In this article, I will be overlooking and identifying the best variants of gluten free meal replacement shakes that are available on the market today. Meal replacement shakes are ideal for those that live their life on the go, but still want to ensure that they have all the nutrients they need (nutritionally complete) to achieve a healthy diet. However, as with any supplement, it is important to understand its role on the body, and how it fits within your daily recommended essential nutrient intake.
While many of the meal replacement shake options out there match the criteria, they are not all gluten free, and therefore are a no-go for those suffering with coeliac disease. Due to gluten free dietary requirements being very common nowadays, many of the largest chains such as Myprotein, Protein world, Foodspring, Women’s Best and many more are creating multiple variants of meal replacement alternatives that suit those who cannot digest the gluten protein found within meal replacement shakes.
Best Gluten Free Meal Replacement Shakes at a glance
I’ve highlighted some of the best gluten free meal replacement shakes available to buy in the UK today.
Shape Shake 2.0 by Foodspring
Benefits of using Shape Shake 2.0
- 7 diverse flavours to integrate as an everyday meal alternative.
- You can just add water, shake it, and drink on the go.
- Can be intuitively manipulated with other ingredients like milk for a denser meal alternative.
- 24 essential minerals and vitamins.
- Essential amino acids with whey protein.
- Enzyme complexes included, L. Acidophilus and Linseed.
The Shape Shake 2.0 is a part of their ‘Shape Shake’ range aimed to fulfil and regulate a healthy diet. However while the previous Shape 1.0 was only aimed as a healthy snacks option to curb the cravings and maintain an energy restricted diet, this 2.0 is not snack focused at all. The newer version is advertised as a full meal solution, as it ensures that all the important macronutrients and essential vitamins are included within the shake profile. All the essential amino acids in whey protein, in addition to fats and dietary fibre are included within the ingredients. There are also 24 of the essential vitamins and minerals required to support biological functions.
Being that it adheres to the European Union Requirements for supplements, Shape 2.0 cannot be advertised or told to help lose weight, as its calorie content is much higher than the average weight aid supplement (200+ calories). What it can be used intuitively for though, is for those that wish to gain or maintain their weight consciously. For those that are finding it quite difficult to eat multiple meals within a busy schedule, or cannot stomach more dense food in their surplus adjusted diet, Shape 2.0 is the perfect delicious shake meal replacement to add to your regime.
What makes Foodspring’s Shape Shake 2.0 the perfect gluten free shake, is the fact it integrates a gluten-free wholemeal oat flour as one of its key ingredients after the Whey protein isolate. The traces of egg within the mixture may make this a no-go for vegans, though.
Purition Wholefood Plant Nutrition (Vegan Version)
Benefits of using Purition Wholefood
- Tastes great, with many five star reviews online.
- Over 15 flavours to choose from.
- A gluten free vegan meal replacement approved by the Vegan Society.
- High in plant based protein (20 grams per serving).
- Can be taken with water or preferred milk of choice as a meal.
- Aids digestive system and regulation due to high fibre content.
Purition is a vegan plant based protein that is 100% dairy free. Rising to fame for its complete natural ingredients base, it’s a series of meal replacement shakes made up of 15 flavours to mix up any diet with variation-and the right nutrition needed to blend on the go.
The gluten free shakes source their protein from natural plant protein such as, brown rice protein, hemp protein, pea protein, with a selection of nuts such as almonds and pistachios. In total there is 20 grams of vegan protein powder present (hemp, brown rice and pea protein isolate), that is also made up of natural fibre and fat sources such as linseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
This meal replacement provides just under 200 calories per serving; the multiple vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients are all combined to give the consumer a balanced gluten free and vegan friendly alternative to compete against mainstream protein powders out there such as MyProtein for example.
Slim Fast Advanced Nutrition
Benefits of using SlimFast Advanced Nutrition
- Low sugar content (only 1g of sugar per serving).
- Innovative flavourings to suffice cravings everyday.
- Lactose free with soy protein isolate alternative.
- Perfect for on the go meals with 24 essential vitamins and minerals.
- Ideal for those who wish to lose weight and manage energy intake.
The SlimFast Advanced Nutrition is labelled as a high protein formulated meal replacement, with low carbohydrate content, and 24 vitamins and minerals integrated within the formula.
The flavours that are currently available include flavours such as Intense Mint Chocolate, Choc Hazelnut Heaven, Chocolate flavour, Vanilla Flavour Cream Shake, Strawberries and Cream and Bananas and Cream Shake. It is advised for the best results, for users to to consume two servings of the Advanced Nutrition per day, with the accompanying Slim Fast healthy snacks range. However this will not be permissible for those suffering with gluten intolerance, as the snacks range is not gluten free-just the advanced nutrition shakes are.
SlimFast is a conglomerate for nutrition shakes that have long been marketed for their ability in aiding weight loss. The mission statement for all the shakes and powders, is to aid those who wish to lose weight. However, what needs to be understood by consumers that are looking to use this meal replacement range, not all are actually gluten-free. Therefore, care and attention needs to go into reading the nutrition labels, to ensure that those with any gluten intolerances, can avoid any discomfort or adverse reactions.
