The best meal replacement shake

Michael Pollick

Are you struggling to eat three healthy meals a day? A meal replacement shake can provide you with approximately one third of your daily nutritional needs. It's a low-effort option that will provide you with ample protein and few carbs, and it fits in well with many popular diets today.

When choosing a meal replacement shake, keep your dietary restrictions in mind. For instance, many meal replacement shakes are dairy-based; if you're watching your dairy intake, you'll want to know this. Some shakes are plant-based; if you're vegetarian or vegan, you'll want to know this. The amount of processed sugar is also a consideration, especially if you're following a high-protein plan.

At the top of our list is the Cacao (Chocolate) Soylent Meal Replacement Shake, a soy-based meal replacement shake that meets 20% of a person's daily nutritional needs without sacrificing fiber or protein content. Read on for more information about meal replacement shakes.

Considerations when choosing meal replacement shakes

Nutritional formula

To avoid consuming empty calories with little to no health benefit, consider the nutritional profile of your meal replacement shake. Information about vitamin, mineral, fiber, and protein content should be clearly marked on the package. Note that some diet plans emphasize high protein while others encourage fiber or gluten-free ingredients.

A quality meal replacement shake should contain at least 20% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, but many shakes actually provide 35% or more.


Meal replacement shakes are not intended to be bland alternatives to flavorful meals. A wide array of flavor profiles exist. Basic flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are common, while more exotic blends such as cookies and cream and banana are now easier to find.

The flavoring agents shouldn't affect the nutritional profile, but some users may want to consider natural or organic ingredients instead of artificial flavoring. The key is to find a variety of choices to sidestep flavor fatigue.

Food plan compatibility

Some dieters use meal replacement shakes to help control their caloric intake. Others integrate them into a larger diet plan. Some diet systems assign point values to all foods and beverages, including meal replacement shakes. Others emphasize foods with a high-protein or low-carbohydrate content. Regardless of your chosen diet, you'll want to read the fine print to make sure your shake is compatible with your eating plan.


Shelf stability

Whether your shake is to be stored in the refrigerator or on a pantry shelf, note how long it will maintain freshness. While it's true that some meal replacement shakes are sold in shelf-stable cartons, this doesn't mean they have an indefinite shelf life! Some dairy-based meal replacement shakes can form unpleasant lumps over time, but this rarely occurs under proper storage conditions.

Organic ingredients

Basic shelf-stable meal replacement shakes found on grocery store shelves often contain a proprietary blend of liquid nutrients, artificial flavors, and stabilizers. These ingredients are perfectly safe to consume, but they are not considered to be organic. High-end meal replacement shakes tend to use certified organic ingredients and avoid processed sweeteners. They can also be more expensive and harder to find, at least on traditional grocery store shelves.


Because package sizes vary, it can be difficult to compare shake prices. To even this out, let's take a look at price per ounce. A basic dairy-based replacement shake sold in bulk could cost as little as $0.10 per ounce, or about $1 per bottle. A high-end shake with organic or natural ingredients could cost as much as $0.25 per ounce, or about $2.50 per bottle.


Q. I have Type 2 diabetes. Won't a meal replacement shake raise my blood sugar too much?

A. Some meal replacement shakes have a high concentration of carbohydrates, often in the form of glucose. If you're prone to blood sugar spikes, avoid those products. Look for shakes with high protein and little to no sugar.

Q. Can I drink a meal replacement shake for reasons other than weight loss?

A. Yes. Many people -- busy people who don't have the time to prepare a traditional meal -- use them as a matter of convenience. A shake between meals can also help reduce your craving for unhealthy snacks.

Meal replacement shakes we recommend

Best of the best: Cacao (Chocolate) Soylent Meal Replacement Shake

Our take: The Soylent shake provides true meal replacement, including a proper ratio of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. We like its one-year shelf life.

What we like: Not just a high-protein formula, it provides 20% of your daily nutrients. The chocolate flavor is natural, not artificial. Contains no dairy-based ingredients.

What we dislike: Uses Splenda (sucralose) as sweetener. Some users may be sensitive to soy-based ingredients. Relatively pricey.

Best bang for your buck: SlimFast Advanced Nutrition Meal replacement protein Shake

Our take: The shakes are easy to find on grocery store shelves, and the high protein formula is safe for those with Type 2 diabetes.

What we like: Affordable price, especially when purchased in bulk. Creamy texture without lactose and gluten curbs cravings for up to four hours. Low-carb formula with minimal sweetener.

What we dislike: Some users report an unpleasant chemical aftertaste. Lumps can form over time.

Choice 3: Orgain Organic Nutritional Shake

Our take: For those who prefer the flavor of cow milk to soy, the Orgain meal replacement shake has good mouthfeel and works well in high-protein diet plans.

What we like: Formula emphasizes organic ingredients and natural dairy products. With 16 grams of protein, it's suitable for keto dieters. High in omega fatty acids and vitamins.

What we dislike: Flavor profile has changed in recent years. Artificial sweetener can create an unpleasant aftertaste.

Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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