If you find yourself short on meal prep time, do you just give up on your weight loss goals? Of course not! There are plenty of other methods and ways for you to plan your meals, and one of them is by taking the meal replacement shakes available in the UK.
We are living in a world where everything needs to happen fast or right away, with every minute counting towards how we manage our time. The same thing goes for fitness and wellness, with just about every new fitness or diet program claiming to help you “lose weight” or “gain muscle” in less than two weeks or in 30 minutes.
The thing is, there is no real fast way to becoming healthy and weight loss. Long term weight loss requires a lifetime of dedication and discipline with regards to what we eat, and most of the time you can solve this through meal prep.
But let’s face it: People no longer have the time to prepare their meals. Blogs on the internet will tell you that it will “just take 15 minutes,” but that’s assuming you have everything ready and someone else will do the dishes for you.
When people don’t have their meal prep game on, their tendency is to just eat whatever’s on the fridge or whatever looks healthy and hope that they don’t go overboard on calories or macros – and this doesn’t result in weight loss most of the time.
- The 10 Best Meal Replacement Shakes
- What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
- The Benefits of Taking Meal Replacements
- Why Meal Replacement Shakes aren’t all good
- What to look for in a Meal Replacement Shake
- Best for Weight loss
- Best for Energy
- Best for Exercise
- Best for Overall Health
- Meal Replacement FAQs
The 10 Best Meal Replacement Shakes
If you want to know which are the best meal replacement products, we’ve reviewed the 10 best shakes in the UK for 2021! Skip this top 10 list and read further on if you want to know more about meal replacement products first .
1. Garden of Life Meal Replacement
We see Garden of Life Meal Replacement as the #1 meal replacement shake because it’s one of the most robust shakes ever. Then we also have to mention that Garden of Life’s reputation as a high-quality wellness supplement company is pretty untarnished. After all, you’ll be ingesting something every day for at least a month, so always go with a company that’s known for product safety on top of quality.
Well rounded, high in protein, lots of probiotics per serving, quality company and formula, you just can’t get any better than this, folks. Garden of Life Meal Replacement is the real deal.
2. SlimFast Meal Shake
- 23 essential vitamins and minerals
- No Added Sugar
- 15 grams of protein per serving
- Includes a dietary plan for weight loss
- Simple, no frills, and focused formulation
SlimFast Meal Shake is one of the most popular shakes due to how it’s advertised specifically to help with weight loss. After all, one of the reasons why people use meal replacemens is to lose weight, so going all-in on weight management is always a good marketing idea.
One of the best things about SlimFast is how it’s not a new product at all. If anything, the SlimFast brand has been around for decades through their SlimFast Diet program. The program involves eating two meal replacements per day plus three snacks. They also guide you into what meal to make on your own.
3. USN Diet Fuel Chocolate UltraLean
- Low Sugar
- 25 grams of protein per serving
- Contains branded digestive enzymes
- Formulated with chromium for appetite control and management of blood sugar levels
- High in fibre
- Good for vegetarians
- Robust formulation
- Available in 5 flavours: Strawberry Cream, Chocolate Cream, Vanilla Cream, Caffe Latte and Banana Caramel
USN Diet Fuel Chocolate UltraLean is one of those shakes that seem to cater to those who really need to lose weight without sacrificing taste. Just like SlimFast, UltraLean definitely doubles down on its weight loss claims, suggesting using their product to replace two meals per day can lead to weight loss.
4. The Protein Works Diet Meal Replacement Extreme
- 22 essential vitamins and minerals
- Fast and slow-release proteins
- 12 months shelf-life
- Sustained energy release
- Under 210 calories per meal
- Low in sugar
- 25 grams of protein
- Contains fat burners
The Protein Works Diet Meal Replacement separates themselves from other top-notch meal replacements by adding fast and slow-release proteins. This is a unique take as most meal replacement shakes would rather use standard whey protein and call it a day.
Why does having fast and slow-release proteins matter? Because it contributes to sustained satiety. Fast-release proteins help with that feeling of being energised while slow-release proteins help keep you full for longer periods.
The product also has actual fat burners to help you lose weight, namely carnitine, glucomannan, and green tea extract. The only thing we don’t like here is the price, as it’s easily 25-40% more expensive than some of the other premium brands in its category.
5. XLS Nutrition Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shake
- 31 grams of protein
- Less than 250 calories per serving
- Loaded with B-vitamins for energy release
- Comes in 3 flavours: strawberry, vanilla & chocolate
XLS-Nutrition Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shake is one of those products that encourages people to lose weight not just by replacing meals, but also suggesting an overall lifestyle upgrade. This is actually different from how most low-quality shakes advertise themselves as the only thing you need to lose weight.
The product also has an easy-to-follow weight loss plan that revolves around making their shake plus other recipes that will make it look and taste better.
