.org.
Best Overall: Organifi Complete Protein
Best keto meal replacement shake: Ample K
Best meal replacement shake for weight loss: Exante Meal Replacement
Best tasting meal replacement shake: Pure Protein Complete Protein Shake
Best meal replacement shakes for women: Organifi Complete Protein
Best meal replacement shake for men: Legion Athletics Atlas
1. Organifi Complete Protein
Organifi’s complete meal replacement is a high protein, made with 100% organic, plant-based protein with no soy or whey. It provides you a complete multivitamin profile and includes digestive enzymes to assist with the breakdown and absorption of everything you eat or drink.
This superfood formula contains pea protein, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, coconut, vanilla, and natural monk fruit for sweetness. Organifi’s meal replacement is a fully balanced shake, keeping you full, energized, and ready to tackle the day.
Organifi takes food4me.org’s #1 spot for the best overall meal replacement shake.
2. Exante Meal Replacement
Exante has created an exceptional meal replacement shake filled with high protein, multivitamins and will leave you feeling full for many hours after consumption. They are low-calorie and deliver over 25% of your daily vitamins and minerals needs in just one serving.
This is an amazing option for someone looking to keep the calories low while maintaining all the benefits a regular meal replacement shake provides.
3. Legion Athletics Atlas
Legion uses small dairy farms in Ireland to ensure they are providing their customers with the cleanest products. Atlas meal replacement shake is 100% natural with two high-quality protein sources – casein and whey.
There are no added sugars, 38g of protein, 51g of carbs, and 6g of fats. With 370 calories, this is a full meal in a bottle that will keep you feeling full for hours with the added benefits of tons of vitamins and minerals to support overall health.
4. Ample K
Ample K provides a complete, low-calorie, and keto option for a meal replacement shake. It has been formulated with more than 20 superfoods and premium quality fats, proteins, fibers, and more.
Ample’s ketogenic meal replacement shake will keep you feeling full and focused for more than four hours and is a great alternative for breakfast or lunch. This product contains fiber, prebiotics, and 6 strains of probiotics to help with weight management and transform your gut health.
5. Orgain Organic Meal Nutrition Powder
With 21g of organic plant-based protein, 6g of fiber, and containing 10 fruits and vegetables per serving, Orgain Organic Meal is a great meal alternative.
This product is ideal for healthy on-the-go fuel and can be used at any time throughout the day. The organic plant focus protein includes brown rice protein, pea protein, and chia seeds to provide a well-rounded clean source that will keep you satiated.
6. Vega One All-in-One Shake
Made with 100% vegan pea and hemp protein, along with a green superfood powder, Vega One is the ultimate plant-based choice.
It meets 50% of the daily recommended vitamin intake and only contains 1g of sugar with 20g of protein. It comes it five flavors so you have tons of options to chose from.
7. Pure Protein Complete Protein Shake
Pure Protein complete protein shake is a high protein, low sugar (just one gram), and tastes great. This shake is just 140 calories making it a great and very filling snack that’s easy when you’re out.
It’s formulated with 24 added vitamins and minerals and has a whopping 30g milk protein isolate made from three different protein sources. It’s an all-around great pick and is very affordable.
8. Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal
This all-in-one meal replacement from Garden of Life gives you 20g of plant-based protein with superfoods, greens, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and enzymes wrapped up in one serving.
It will help to support muscular development most exercise and also support digestion with 1.5 billion CFU probiotics and enzymes.
9. Ensure Plus Nutrition Shake
With five flavors to choose from, Ensure Plus nutrition shake is great for an easy meal on the go with completely balanced nutrition.
At 350 calories per serving, 16g of high-quality protein, and 27 additional vitamins and minerals, this is a good option. This is on the higher end of calories, so if you’re looking for a shake that’s less calorically dense, you may want to consider another option.
10. Premier Protein Shake with Oats
Premier Protein has provided a great breakfast alternative with their protein shake with oats. It contains 25% of your daily fiber intake, so you know you’ll start your day off on the right foot.
