Meal Replacement Shake Buying Guide – What to look for when buying meal replacement shakes
Recently there seems to have been a boom in meal replacement shakes, with new brands and products popping up left and right. This is fantastic news for the industry, as the more competitive the landscape the better everyone has to be in order to be the best, but for consumers this can just become endlessly confusing. Of course everyone claims to be the best, and you want to believe them, but there must be a way to figure out who’s the real deal and who’s blowing smoke, right?
Your meal replacement shake should use high-quality ingredients, should be high in protein, and satiating. You also want a shake that is convenient, trustworthy, and good value for money.
That’s the short answer anyway, but after reading today’s article you’re going to have all of the information you need to know in order to decide what’s going to work best for you in this growing market.
Why Do People Buy Meal Replacement Shakes?
There’s a plethora of reasons why we might choose to drink our meals, such as how convenient and easy it is to prepare compared to traditional cooking, the efficiency with which you’re getting your nutrients, the price of course and after all that, finding a brand you can trust.
- Health – Nutrition is so important to maintaining overall health and if you’re replacing an entire meal, you need to make sure that the replacement is up to scratch. That’s why Rootana has a complete amino profile, is stuffed to the brim with micronutrients and avoids all artificial ingredients and flavorings unlike some of the major brands such as Huel.
- Convenience – It’s important to look at a couple of things in order to determine how convenient your meal replacement shake really is. For example, many require the use of blenders to avoid poor texture, such as Ka’Chava, whereas Rootana is easily mixed and thick with a simple shake
- Pricing – Naturally we all want to be getting the best deals possible, and the perceived value of a product can change depending on your current goals. With Rootana our approach was to provide people with a high-value product, and if you look at what you get for your money you’ll find Rootana provides. For example, you get 240 calories per serving with Ka’chava, but almost double that with 400 in Rootana.
- Brand reputation – We’ll go more into detail with our next section but just to touch on it here as it certainly plays a big part. When people are putting faith in you to provide them with their meals, something that could have disastrous consequences if done wrong, they’re putting a lot of trust into your brand. We always conduct ourselves to the highest ethical standards and believe strongly that this should be the standard way of conducting business.
Ingredients & Nutrition
It’s not just about nutrition, but the sources of said nutrition which matter a lot too. This can be seen a lot in the flavoring and coloring of meal replacement shakes, as when meal replacement shakes use cheap, non-natural ingredients they often taste pretty awful, requiring the use of intense artificial sweeteners in an attempt to cover this up. This can also actually negatively impact nutrition, such as with protein which requires high quality sources in order to provide a complete amino acid profile. This is where you can start to really separate the greatest out there from the rest, as a clever meal replacement shake is able to create it’s formula from the very best, all natural ingredients rather than relying on cheaper artificial ingredients as a crutch. Great examples of this are ingredients such as Oat Flour for protein and low GI carbs, golden flaxseed for it’s omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and pea-protein isolate for it’s high quality plant protein providing good amounts of every essential amino acid, all of which can be found in Rootana.
Finally let’s delve into what is very likely the most important aspect – nutritional content. There’s a lot of information out there on nutrition, so much so it can be easy to get lost in it. One minute you could be reading a research paper on the importance of carbohydrates for energy, and the next you could be reading another paper saying carbohydrates are terrible and that you should instead increase fat in your diet if you want more energy.
The truth lies somewhere in between all of this, ofcourse, as it’s important to have a varied and broad diet that encompasses all of your nutritional needs without stressing too much about it. This is one way meal replacement shakes can genuinely help to improve health, as it takes some of the pressure off reaching particularly difficult nutritional requirements, such as how Rootana is a fantastic source of Omega 3 for vegans. Let’s break this down a bit further.
Though you may intuitively think lower calories are better when it comes to meal replacement shakes, you’d be mistaken. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, which outright requires reducing calorie intake to a calorie deficit, it’s just not that simple. The average person eats around 400 calories for breakfast and then between 500 and 700 calories for lunch and dinner, so for your meal replacement shake you ideally want something with between 300-400 calories in order to keep energy levels up, and food cravings to a minimum. With Rootana you get 400 calories as standard, but can increase this to 600 by adding an extra scoop.
There’s also value to consider, with the lower calorie options just not really giving you quite as much. If you consider a 200 calorie drink in a 15 serving bag that costs $60, that’s $4 for 240 calories, whereas in a drink like Rootana you get 400 calories for $3.21.
