A well-balanced meal prepared with fresh foods is generally considered the healthiest way to eat. However, because people may not always have time to prepare such meals, healthy substitutes are another option.

In the past few years, many different varieties of energy bars and drinks have been developed. Some are geared toward dieters, some toward serious athletes, and some toward busy people.

Some of these products provide a good balance of calories, fiber, and nutrients. However, others are basically expensive candy bars or milk shakes. As with any food, always check the Nutrition Facts label, paying attention to the serving size and sugar content, as well as the fat and sodium content.

Per serving, a healthy meal replacement product has the following:

  • Less than 250 calories
  • Less than 5 grams of fat
  • 3–5 grams of fiber
  • 10–15 grams of protein
  • 30 percent of the Daily Value for vitamins and minerals

In most cases, meal replacements should not be used more than once or twice a week. As with other weight loss programs, talk to a qualified health care provider before beginning a meal replacement program.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Feb 2007

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015