It has a solid amount of protein per shake at 20g with additional 24 vitamins and minerals for immunity support. If you are looking for a super clean, organic product, this is may not be the product for you.
Best Keto Meal Replacement Shake
1. Ample K
This meal replacement shake is great for people looking for a solid meal that supports their keto diet.
Ample K definitely takes the cake for the top keto shake as it only contains 3g of net carbs and is over 70% premium fats, including MCTs and coconut oil. It’s a fantastic addition to a busy day all while maintaining ketosis and you are left feeling energized.
Best Meal Replacement Shake for Weight Loss
1. Exante Meal Replacement
At just 110 calories per serving with hunger-crushing ingredients, Exante has provided the best product for weight loss. This product is formulated with a special blend of Sledestra and Digezyme to provide you with 3+ hours of no hunger.
This product will allow you to lose weight while maintaining your muscle and sticking to your diet all while enjoying the great flavors Exante has to offer.
Best Tasting Meal Replacement Shake
1. Premier Protein
You can enjoy this shake as a snack, post-workout recovery, or a meal due to its high protein and low-calorie nature.
Premier Protein has been granted the American Master of Taste Gold Medal for superior tasting ready-to-drink protein beverages. For this reason, it takes the top spot for best tasting meal replacement shake.
Best Meal Replacement Shake for Women
1. Organifi Complete Protein
Organifi’s meal replacement shake provides additional support to digestion, aids in healthy skin and bone health, give the metabolism a boost, and also helps with muscle and immunity health.
This product contains a specific nutritional blend to help women look and feel their best.
Best Meal Replacement Shake for Men
1. Legion Atlas
Legion contains no fillers, artificial sweeteners, or chemicals and is formulated with some of the purest and cleanest ingredients on the market.
It takes the top spot for the best shake for men due to its very high protein content of 38g per serving, which makes it better than most supplements at supporting and building lean muscle.
Who Should Use a Meal Replacement Shake?
Meal replacement shakes are a great choice for a couple of different kinds of people. On one side, if you are someone who is trying to lose weight and struggles with eating healthy foods, one of these shakes may be the perfect solution for you.
You can find, and many on the list above, are fairly low-calorie shakes. This means that you’ll be left feeling full from all the protein and vitamins/minerals while consuming much fewer calories than if you were to eat a meal. It’s great if you are on a diet and are looking for very simple, grab-n-go options that won’t ruin your diet for the day.
By providing a totally balanced micro and macronutrient profile, as well as more often than not having additional benefits like superfoods and digestive aid, there isn’t a meal or snack you can’t swap out.
Another group of people that can benefit from meal replacement shakes are people who require a healthy meal on the go. Breakfast is a great example of times these shakes may come in handy. Breakfast is very important for kickstarting your metabolism after having slept for a prolonged period. It’s crucial to start your day off right with balanced energy coming in and health-supporting ingredients to keep you going throughout your day.
Many people feel very rushed in the mornings and feel as though they don’t have enough time to make breakfast and eat. The beauty of shakes is you literally take it out of the fridge, or just put a scoop with some water or milk and you’re out the door with a perfect breakfast in your hand.
Fewer calories: Meal replacement shakes are typically made to be lower calories as most are created to aid in weight management or weight loss. This is why some of the top shakes have fewer calories, such as Exante at only 110 calories per serving!
It’s a great benefit that comes with the shakes as they fill you up due to the protein and vitamin profile without the additional calories that come with a meal you may eat.
Ample protein: The best shakes have fairly high quantities of protein to ensure good muscle recovery and satiety while losing weight. Eating adequate amounts of protein at your meals is also crucial to staving off hunger. Eating 100 calories of protein will make you much more full and less likely to overeat versus eating 100 calories of carbs or fat.
This will make your life so much easier when trying to avoid junk food or other items you should be otherwise staying away from. Products like Ample K and Atlas do a fantastic job at loading up the protein as each serving is as high as 38g.
