Meal Replacement

why boost is no better than a chocolate bar pic

Why “Meal Replacement Drinks” are no Better Than Chocolate Bars

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

My mom is elderly and lives on her own and doesn’t always remember to prepare herself a nutritious meal. Her doctor recommended one of these “meal replacements”, here’s why that’s a horrible idea.

These “meal replacement” drinks are mostly composed of unhealthy fats and sugar.  If all I was concerned with was giving my mom empty calories like that, I would just give her a chocolate bar.  At least it contains real food ingredients (peanuts).  The main ingredients in these drinks are: water, sugar, corn syrup, milk protein concentrate, canola/sunflower/corn oil and soy protein isolate.

What about the vitamins and minerals in meal replacement drinks?

The quality of these vitamins and minerals is the lowest of the low, the cheapest forms for the manufacturer to put in.  Not well absorbed, not the form that the body needs.  The casein is potentially detrimental to the digestive tract and absorption of nutrients.  Caseinate forms of calcium (in these drinks), contain the protein casein which is a common food allergen and may aggravate anyone with a dairy sensitivity.

How do the nutritional facts compare?

Meal Replacement Drink:

Calories: 240/8 oz bottle

Cholesterol: 10 mg

Sodium: 150 mg

Carbohydrate: 41 g

Sugar: 20 g

Snickers:

Calories: 250/bar

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 120 mg

Carbohydrate: 33 g

Sugar: 27 g

NesQuick:

Calories: 150/8 oz

Cholesterol: 15 mg

Sodium: 180 mg

Carbohydrate: 24 g

Sugar: 22 g

If you’re noticing some similarities between the Meal Replacement drink and NesQuik, that’s because they share the same manufacturer.

What are better alternatives to meal replacement drinks?

There are many better ways to help an aging parent or someone who is very ill meet their nutritional needs.  If they would prefer something in liquid form, purchase a high quality protein shake like Vega One or Ultra Protein Plus by Douglas Labs.  They’ll supply protein, much better quality vitamins and minerals without the sugar and canola oil.  To bump up the calories, blend these with full fat coconut milk, a banana, an avocado, some coconut oil and/or almond butter.

For mineral and protein nourishment, cook up some bone broth.  It’s easy, you just throw something with a bone in it in the slow cooker with a splash of apple cider vinegar and some chopped up veggies and leave it overnight.  A cup per day of bone broth will provide lots of readily absorbed minerals, and protein in the form of gelatin which can be used by the body to make collagen for building healthy bones, hair, skin and nails.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Eating Habits

how to eat according to TCM: child eating an apple

Healthy Eating Habits: How to Eat According to TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is heavily relied upon as medicine. What, when, the temperature of the food and how you eat it affects the function of your digestive organs (your spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine) which in turn influences the qi (energy) and function of all the other organs.

The four key rules for eating habits according to Chinese medicine principles are:

  • Timing – best to eat at the same time every day.  In TCM, the spleen and stomach are the organs most involved in digestion and they work best at certain times of the day. The stomach time is from 7-9 a.m., which is the best time of day to consume a good hearty breakfast.  The spleen time follows the stomach, from 9-11 a.m., here you are digesting that hearty breakfast and turning it into energy for your body to use.   These organs are weakest 12 hours later, so you want to avoid eating from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. to avoid damaging them.
  • Weather temperature – External cold temperatures dictate the consumption of warmer foods like soups and stews, external heat calls for
    colder foods like salads. Excessive consumption of cold, raw foods can damage the spleen, so ease up on the salads in winter, switch to lightly stir-fried or steamed foods.
  • Be mindful of what you are doing while eating – You should be focused on eating, not watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, driving, walking etc.  Being attentive to the task of eating, helps improve digestion, increases awareness of how much you are eating and helps you recognize when you are full.  The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for digestion, being overstimulated or stressed while eating decreases parasympathetic nervous system activity and increases sympatheic nervous system which directs resources away from your digestive tract.
  • Quantity – You should eat to the point of 2/3 satiety, to allow some reserves in the digestive tract for the process of digestion