Starting things off here we have protein, which is probably the most researched nutrient due to the fact it’s also the most crucial and essential for overall health. It used to be thought that when it comes to protein it’s really only about quantity, but what was identified in people eating plant-based diets is that they often had problems with health, and would often not be very muscular. This is because, despite the fact they were getting enough protein in their daily diets, the quality of that protein was low, and low quality protein is identified by a low amount of amino acids present. These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and there are 9 that are considered “essential amino acids”. These contain the BCAA, branch chain amino acids and six others, and it’s highly important that you get enough of these. Symptoms of deficiencies included depression, decreased immunity, digestive problems, lower mental alertness … the list goes on, so it’s important to identify a meal replacement shake having a complete amino acid profile which is fairly easy to spot as if they have that, they’ll be singing about it – especially if it’s vegan friendly. Speaking of vegan friendly, using plant based protein in this way of course comes with all of the positives you’d associate with veganism, such as a reduced carbon footprint and overall lessened environmental impact.
Another one that gets a bad rap, fats are actually a very important source of energy for the body. For the younger ones among us you might be nodding in agreement to this but people in the older generations will remember how often fat was spoken about in the media as something to be avoided, with confectionary companies levying to obscure people from the truth that sugars are much more of a concern when it comes to obesity. It’s important to keep in mind that fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 are actually essential for the body to function correctly, and as such should be a part of your daily diets. That being said, we do recommend you avoid saturated fats and trans fats, which are present in many processed foods including margarine, so make sure you check the labels! The best source of Omega-3 fatty acids is of course fish, but as we mentioned previously Rootana has cleverly included chia seeds and golden flaxseed to provide a plant-based alternative, and many seed oils such as sunflower seed oil are a great source of Omega-6.
A lesser-known fact is that fibre is just a form of carbohydrate, though it provides enough different nutritional benefits to warrant its own section. In an average modern diet, it’s far more typical that people aren’t getting enough fibre, which can cause some unforeseen health issues that you might not even think could be caused by too little fibre. Of course, it keeps you regular, but it also plays a huge role in overall gut health thanks to its relationship with gut bacteria, which leads to it boosting your immune system and most importantly, it helps to maintain heart health . For our meal replacement shakes however it’s important to note the role fibre plays in increasing satiety, which goes a long way towards helping with weight management. This is why porridge and oatmeal were such popular choices for breakfast back in the day, it provided people with a feeling of fullness that persisted into the afternoon, and as food was more scarce back then this was invaluable.
The body’s favorite food, carbohydrates get a bad rap because they’re the most calorie-dense food, so it makes sense to limit them in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. This extends of course to sugar as well, which should be limited as much as possible for the harm they can do to your overall health. That said, this isn’t representative of all carbs, as it’s certainly possible to find great sources of low-GI carbs. What this essentially means is that carbohydrates have high fiber, leading to more slowly released energy as well as reducing the risk of blood sugar spikes . Best way to spot if a meal replacement shake has these slow-release carbohydrates is to check for fiber content or take a look at the actual ingredients to identify their source of carbohydrates. A common and fantastic source of low GI carbs would be oats, which are well known for providing long-lasting energy to the body.
Bit of an odd one to talk about but trust us we’ve got some great advice here. Now of course if you’ve got the opportunity to taste something then go ahead and taste it, you can’t beat first-hand experience, but say you’re in the likely position of searching the internet for resources on meal replacement shakes in order to decide which one. Well, you’re going to want something delicious of course but you can’t taste something through a screen (yet! Someone is most likely working on that let’s be honest) so how do you make that decision? You check the ingredients.
In terms of ingredients what you need to do here is ask yourself a simple question: How much of this is actual food? Typically speaking with meal replacement shakes, the more natural their makeup the better they’ll taste and the opposite applies, the less natural the makeup the worse the taste. A lot of the time meal replacement shakes have to balance including bitter ingredients such as vitamin powders and the like, and to cover that up they add in artificial sweeteners and flavorings, but what tends to happen is you’re hit with an intensely sweet flavor followed by a horribly bitter aftertaste.