They claim that upon completing the weight loss program, they guarantee visible and sustainable results.
6. Vega One All in One Nutritional Shake
- 20 grams plant-based protein
- Organic veggies and greens
- Well-rounded and plant-based essential vitamins and minerals
- Contains antioxidants and Omega-3
- Has fibre and probiotics for gut health
- Certified Vegan
- Only 160 calories
If you’re not fond of animal sources of protein, then Vega One All in One Nutritional Shake should be a good product for you. It’s certified vegan, sources organic vegetables and greens, and loaded with plant-based proteins.
It also contains antioxidants for immunity and fibre and probiotics for digestive health and overall gut health.
7. SCI-MX Diet Meal Replacement Protein Powder
SCI-MX Diet Meal Replacement Protein Powder looks like one of those products that are serious about replacing your meals. Their macro ratio is really ideal, mimicking a “balanced” meal with 25 grams of protein, 14g carbs, and 4.7g fat.
Each serving contains 30% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs, which means you can easily replace one third of your meals with their product. It also lists green tea extract as an active ingredient. Green tea extract is one of the best fat burners in the industry thanks to its antioxidant content.
As to why it’s ranked this low despite the good formulation, there are other premium products out there that work better for the price.
8. SlimFast Advanced Vegan Vitality High Protein Meal Replacement Powder Shake
SlimFast is back at it again with a vegan alternative to their already popular brand. This time around, they’re appealing to a more specific market which are the health-conscious who chose to go full-plant based with their diet.
This product is probably among the ones with really high fibre content which is great for both digestion and gut bacterial health, yet they’re able to keep the carb content to a moderate level. This is great as the last thing you want is to eat something that’s carb-heavy and not filling for a meal replacer.
9. MET-RX Original Meal Replacement
MET-RX Original Meal Replacement boasts of having all the essential amino acids in good doses per serving. They also sell themselves as a great post-workout meal due to their fast-absorbing protein for muscle support. They also offer slow digesting proteins for extended amino acid delivery and further muscle recovery.
Unlike other meal replacers, they’re insisting to take their product as part of meals or in-between meals, and not really the full meal replacements many users want.
Depending on who buys MET-RX Original Meal Replacement, this may or may not be a plus, but in the overall context we think this dents their score hence why they’re ranked low despite having a decent formula.
10. Protein World – The Slender Blend Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shake
- Suitable for vegetarians
- No artificial colours or flavourings
- Only 143 calories per serving
- 26 essential vitamins and minerals
- 24 grams of protein per serving (with almond milk)
Protein World – The Slender Blend Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shake is similar to what MET-RX wants to do with their meal replacements shake and it’s to be more than just a meal replacer. Like MET-RX, they also sell themselves as a post-workout meal.
The formula is alright, but what really makes it not as good as the others are two things:
- The way they suggest the use of almond milk to maximise the formula. Not everyone has almond milk or liked almond milk, so this suggestion may come off as a way to offset what the formula lacks.
- The label is hard to read. Wrapping a long formula horizontally is never a good idea.
Regardless, it’s still pretty well rounded especially as it also contains probiotics and even a few fat burners on the side.
What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?
Meal replacement shakes are exactly what they sound like: Shakes or smoothies formulated to replace a meal, with all the vitamins, minerals, and other healthy goodies you would normally find in a typical meal.
Whilst some people don’t think they’re real food, they are effectively a healthy meal in a shake and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Sometimes known as diet shakes, they weren’t really designed for weight loss, but the fact that the calories and macros are quantified can give you a sense of control with how much you eat per meal. The control you have over the calories you consume, and the nutrients per serving, can definitely help your typical Joe or Jane with their weight loss efforts, especially those looking at improving protein diets.
The Benefits of Taking Meal Replacements
So, why would you want to substitute something that needs to be blended or stirred over your usual lunch or snack? Well, a number of good reasons:
- Portable. Some shakes can come in the form of powdered mixes similar to protein shakes and powders while others come in the form of ready to drink beverages, where all you’ll need to do is shake the bottle and you have a meal.
- Help avoid unnecessary eating. Similar to meal prep, meal replacements can be a form of self-control with regards to appetite. You don’t have to go outside the office or your house to buy food you’re not sure fits your calorie or macro requirements. Then, it also has this psychological edge where once you’re done with your shake, you’d feel full or at least no longer craving for more. Out of sight, out of mind and it’s the same with food.
- They state the ingredients, the protein, carb, fat content, and the calories per serving or per bottle. This ties with #2 in how the consumer is fully aware of what they’re ingesting unlike typical foods that don’t even list the calorie per serving. If your diet program says you only need X amount of anything per meal or per day, these diet shakes can help give you better control over those numbers.