The advanced nutrition series of SlimFast is a gluten free meal replacement, and it is clearly labelled with that distinction on the label. The choice can be limited in terms of varying protein content and flavours, in comparison to the other bands mentioned in this guide. Individuals who follow a vegan diet will unfortunately not be able to consume this particular Slim Fast product due to it not being a vegan meal replacement shake.
Aldi Slim and Trim
Benefits of using Aldi Slim and Trim
- Very low in calories.
- Each serving is represented by sachet portions for user convenience.
- High fibre and protein content to satiate and prevent snacking.
- Has a great reputation and track record for aiding significant weight loss.
The Aldi Weight Loss Shakes line, is newly introduced and one of the most affordable meal shakes within this written gluten free meal replacement guide. Using weight loss as the main sales marketing scheme, Aldi have managed to hit headlines with their many case studies of individuals who have used the shake for themselves, to lose over 60kg primarily from shakes substitution within their diets.
The Aldi Slim and Trim range is without a doubt the best shake for value of money, and could very much compete with the other brands mentioned above. Of course however, in comparison to the larger brands mentioned, there will be downfalls that could prove a deal breaker for those making their rational selection of a meal replacement shake. Firstly, the Slim and Trim only comes in four basic flavours that are not a massively creative take on some of the biggest brands, yet that does not mean they cannot be upgraded and combined with other food ingredients. Within the sachet packaging, Aldi have included innovative ways to add the powdered ingredients towards creating exciting desserts and snack ideas. All you will need is a blender, milk and frozen fruit-and voila, you have a smoothie bowl waiting to be eaten!
While the nutrients provided are of high fibre and protein content, the sugar content may be slightly alarming for 3 of the shakes out of the range. At the highest of 23.4g for the chocolate flavour, this only covers one serving; not the two that is recommended to be taken per day. The sugar content is the same and equivalent to a can of Coca-Cola, meaning this is definitely a con towards taking this gluten free meal replacement, no matter how satiating the protein and fibre content actually is.
Keeping in mind that each shake is just 200 calories max, it still would be a better option for a meal replacement, when cravings for sweets and snacks creep up within any diet and calorie restricted regime. Unfortunately Slim and Trim shakes are not a vegan meal replacement option. But who knows? Maybe Aldi will see the gap within their niche and expand accordingly, just as many brands have done so before.
What is a meal replacement shake?
A meal replacement shake is a supplement that is intended to provide the entire essential nutrients of a nutritious meal. The supplement usually comes in a powdered form, like a protein powder, where you will need to add milk or water to make it into a drinkable liquid.
A meal replacement shake can be intuitively put into an every day calorie controlled diet, because they contain essential vitamins, healthy fats, complete protein, dietary fibre and filling complex carbohydrates to hold your stomach and satiety for long periods. If contributed to a calorie deficit, and a healthy lifestyle, they are the perfect healthy meal choice for weight loss. The reason being is the fact that each meal shake often has fewer calories (200-400), which is a perfect amount to make calorie intake and calorie counting an easier job overall. 
Each of the meal replacements out there will obviously differ from one another nutritionally when broken down, but each individual seeking a meal replacement will take all of the nutritional information from the label into account before making a decision to incorporate it into their diet.
What is gluten?
While it has slowly become very common to come across gluten free products and food labels across the food we buy, many today are still unaware of how gluten can be potentially very harmful if consumed by those who are intolerant. Gluten is a protein found within grains such as wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Of course from the grains I have listed here, wheat is by far the most commonly known.
Gluten comes in the forms of glutenin and gliadin, and it is often the gliadin that holds accountability for the many adverse reactions to health that we hear about within medical research and institutions. You may be asking, what makes gluten so potent to certain people? Well, when gluten is mixed with water (found within the grain i.e. flour), the mixture can form a glue like texture that does not bode well within the digestion process and give rise to autoimmune disorders like Celiac disease.  The disorder arises, due to the immune system believing gluten is in fact a foreign invader to the body, and while it attacks gluten, it will also attack the lining of the gut, which can create severe digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies due to malabsorption.
The overall damage to the gut wall also can lead to other severe illnesses in the long term such as cancer from radical damage. 
This is why it is essential for gluten free meal shakes and protein shake alternatives to be available on the market, as side effects from a gluten intolerance can range from bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, weight loss and consistent headaches. It certainly is not pleasant at all.
Can gluten free meal replacement alternatives also come as vegan appropriate?
Many of the mainstream nutritious meal replacements come as vegan meal replacement shake-friendly too. The reason being is that there is a huge market for both, so for convenience and efficiency sake, the smart way is the combination of both vegan and gluten free products. However, it is important to remember that not all of the best vegan meal replacement shake variants are gluten free. Therefore, to be on the safe side, checking the nutritional information on the label would probably be the best way forward.
Direction of use for gluten free and vegan meal replacement shakes
While many of the gluten free meal replacement shakes will have their own direction of use labelled on the nutrition labels, the generic usage of shakes follows a similar pattern. The instructions are listed down below.
