If you’ve ever tried to drop a few pounds, here’s something you probably already know: Trendy diets come and go, usually leaving a trail of unhappy weight-loss hopefuls in their wake. In fact, it’s extremely rare for a diet to be both effective and appealing, which is why juice cleanses and other crazy-strict nutrition plans have fallen in and out of favor for years. However, there’s a new craze suddenly trending that people actually believe to be revolutionary in the world of nutrition. No, it’s not solely intended for weight-loss (although, that typically occurs anyway) but it is projected to transform the American diet altogether. Intrigued yet?
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Behold, meal-replacement shakes. Unlike juice cleanses, these nutrient-packed beverages are full of enough calories to satiate you while also providing the exact amount of nutrients you need to thrive. While there are quite a few meal-replacement brands on the market, one of the more prominent, Soylent, was originally created with the goal of eliminating the need for food altogether, making it an optional activity for people too busy to actually eat (think computer programmers or anyone else who’s too absorbed at work to prep a full meal for themselves).
Now, don’t get Soylent confused with those pseudoscientific weight-loss shakes you see promoted on Instagram. Soylent is FDA-approved, giving it a major one-up on all those shady other options. It’s comprised of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, while staving away from unhealthier food components like sugars and saturated fats.
Another popular meal-replacement shake on the market, Huel, contains 100-percent of the FDA’s ‘Daily Values,’ meaning all 27 essential vitamins and minerals are included, as well as proteins, carbs and necessary fats. According to the company, this vegan option might actually be an easy way to drop a few pounds, simply due to the ability to track calories with ease.
Not only do both options supposedly provide maximum nutrition with minimal effort, but they also take into account the fact that consuming food is just plain wasteful. Both products are made from plants, meaning they produce less CO2 than livestock, and since both have a longer shelf life, they also reduce food waste. Because of this, many Soylent and Huel proponents think these drinks will be the future of human nutrition.
While all of this sounds great in theory, is it actually healthy for you? We spoke with nutritionist Nancy Steely, ND, MBA, Arbonne Senior Director of R&D/Quality Nutrition, for answers: “Meal planning can sometimes be difficult in the face of everyday pressures and projects when time is restricted, so when someone is trying to maintain a healthy weight, a meal-replacement shake can provide required macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to ensure a healthy, lower-calorie option while still providing energy and nutrients.”
Additionally, Dr. Steely claims meal-replacement shakes can aid in weight-management efforts since they offer a healthy alternative to fast or processed food. However, she doesn’t recommend living solely off of them, but rather replacing one or two meals a day with them. “Ensuring adequate intake of healthy foods during the day is also important—vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy protein sources provide much more than macronutrients and essential vitamins and minerals; they also provide antioxidants and the pleasure of eating, which can help to avoid binging on snack foods.”
All in all, meal-replacement shakes like Soylent or Huel could be an excellent source of nutrition for those that regularly reach for unhealthy snacks or meals due to a busy schedule. By replacing the meal you struggle with most, you’ll swap out the junk food that leads to weight gain and instead, give your body a boost of good-for-you ingredients with no fuss. Sounds like a win-win to me.