- Nutritious by default. The usual office microwaveable foods aren’t exactly the prime definition of healthy, and nutrient density matters highly when you’re on a weight loss journey. So, what you want to do is make every calorie as healthy and nutritious as possible, and this is what they do. The calorie content is kept to a minimum while the nutrient content is maxed out as much as possible.
- Save time. Finally, the best perk of taking supplements like these is how they save us time. Imagine having a “full meal” in just 5 minutes. No more cooking, re-heating, or unnecessary dishwashing. Just mix the shake, drink, and you’re done.
Why Meal Replacement Shakes aren’t all good
We highlighted some pretty solid reasons why meal replacement shakes are great for you, so now we also have to look at the other side of the coin and see what makes them not as good as they sound.
- May contain unhealthy ingredients. Depending on what brand you buy, the formula used may contain some rather unhealthy ingredients or fillers. Normally, fillers are used to help “thicken” the shake, add flavour, or prevent powders from caking or lumping. These ingredients may not be immediately bad for our health, but due to how the shakes are taken daily, this may eventually lead to a health problem.
- They aren’t a long-term solution. Meal replacement shakes are pretty handy and can be habit-forming. The convenience, the time saved, and the way it does all the macro and calorie counting for you are huge perks for consumers. However, the idea is to eventually move towards whole foods and not be permanently reliant on what is basically a bunch of nutrients in a bottle.
- They don’t really change eating habits. If you’re fond of snacking, taking meal replacementswon’t fix that. Even if you were to lose weight within the next 30 days of taking them, resuming bad habits even while you’re still ingesting this type of product will only bring the weight back and possibly even more.
What to look for in a Meal Replacement Shake
Meal replacement shakes are great when it comes to weight loss, but what exactly should you be looking for when buying a quality meal replacement shake?
The first thing you have to look for in any supplement is the ingredient list section. If a supplement doesn’t have that, then it’s an easy skip. You may think that this doesn’t happen, but there are products out there who only print ingredients lists by themselves and are not checked by any third-party system with regards to its authenticity.
Assuming the product has the ingredients list, the next part is to read the exact ingredients included per serving.
In a typical meal replacement shake, you should expect to find a long list of ingredients. After all, you are essentially replacing an entire meal’s worth of nutrients, so the list better be long!
Usually, these ingredients are separated by blends and the blends are determined based on function. The common blends include:
- Digestive aides/enzymes: These are ingredients meant to help absorb nutrients better or stimulate proper digestion to prevent digestion problems. [6,7]
- Macros: These are your carbs, protein, and sometimes even fat sources. These have to be correctly stated in both dosage and what form, as some people have food sensitivities especially with gluten and lactose.
- Vitamins and Minerals: This blend is usually the longest on the label, complete with dosage and their corresponding daily values or %DV.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 blend: This is often a separate blend from fats as the source of omega-3 and omega-6 can be either fish oil or sunflower oil, and only one of them is for vegans.
- Fibre and prebiotics: On top of being a great digestion aide, fibre can also help with weight loss as this gives your belly that “full” feeling which is important if you’re only taking a meal replacer for lunch or maybe even dinner. Some types of fibre also double as prebiotics, compounds that promote gut bacterial health which is important for immunity on top of other bodily functions. [1,2,8]
Next to zero fillers
The ingredients section will tell a lot about the quality of a meal replacement shake, especially when it comes to the things they add that aren’t supposed to be there called fillers.
Given that some fillers are necessary during the manufacturing process (i.e. anti-caking agents or powders that increase flowability), they should not be in high number or part of the key ingredients.
The fillers should be declared at the very least, especially when we’re talking about colorants, sweeteners, and other ingredients that give the shake texture.
When it comes to weight loss, you’re always aiming for the most nutrients with the least calories per serving. More than the calories, you should also be on the lookout for a macro ratio, or how much carbs, protein, and fats it has per serving.
Ideally, a meal replacement shake should be composed of:
- 50% Carbs (of which you also include fibre and sugars if any)
- 30% Proteins
- 20% Fats
The numbers can change depending on the product and your goals.
Best for Weight loss
USN Diet Fuel Chocolate UltraLean is the best for weight loss due to its high protein content and robust formulation that promotes appetite control.
A close second would be The Protein Works Diet Meal Replacement Extreme because of how they include actual fat burners in the mix, and how the formula has fast and slow-release proteins to help curb your appetite the rest of the day or until your next meal. This can avoid snacking and intake of excess calories.
Best for Energy
The Protein Works Diet Meal Replacement Extreme is the best for energy due to its formula that consists of both fast and slow-release proteins. These proteins help maximise the meal replacement shake’s energy boosting effect, extending the energizing feeling throughout the whole day.
