Do you spend December running around from one Christmas celebration to another? Do you get stressed out about Christmas decorations, party outfits and gifts?
Well, you are not alone! For many people, Christmas can be a very stressful time of the year. Actually, some people rate Christmas as being more stressful than getting divorced or being burgled…
But fear not, help is here! And it comes in the shape of meal replacements.
What are meal replacements?
Meal replacements generally refer to calorie-controlled pre-packaged products in the form of bars, beverages or powders, which are used to replace a regular meal.
Most meal replacements contain 200–400 calories and a good amount of protein. Some also offer a fair amount of dietary fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, but the nutrient composition can vary substantially. You should always take a careful look at the ingredient list before buying a product.
An easy way to cut calories
Well, we can all agree that there is no such thing as an easy way to lose weight! And the best way to lose weight is by changing your lifestyle and focusing on healthier habits, including increased physical activity and eating home-made meals made from healthy whole foods. But that is, unfortunately, not always very practical with a busy schedule, especially in a hectic month like December…
Meal replacements can, therefore, be a solution for some people, allowing them to kick-start their weight-loss journey by helping them to reduce their calorie intake. They can boost your weight loss efforts and help you to maintain a healthy weight in a period with lots of festivities.
The convenient solution
When it comes to convenience, meal replacements have the upper hand compared to home-made meals. Meal replacements like bars, shakes and smoothies are all very easy to take with you on the go. They require no preparation, and you can eat or drink them anywhere. Meal replacements are also a significantly healthier alternative to most fast foods, which are usually high in saturated fats and added sugars.
So, on a busy day when you would normally skip a meal entirely or go for some fast food, a meal replacement can be a good alternative since it will give you only a few calories. It will help you feel full for longer and keep your blood sugar more stable.
What about the nutrients?
Not all meal replacements are the same. The rules vary from country to country, and so does the variety of products and their ingredients. Most meal replacements claim to be high in protein, which is an important nutrient, especially for weight loss. But the amount of protein can vary substantially! So can the amount of added sugar, and some meal replacements actually contain more grams of sugar than grams of protein, even though they are marketed for weight loss…
That is why, as with anything else, you should always take a look at the ingredients before buying a protein shake, bar or smoothie. Go for products with a low amount of fat, look out for added sugar and keep an eye on the total number of calories. And keep in mind that your total daily protein intake should not exceed the recommended amount.
Another good idea is to supplement a meal replacement with a nutrient-packed low-calorie snack such as a piece of fruit or a serving of brown rice or veggies.
Meal replacements should never be used as your only nutrition for a longer period, as they do not provide all the essential nutrients you need. But for a short period of time or as a replacement for a meal, they are perfectly ok.
It is important to note that meal replacements are not suitable for children, pregnant women, people with eating disorders or those taking medication that can result in rapid weight loss, such as insulin.
If you want to use meal replacements, check with your dietician or doctor to see how these products can fit safely into your eating plan.
Did you know?
That for many people, a meal replacement can help them to regain control over their eating habits? With a meal replacement, the ingredients, calories and portion size are fixed, which is very helpful if you want to avoid overeating.
That meal replacements have been a regular feature of science fiction films since as far back as the 1960s?
That some energy bars contain more added sugar than a Mars bar?