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Meal replacements

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Everyone knows how important it is to eat well. However, everyday situations can sometimes prevent us to do so. In those cases, it can be a good idea to opt for meal replacements.

Meal replacements: why not?

Adopting healthy eating habits on a long-term basis is definitely an effective strategy to maintain optimal health and keep a slim figure. But the frantic pace of today’s lifestyle sometimes makes it harder to eat properly. These days, we are witnessing a strange social paradox: on one hand, we complain about not having enough time to enjoy the delights of the table, but on the other hand, we are collectively demonstrating a vivid passion for haute cuisine and healthy eating. The high number of cooking shows on television is a great representation of this phenomenon.

When, for one reason or another, it is impossible to meet your nutritional needs through food alone, or when you voluntarily want to reduce the amount of food you eat, it can be wise to turn, temporarily, to meal replacements. But faced with the variety of products available on the market, how can you make the right choice? Here is some information that will help you make an enlightened decision.

Making your life easier

Meal replacements can come in handy when you have neither the time nor the motivation to cook. In those cases, it is best to opt for a meal replacement than to skip a meal. And when you have to eat on the run, it is preferable to choose a meal replacement than foods that are low in nutrients.

For some children who are rather picky with food, offering meal replacements can be beneficial. In these situations, though, meal replacements should never replace a meal, but rather complete their diet. Offering them as dessert or snack is an acceptable option.

Athletes and people who do a lot of physical activity can also sometimes benefit from meal replacements before or after training.

Weight loss

Meal replacements are often associated with weight loss. It is true that many people use them as part of a weight-loss diet; some products are specially designed for that purpose. Combined with healthy eating habits and an exercise program, they can help those who wish to reach a healthy weight.

It is important to keep in mind that a diet that is too restrictive in calories can sometimes be harmful to your health. In fact, it does not constitute the best strategy to lose weight and to maintain a long-term healthy weight.

If you are hoping to lose weight, see a nutritionist for advice.

When food is not enough

Sometimes, when health or appetite are lacking, meal replacements can be very helpful. This can happen, for example, when a person:

  • is elderly and undernourished or has significant loss of appetite;
  • has problems with mastication or deglutition;
  • has cancer;
  • is undergoing cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiation therapy);
  • is recovering from an infection;
  • has had surgery;
  • has suffered from a serious health problem, such as a heart attack or stroke;
  • suffers from a disease that leads to major weight loss, such as bowel disease.

Various types of meal replacements

There is a wide array of meal replacements on the market; they come in various forms, such as:

  • nutritional drinks;
  • bars;
  • pudding;
  • soup;
  • oatmeal;
  • shakes.

There are also special formulations, for example:

  • high-protein formulations: for those who want to lose weight, who want to maintain their muscle mass (such as athletes and undernourished seniors) or who are recovering from an illness or surgery;
  • high-calorie formulations: for those who wish to increase their energy level or gain weight;
  • high-fibre formulations: for those who want to prevent constipation or maintain healthy bowels;
  • formulations for diabetics: these have a low glycemic index, which prevents the destabilisation of diabetes.

The flip side

Despite their many benefits, meal replacements also have a few disadvantages. Here are some examples:

  • They can sometimes taste too sweet.
  • They can contain additives or ingredients that are not great for your health.
  • Eating them often can make your palate “bored”.
  • They don’t necessarily promote healthy eating habits, such as eating at the table with your family.
  • They can sometimes be expensive.

Useful tips

  • Meal replacements should never be your only dietary intake of the day. Ideally, they should be used to complement a balanced diet. 
  • As much as possible, only consume meal replacements occasionally.
  • In addition to meal replacements, choose foods that are high in nutritional value, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
  • Note that some products taste better when they are eaten cold.
  • If the product you have chosen tastes too sweet, add a pinch of salt.

Whatever the reason you wish to purchase meal replacements, always consult your pharmacist. He or she can help you make the right choice among the array of products available and give you valuable advice that will help you get healthier.

We can all agree that nothing can replace the pleasure of eating a diversified range of foods and taking the time to eat slowly, ideally in great company. But for those times when that is not possible, meal replacements can be an interesting option! 

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