The next one would be MET-RX Original Meal Replacement because of its 35 grams of protein per serving. This protein shake makes it more filling than carbs or fat, and when you’re replacing actual meals, you want to make sure your stomach feels as full as possible.
Best for Exercise
XLS Nutrition Weight Loss Meal Replacement Shake’s the best not just because of the formulation, but because of how its also has an easy weight loss plan that definitely wants you to integrate exercise.
The next one would be SlimFast Meal Shake with almost the same weight loss program knitted closely with their meal shake recipes.
Best for Overall Health
Garden of Life Meal Replacement is the best overall meal replacement shake due to how robust the formulation is, the quality of the ingredients used, the synergy of each ingredient, and they also top it all of with a good serving of probiotics.
We also think Garden of Life Meal Replacement’s reputation as a quality company further exemplifies why they’re the best meal replacement shake for overall health. Anything you will put inside your body has to be safe first and foremost, and Garden of Life is one of those companies that take the extra step for quality and safety.
- Clark MJ, Slavin JL. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(3):200-11. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.791194. PMID: 23885994.
- Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CL, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Apr;19(4):818-24. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.203. Epub 2010 Sep 16. PMID: 20847729; PMCID: PMC4564867.
- Guo X, Xu Y, He H, Cai H, Zhang J, Li Y, Yan X, Zhang M, Zhang N, Maddela RL, Nicodemus-Johnson J, Ma G. Effects of a Meal Replacement on Body Composition and Metabolic Parameters among Subjects with Overweight or Obesity. J Obes. 2018 Dec 26;2018:2837367. doi: 10.1155/2018/2837367. PMID: 30687550; PMCID: PMC6327254.
- Davis LM, Coleman C, Kiel J, Rampolla J, Hutchisen T, Ford L, Andersen WS, Hanlon-Mitola A. Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: a randomised controlled trial. Nutr J. 2010 Mar 11;9:11. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-11. PMID: 20222968; PMCID: PMC2851659.
- Kruschitz R, Wallner-Liebmann S, Lothaller H, Luger M, Ludvik B. Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintenance by a Meal Replacement Based Weight Management Program in Primary Care. Obes Facts. 2017;10(2):76-84. doi: 10.1159/000454836. Epub 2017 Apr 5. PMID: 28376497; PMCID: PMC5644929.
- Ianiro G, Pecere S, Giorgio V, Gasbarrini A, Cammarota G. Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases. Curr Drug Metab. 2016;17(2):187-93. doi: 10.2174/138920021702160114150137. PMID: 26806042; PMCID: PMC4923703.
- Roxas M. The role of enzyme supplementation in digestive disorders. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Dec;13(4):307-14. PMID: 19152478.
- Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1417-35. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417. PMID: 23609775; PMCID: PMC3705355.
Meal Replacement FAQs
Can I only drink meal replacement shakes?
If you bought a meal replacement shake, then of course you can only drink them.
Even if you do think of using a spoon or scoop to just chew on them, this is not only hard to do (you will be doing quite a lot of chewing), but it will also be inefficient when it comes to nutrient absorption. The formulation of meal replacement shakes were designed to make ingredients easier to absorb in a liquid medium, so removing water from the computation can negatively affect the product’s efficacy.
Can I use meal replacement shakes to lose weight?
Some meal replacement shakes are formulated to help you lose weight, especially those with fat burners and lots of fibre in the formula. Generally speaking, they can only help you lose weight if:
– You’re controlling total calories consumed per day.
– You’re strict with using meal replacers to actually replace meals and not as a snack in-between meals.
– You’re using the recommended diet plans provided.
Some meal replacements are also meant to be taken as a post workout meal, so if you’re also doing your part in exercising, taking products like these should lead to weight loss.
What is in a meal replacement?
Meal replacement shakes often contain all the basic nutrients including vitamins and minerals. They also have a good source of protein and fibre. A few have fat in the form of plant oils or omega-3 fatty acids or MCT oils.
More specialised, premium meal replacements have digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics in the mix too.
What is the most filling meal replacement shake?
The most filling meal replacement shakes are those that have high protein content and high fibre content. This is because protein and fibre are hard to digest, which makes them filling.
On our top 10 list, the most filling would have to be USN Diet Fuel Chocolate UltraLean and The Protein Works Diet Meal Replacement Extreme.
How many calories are in a meal replacement?
This varies per product, but the average seems to be between 250 to 350 calories. Shakes that go higher often add more carbs with the intent of being a post-workout supplement while shakes that go lower are often shakes taken for weight loss purposes.
A graduate from the University of Santo Tomas, Robert writes about sports supplements, nutrition, health & fitness and medical topics. Robert is a former Research Scientist and holds a degree in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Robert regularly shares his scientific knowledge and research-backed content on health authority websites, various podcasts and social websites including Quora.