Meal replacements: Choose those bars and drinks wisely
There is no doubt that a sit-down meal is the best approach to healthy weight loss. But in this fast-paced world of ours, even with the best intentions, there are times when sitting down for a meal is simply impossible. How do you stick to your eating plan when forced to eat on the run?
Choosing a healthy meal replacement is a perfectly acceptable substitution, as long as it's only once in a while. The meal substitute you choose should be one that is nutritious, fills an empty stomach, and will not sabotage your weight-loss efforts. The trick is planning ahead and selecting the right kind of meal replacements that are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy nutrients.
Nutrition bars and meal replacement drinks were initially targeted to the serious athlete who needed extra fuel for workouts. Today, these products have gone mainstream, targeted to anyone needing a nutritional boost. Shelf-stable bars and cans are easily stashed in a desk drawer, handbag, or briefcase for a quick meal. The array of choices is dizzying. These hot commodities fill huge amounts of shelf space in the gym, grocery, and health food stores, and there are literally hundreds of bars and meal-replacement drinks to choose from.
Be careful of those, quick and easy bars in that queue aisle!
Hey, wait a minute. Surely all of these replacements must be better choices than the fast food, right? Not always -- some are nothing more than glorified candy bars or high-calorie, sugar-based drinks.
So what's a dieter to do? We have all been there, standing in the supplement aisle feeling almost anxious at the amount of options to choose from, how we know which ones are actually beneficial to our health. The only way to make an informed choice is to read the list of ingredients, nutrition label, and compare products. Try good old Google to read up an a supplement before going in store, this will avoid that panic of too many options when standing in the health and fitness aisle.
Ideally, the meal replacement will contain ingredients that don't sound like foreign chemicals found in a chemistry lab! Nutrients should be primarily complex carbohydrates, with small amounts of simple sugars and a bit of fat, along with a moderate amount of protein. Look for products that fit the following guidelines:
- 220-230 calories per serving
- Less than 5 grams of fat per serving
- 3-5 grams of fiber per serving
- 10-15 grams of protein per serving
- Fortified with a third of daily vitamins and minerals
Do your best to limit reliance on these products to a maximum of once a day, preferably only once or twice a week. To boost the fiber, you can always supplement your bar or drink with a few veggies, a can of vegetable juice, or a piece of fresh fruit.
So why not try real food options?
Those nutrition bars and replacement drinks can quickly empty your pocket as they come with quite the price tag. Other meal alternatives that are just as easy include portable fruit (apples, bananas), 100% fruit juice, low-fat cheese, crackers, bagels, yogurts, peanut butter, nuts, dry cereal, graham crackers, cereal, or granola bars. These foods not only provide quick energy, they are less expensive substitutes for the pre-packaged meal replacements.
Should you still feel a bit muddled by all of this, there are always those super friendly guys in the supplement aisle that are always eager to assist you. They can give you a few good tips.
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