Infused with vitamins and minerals: Today, our food is pumped with so many bad things, many people can actually be malnourished even if they are overweight. These meal replacement shakes are fortified with tons of vitamins and minerals to ensure that you are helping to keep those numbers up to par.
It was important for the products in our rankings to have additional micronutrient support to an optimal shake. Meal replacement shakes that used whole extracted vitamins helped to improve the absorption of those vitamins into the body to get the most out of them.
Additional digestive aid: Many people can be sensitive to protein supplements and meal replacements. The products ranked highly were rewarded for putting emphasis on assisting digestive health. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are important components of a meal replacement shake as they assist in the breakdown of food and nutrients.
These additional ingredients also have the benefit of supporting a healthy gut microbiome, which has been proven to be beneficial to overall health as the gut is essentially our body’s second brain. Organifi ranked number one due to their inclusion of digestive aids amongst the high protein and appetite suppressing ingredients.
Balanced formulation: Many protein shakes and meal replacement shakes out there has a crazy amount of sugar without incorporating a well-rounded nutrition profile. Shakes like SlimFast original did not make our list because of its high sugar content and little protein and fiber.
If you are going to be replacing a healthy meal, it needs to be replacing all aspects of it – protein, fats, carbs, and all the vitamins and minerals that come from a balanced healthy meal.
Meal replacement shakes may help contribute to long-term weight loss. Many meal replacement shakes are made with just a few hundred calories helping to support healthy weight loss with no negative feelings towards food.
One study showed that consuming a meal replacement shake twice daily leads to significant decreases in weight in overweight and obese individuals (1).
Meal replacement shakes may help individuals with other medical issues to lose weight. Type II diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin and being overweight or obese is the number one cause of developing this type of diabetes.
A study in 2012 showed that meal replacement shakes helped people who had type II diabetes get rid of the weight after consuming these shakes for 6 months (2).
Some research suggests that diets rich in protein can help to enhance weight loss for individuals with metabolic syndrome. A year-long study looking at individuals with metabolic syndrome found that 67% of the participants who followed a high protein diet had better weight loss compared to typical protein diets (3).
This is because protein makes you full and supports healthy muscle recovery and growth as well as fat loss.
Meal replacement shakes can help keep you lean and healthy during high-stress times. By having 2 meal replacement shakes per day, research has found that people who work in high-stress environments (doctors, police officers, paramedics, etc) see effective weight loss.
Being at a healthy weight is important for people in these lines of work so they are able to move well and react quickly. Existing at a healthy weight is also beneficial for general health and wellbeing. Repeated high stress can cause you to gain more fat around your midsection which is not where you want fat. This is due to the constant release of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is known for being released during long-term, repeated stress which then leads to progressively increasing weight in the midsection (4). This indicates that meal replacement shakes have possible weight-related advantages.
Now if there is research to support the use of these shakes for people in high-stress environments to help with weight, you could take that information and apply it to other individuals who suffer from chronic stress. The physiological response to stress is the same and so the meal replacement shakes could provide individuals with chronic stress some of the same benefits.
Meal replacement shakes can work to complement fast weight loss. The foods we eat on a daily basis, seemingly healthy or not, can make it difficult to lose weight. It is often you will find the majority of foods to be pretty calorically dense and full of fillers and processed ingredients. For many people trying to live a healthier life with healthier foods, the taste can be somewhat of a hurdle; and weight loss shakes solve this problem.
As humans, we all like things to be instantaneous, including weight loss. If a certain regime takes too long for your body to respond and you don’t see some results fairly quickly, you are more likely to give up. This doesn’t help to get you to the end goal that you’ve set for your health and fitness.
Meal replacement shakes can help improve overall body composition. Not only do these shakes help individuals to lose weight within 6 months to a year but they have also proven that they can help you lose a good amount of weight in as little as 3 months. The Journal of Obesity published an article and found that over a 12 week period, both the men and women using meal replacement shakes as improvements in their overall body composition (5).