How to Read Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are often an unruly place full of people complaining about things that will likely not be relevant to you, such as poor customer experiences and mis-deliveries or worse yet, fake bot reviews. It’s still definitely worth your time however as you do find people who have genuinely taken the time out of their day to leave their thoughts. It’s fairly easy to spot as the bots tend to never say anything negative at all, whereas most people would leave an honest review saying there are one or two things they’d change but overall they enjoyed it. At the point you’re able to identify the real reviews from the fake ones all you need to do then is identify patterns. Are people commonly complaining about a bitter, synthetic aftertaste? Probably want to leave that one then. Are people commonly praising the smooth, thick texture? Sounds like you’re onto something good.
Value for Money
One of the main causes for concern when purchasing meal replacement shakes is of course, the price. It’s completely understandable, especially if you’ve never purchased one before, to think $40 is a bit much for some powder. We spoke about the calories to cost ratio previously, but here lets take a different perspective. Let’s say you’re on lunch from work. You’ve got 30 minutes to eat, and a couple of options ahead of you: you could run to the cafe, get a nice deli sandwich and a drink for $13; you could run home and make a sandwich for about $4-$9 but barely have enough time to eat it, or you could quickly shake up a Rootana for a delicious meal for $3.21.
It starts to make sense, doesn’t it? Now let’s look at the nutrition, that deli sandwich would likely be about 600-700 calories, with a lot of fat and carbs and maybe a decent amount of protein, but likely very little fibre. The sandwich you make at home is more likely to be better nutrition, but even then it’s likely to be about 400 calories, a lot of carbs from the bread and very little of much else.
Whereas Rootana, even whilst being the most convenient, and even with providing this high level of value, also provides the best nutrition. Now we’re not saying you couldn’t spend the time and cook up something equally nutritious and delicious, but the fact of the matter is that the value of meal replacement shakes is far beyond what is intuitive when looking at a packet on the shelf.
Starting out here we have something that, depending on your disposition, is either the most or least important consideration. That said, we think that no matter how relaxed you are about it, it’s important to find a brand with ethics and values that mirror your own, or at the very least a brand that conducts itself professionally and respectfully. We’d recommend a quick “Brand name scandal” search into Google can do the trick, as it more often than not will simply come up with nothing, but on that one occasion you find a brand was caught and fined for hidden ingredients, you’ll be glad you took the time to do it.
Speaking of ethics, sustainability is something we’d recommend you take a close look at as well. It’s more important than ever to make sure we’re reducing our individual carbon footprint, and one way of doing that is to purchase wisely. At Rootana we pride ourselves on being as sustainable as possible, and it informs pretty much every decision we make as a company. Take our packaging for example, which uses as little plastic as possible, even our ingredients are chosen this way such as choosing pea protein over the loss sustainable but cheaper whey and using oats as our main source of carbohydrates which are highly sustainable.
This is something that is crucial but is one of the easiest aspects to overlook. One of the best things about meal replacement shakes is their convenience, and you don’t want to be whipping out a blender that’s going to require cleaning so that your meal replacement doesn’t taste chalky and gritty. This is one thing where looking through customer reviews can be helpful, but you can see it in the subtext of online stores. For example, if they’re mentioning how you can use a blender, they’re inadvertently telling you that you should use a blender, they just don’t want to say it outright. Marketing, aye?
We’d recommend having a look at their labelling in order to determine if there’s any funny business going on. One example of this can be with serving sizes listed just not being representative of the shake. Say a pre-mix shake comes in a 330ml bottle but only lists 100ml as a serving size. If pushed legally on this they would claim that they would expect their customers to drink 100ml at a time or something like that, but in reality, they’re trying to hide things like high levels of sugar and calories, and it’s the kind of industry practice that can lead to doubts on a brands treatment of their consumers, considering they’re willing to obfuscate information like that. What else are they hiding?
Meal Replacement Shake Buying Guide: Final Thoughts
And that’s our meal replacement shake buying guide, hopefully, it’s helpful and you manage to find the perfect option for yourself. It’s fun to go through something like this as it reminds us what we’re really striving for, and keeps things in perspective. You can see how we’ve scored very well in each section, from our nutrition being some of the best in the business to our focus on natural, real food ingredients to keep a natural flavor. We’ve even managed to keep our formula very easy to mix, not requiring any outside equipment and of course we pride ourselves on giving you all of this without sacrificing our values, and whilst providing a great value product that you’ll love.