- Take a scoop serving of the meal shake powder and directly mix it within 250-300ml of water, milk or vegan alternative. The powder can also be added within a pre-made smoothie.
- The less liquid that is added, the thicker the meal replacement shake will be and that is usually down to personal preference.
- A blender may be used to emulsify the powder into the mixture, or you may choose to shake by hand (in a protein shaker) until the liquid is one consistency.
- To avoid the powder being stuck at the bottom, the liquid should be put within the blender first, before the scoop of powder is added.
- Depending on the product used, the recommended daily intake of meal replacement shakes is 2-3 servings per day.
When should a gluten free replacement shake be consumed?
Meal replacement shakes are designed to be consumed at any time of the day, as they can be drunk on the go with absolute convenience. Usually, it is opted by consumers to consume the meal replacement shake during breakfast or lunch, or as a snack substitute within the day. By substituting two meals a day, alongside a main third meal, it can become much easier in ensuring your body gets the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and complete amino acid profile that the body needs each and every day to function.
Especially, when the consumer is subject to busy schedules of work, commuting and so on, it makes it far more flexible and adaptable to stick in some gluten free/vegan meal replacement shakes, that can be prepped in as little as 1,2, and 3. Also, for convenience-sake, the fixed protein serving within each shake will make hitting protein targets every day far more achievable for the consciously health driven.
Can you lose weight by drinking meal replacement shakes?
While many of the corporations behind the shakes listed above, are very careful in the way they advertise their meal replacement shakes in relation to a weight loss aid, when incorporated within a calorie deficit, they will aid loss of weight. That is a fact. It is important to be mindful that any calorie controlled diet that is intuitively integrated within everyday life, will lead to weight loss.
Therefore, if gluten free meal replacements are taken consciously, the consumer can achieve sustainable loss of weight. Alternatively, if meal replacement shakes are consumed in excess of daily expenditure, any individual will gain weight. It is simple mathematics with any nature of food, due to the energy in versus energy out equation. Weight loss is not complicated, but getting the right nutrients to support energy and everyday biological functions of the heart, blood pressure, digestive system and metabolism overall, must be understood with deeper context.
Can meal replacements be harmful to the body?
There is no secret that meal replacements are manufactured, meaning they will need to contain processed ingredients to keep the meal replacement shakes as a preservative. A long shelf life means, you can count on added sugars, corn syrups, hydrogenated vegetable oils and artificial flavours being in there.
Some meal replacement shakes that are targeted towards weight loss, will push for a lower calorie content overall, meaning they will be packed with synthesised sugars than actual protein.  This is why it is massively important to read nutritional labels before buying any meal replacement shakes, as you want to make sure that it will benefit your body, and avoid the unhealthy ingredients that will not provide exactly what you need to benefit your health in the long term.
It may not be a long term solution
Yes, you read that right. While gluten meal replacement shakes, and other alternatives such as vegan meal replacement shakes are great for short term use, depending on quick fixes for weight control, or nutrients is never really healthy. Food that works best for the body and hormone regulation, is always that which is cooked fresh and sourced from natural ingredients. It is also worth mentioning that should you decide to go back to solid foods, you may see the old weight loss creep back up due to old eating habits. Usually, it’s often harder for food intake management when it comes to a previous dependence on shakes for a really long period of time. Shakes just don’t fix the deeper problem when it comes to unhealthy eating habits and mentality that will always exist, until the deeper education of food and nutrition is introduced. 
Isolating food for a very long time from your gut can cause havoc to your digestive system. Hey, I am talking common sense here, really. Take away solids from your gut and your gut will not be doing much of its job, right? Especially when we think that many of the gluten free meal replacement shakes are often advised to be taken twice a day or more usually e.g. Food Springs Shake 2.0. While the Food Springs shakes do come with the necessary fibre to counteract not eating enough from solids , if water is not consumed enough within the day, there can be cases of constipation, due to the higher amount of protein and non pro-digestion ingredients taken all in one go.
Sugars such as sorbitol and xylitol are artificial sweeteners and sugars, which can also hurt the gastrointestinal system overall. The reason for these compounds causing an upset is because they can suppress the good acting bacteria within your gut, that help with the rest of the food’s digestion and its integration for metabolism.
- Bell, B., 2017. Can Meal Replacement Shakes Help You Lose Weight?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/meal-replacement-shakes [Accessed 25 June 2021].
- Bjarnadottir, A., 2020. Gluten: What is it and why is it bad for some people?. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318606#problems-with-gluten [Accessed 25 June 2021].
Is Slimfast gluten free?
No, not all Slimfast meal replacement shakes come with gluten free ingredients. Only one line of meal replacement shakes from Slim Fast, has no gluten present within its ingredients, and that is the Advanced Nutrition shake series. It is advised for those with gluten intolerances such as coeliac disease, that they will need to refrain from any other Slim Fast products, as they are not gluten free.
Are Aldi shakes gluten free?
Yes, Aldi’s Slim and Trim range is gluten free, with no added preservatives. The range of shakes available within the supermarket chain all share a calorie range of 150-200 calories across the 5 flavours available. This makes it an ideal weight loss companion to those actively seeking to manage a sustainable weight loss programme.