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Blender cup with a protein shake sitting next to a measuring cup of protein powder and a banana

Dietitians Dish: Meal Replacements – Do, or Don’t?

When you’re on the go or your schedule is hectic, making time to eat a well-balanced meal gets tough. You might turn to protein bars and shakes, or just skip a meal altogether. We wondered what the experts do when they’re in a pinch – replace or not? They were split fairly evenly, and offered this advice. Check out what some of our registered dietitians think of the quick eats.

Granola protein bar sitting on table next to orange slice

“I usually recommend meal replacements for breakfast if you don’t have a lot of time to eat a meal. RX protein bars are my favorite because a shake doesn’t fill me up the same way. But I would caution you to consider whether meal replacements are right for your lifestyle. If you don’t plan to use them for the rest of your life, they may not be the right solution.” – Susannah Schneider

Person eating protein bar while walking outside and holding water bottle after exercising

“I like to use protein bars as a meal replacement because they’re super easy and can be safely stored in a bag for an extended period of time. Look for bars with a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of about 1-to-1 or 2-to-1. Try to avoid a lot of added sugar.” – Patina Warinner

Person holding a handful of raw almonds

“I don’t use meal replacements; I like to eat real food! To me, it’s worth the extra time to prepare a meal for lunch or breakfast instead of just a shake. If you do pursue meal replacements, pay attention to the amount of sugar they contain. You’d be surprised how high it can be. And aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein.” – Emily Monfiletto

Person weighing themselves on a scale

“If you’re considering meal replacements just for weight loss, not as a long-term habit, make sure you have a plan for what you will do differently to maintain your weight once you reach your goal.” – Jenalee Richner

Three glass containers with meals for the week including rice, chicken and vegetables

“I prefer to eat my food, so I meal prep to have food on hand when I need it. This also helps me remain consistent with when and what I eat. I do agree that a meal replacement can be helpful if you don’t have time to prep, but before you try it, make sure it is safe to eat with any dietary restrictions or health conditions you have.” – Ashya Walden

Glass bottle with vanilla protein shake and straw

“If you tend to skip meals, a meal replacement shake can be a great way to get nutrients and protein. I like Premier Protein Shakes. And if you’re trying to lose weight, a shake can help you stay on track with your eating schedule.” – Brittany Smith