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Meal Replacement Shakes

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

With winter coming to an end in a few days’ time and summer just around the corner, many people turn to meal replacement shakes to shed a few kilos. Before you decide to swap your morning cereal for a liquid breakfast have a read through the following information to see if meal replacement shakes are the best option for you.

What are meal replacement shakes?

The two main types

  • Partial meal replacement: Replace 1-2 of your daily meals

  • Total meal replacement or Very-Low Calorie Diet (VLCD): All meals replaced. Commonly used for overweight/obese individuals and prior to surgery

Portion-controlled ‘meals’ that assist with weight loss by reducing your calorie intake that are available in supermarkets and pharmacies in a variety of formulations including shakes, soups and bars.

Meal replacement shakes are not protein shakes.

Do they work?

Yes, meal replacement shakes do work for most people. The reasons for their effectiveness are due to:

  • Significant reduction in energy intake – Contain 800-900 kilojoules (190-215 calories). Total daily calorie intake is usually around 4000-5000 kilojoules (1000 calories)

  • A reduction in the size of meals/replacement of meals and they decrease the likelihood of overeating


  • Portion-controlled

  • Quick, convenient, good for people who are time-poor and trying to lose weight

  • Online support groups are available with some meal replacement programs


  • Not nutritionally complete – lack of fibre and other important nutrients – should not replace whole diet

  • They don’t teach you how to follow a healthy diet or how to maintain weight loss long-term

  • Lack of variety and social aspect

  • Side effects for people with kidney and/or liver issues

  • Potential medication interactions

How long can meal replacement shakes be used for?

  • Anywhere between 3 months to 1 year

  • Use during this time may vary. For example, for approximately 3 months you may have two shakes, two snacks and a modest healthy dinner. For ongoing use, you may just substitute one meal each day for a shake, soup or bar.

The long term outlook


  • ~9-10% loss of body weight and reduction in abdominal fat

  • At 1 year not all initial weight loss is sustained in some cases, however on average 6-8% can be lost and maintained

  • Improvements in weight-related disease factors (BP, cholesterol, blood sugar levels) due to reduction in weight


  • Possible inability to maintain weight loss when normal eating is resumed

  • Use of shakes does not teach the individual how to eat healthy or about appropriate portion size

Which ones to choose?

Some of the most popular chocolate-flavoured meal replacement shakes include:

  • Optislim

  • Partial meal replacement

  • Per shake: 853 kJ (200 calories) – using water; 16.6g protein; 6g fat; 20.7g carb; 1g fibre

  • Contains wheat and dairy

  • Nature’s Way Slimright

  • Partial meal replacement

  • Per shake: 883 kJ (210 calories) – using skim milk; 15.3g protein; <1.0g fat; 31.3g carb; 6.7g fibre

  • Contains soy and dairy

  • Tony Fergusson

  • Partial meal replacement

  • Per shake: 853 kJ (200 calories) – using water; 15.1g protein; 2.5g fat; 28.9g carb; 1.6g fibre

  • Gluten-free, soy- and dairy-free, depending on shake

  • The Biggest Loser Club

  • Partial meal replacement

  • Per shake: 876 kJ (208 calories) – using water; 20.1g protein; 2.2g fat; 25.7g carb; 2.0g fibre

  • Contains milk and soy, and may contain traces of nuts, egg and wheat

  • Shakes, bars and soups available

  • Online support available

  • Optifast

  • Nutritionally complete, suitable for both partial meal replacement and VLCD

  • Per shake: 653 kJ (155 calories) – using water; 17.3.g protein; 15.0g carb; 2.3 g fat; no fibre (fibre supplement included in regime)

  • Gluten free

  • Contains soy and milk, and may contain traces of nuts

  • Online support available

Please note, meal replacements are not suitable the following groups of individuals:

  • People with a BMI of less than 25

  • People with a history of an eating disorder

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women

  • Teenagers or children (unless closely supervised by GP and dietitian)

  • People with liver or kidney problems

  • People with diabetes

  • People with allergies or lactose intolerance – choose carefully

If you do decide to incorporate meal replacement shakes into your diet to assist with weight loss, I would advise doing this in consultation with a dietitian or your GP to ensure the remainder of your diet is providing sufficient nutrients. Continued support from a dietitian is also necessary once you stop using meal replacement shakes to ensure you maintain your weight loss.

If you would like to book in with a dietitian please call a reception team member on (08) 6162 2616.

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