Another study had 90 obese adults randomly assigned to weight loss programs that included meal replacement shakes in one of them for 16 weeks. They found that the group who had the shakes had a significantly higher weight loss than the individuals who were eating food in their weight loss regime (6).
Meal replacement shakes make you feel more satisfied. If you want to be reaching your weight loss goals and keeping your diet in check, being able to control your hunger is indispensable. One study proved that protein plays a crucial role in body weight regulation through satiety related to diet (7).
The hunger hormone ghrelin is responsible for stimulating your appetite which is why you begin to feel hungry. After a high protein breakfast, ghrelin has been shown to decrease, therefore keeping you full and avoid overeating (8). Put simply, when you are eating adequate protein at each meal, you will decrease your feeling of hunger and ultimately eat less throughout the day.
Meal replacement shakes can work to enhance muscular growth. Protein is the most important macronutrient for muscle growth and many sources recommend taking up to 0.82g of protein per pound of body weight (9).
This ratio will give you the most benefits to muscle growth and recovery without going overboard on protein consumption. Since almost all meal replacement shakes are packed with protein, they can be an excellent supplement to incorporate into your diet.
Having more muscle can also have a positive effect on increased weight loss. This is because when you have more muscle, you increase your metabolic rate which works to burn more calories while you’re at rest. Due to this increase in metabolism, you will end up burning more calories even while you aren’t doing physical activity.
Meal replacement shakes are convenient to bring anywhere and are easy to consume. One of the greatest things about meal replacement shakes is their ease of use and transport. Whether you have the pre-mixed canisters, or you have powder that you mix with water, you cut your meal prep time 90%. Convenience is such an important factor in trying to lose weight.
Even when you are eating food, you are more likely to stick to your diet if you’ve prepared healthy meals ready to eat. The same goes for the shakes; you have a ready-to-go completely balanced meal or snack that you can take anywhere.
Meal replacement shakes also cut down on “eating time”. We live in a world that requires a lot of time from our days whether it be from work, kids, other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to sit down for a meal. This shouldn’t be a reason that you should sacrifice your diet and progress. These shakes are easy to drink quickly and don’t require you to be making food and in a specific area.
The powdered options are also fantastic for traveling as you can pre-portion your servings in little bags or containers and now you won’t get flagged at the airport and you can enjoy a nutrition boost wherever you end up.
Meal replacement shakes can help you to replenish depleted nutrients. Most people do not eat enough of a balanced diet that incorporates all the vitamins and minerals we require to be in optimized health. A 2012 study looking at 144 women found that just having even a partial intake of a meal replacement shake helped the participants reach their recommended micronutrient intake (10).
These shakes as previously stated, are great for weight loss, and one of the reasons why this is true is because of how nutritious they are (11). Nutrient-dense foods are much more filling than processed foods are and will fill you up with fewer calories.
Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in people and worldwide, is insufficient in around 50% of people. Products like Orgain are packed with vitamin D to ensure you are able to maintain your levels to support so many physiological processes.
A meal replacement shake can be a hugely beneficial addition to your everyday eating. It combines a balanced macronutrient profile with the addition of many specialized ingredients to boost your overall health. They can support weight loss, muscle growth, and weight management by providing you with a completely balanced meal or snack alternative while keeping your diet in check.
The best way to use meal replacement shakes is to substitute them for a meal that you typically have the hardest time sticking to your diet. For some people this may be breakfast as they are running out the door, others may be finding a healthy alternative to a takeout lunch at work.
These shakes have the biggest effects on suppressing your appetite naturally, increasing your energy levels, and with the fortified nutrition list, you won’t be missing out on anything that you would get from food. Overall, meal replacement shakes are a fantastic alternative that can help you achieve your goals and improve your overall health.
For food4me.org’s #1 recommended meal replacement shake, click here.