Diet-to-Go Blog
  1. Meal Replacements: The Skinny on Bars, Shakes and Smoothies

    Okay, there are few places these days that a person can go without seeing an ad for a protein bar, power shake or slimming smoothie. So what gives?

    Well, honesty being the best policy, I do enjoy a good smoothie instead of a breakfast meal on occasion. But there are some things to look for when choosing a meal substitute over whole food.

    Whole food nutrition is my primary source of nutrition. I wholeheartedly suggest that my clients get the nutrients they need for exercise, for energy and for life from whole foods.

    But it's not always easy or even possible to enjoy a healthy sit-down meal while juggling a career, a business, a family and a side job like writing for Diet-to-go. And that's why I enjoy the occasional protein shake for breakfast.

    But not all meal replacements are created equal. Therefore I offer this advice:

    Sugar ain't all that sweet

    Many, many, many (get the point?) meal replacement shakes and bars -- as well as protein shakes and bars -- are loaded with sugar. Some contain up to 34 grams of sugar!

    Try and keep the count around 10 grams. The maximum amount of sugar per day as advised by the federal nutrition guidelines is 40 grams. So getting 32 grams in one "meal" seems a bit much, no?

    A word about words

    Can you pronounce the first five ingredients of your favorite meal replacement? A good rule of thumb: If you can't mouth the words don't put it in your mouth.

    There are a lot of "things" that can be in various foods labeled as "good for you." Just because it's billed as healthy doesn't make it make it healthy.

    Read all about it!

    There are great products that fly under the radar because most of us do little research about the stuff we eat. Do you ever read the labels? Too often we choose the products that have the most advertising dollars behind them.

    All that means is that the marketers have managed to grab our attention so we'll blindly buy their product. The next time you are at the food store look at other brands that might not be as popular. You may find great products you never heard of but once you read the label are well worth the search.

    Look for label terms like organic, whole food, raw and complex carbohydrates.

    Do it yourself!

    Consider blending up your own meal replacement drink. A good meal replacement needs substance, flavor, lean protein and maybe a little ice.

    Try a few combinations involving a good quality protein powder (follow the rules above). I prefer an organic whey product, but a good organic yogurt works too.

    Now add fruit of your choice. I am on a mango/blueberry kick. I also toss in some flax oil or almonds for good measure. Blend and enjoy!

    If you use frozen fruit you may not need to add any ice. Get going before the local summer fruit season runs its course!

    Save some time and blend your drink the night before. This way you can get up and go, go, go!

    Eat smart, eat mindfully and be well.

    Alicia is an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer and a Weight & Lifestyle Management consultant. The owner of Evolution Total Wellness in New York is also the author of "Oscar & Otis, Fat Fighters." For more information, visit

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