Three square meals a day is ideal, but what about those mornings when you're running late, those lunches when you just can't leave your desk, or those nights when you're commuting from work straight to a two-hour school orchestra recital?
At times like this, it can be helpful to have a meal replacement option to tide you over until your next full meal.
When whole foods or a home-cooked meal isn't an option, you should look for a meal replacement with protein, fats, and carbs so it's more balanced and has some nutritional value.
Here are our top meal replacement options, which are easily portable and mimic an actual meal so you can stay full longer.
One Bars: The One Bar is a gluten-free protein bar that packs quite a punch with 20g of protein and only 1g of sugar. One of the most popular flavors is Birthday Cake, which users say tastes like circus animal cookies, so it tastes like dessert but fills you up like a meal.
Perfect Bar: The Perfect Bar is fairly unique in the protein bar space because it's meant to be refrigerated and lasts one week at room temperature. The brand's emphasis on organic ingredients -- 20 organic superfoods in all -- creates a protein bar that doesn't taste fake and has a cookie dough-esque consistency. We recommend the almond butter and the dark chocolate chip peanut butter.
RXBAR: RXBAR's motto is "No B.S.," and with 12g of protein and less than 10 ingredients per bar, it seems they're living up to their promise. These chewy protein bars are Whole30 compliant and paleo, so they make an excellent meal replacement if you adhere to either of those diets. We love the chocolate sea salt and peanut butter chocolate flavors.
PROBAR: We love these meal replacement bars from PROBAR, and not just because they're non-GMO, gluten-free, plant-based, and certified organic. They also taste great and keep us full for hours thanks to the high calorie content. Popular flavors include banana nut bread, superberry and greens, and mocha almond fudge.
Redcon1 MRE Bar: The MRE Bar offers 20g of animal-derived protein, 29g of carbs, 9g of fat, and only 6g of sugar. Many enjoy the taste and texture of these bars, particularly the crunchy peanut butter cup and the German chocolate cake -- but skip the carrot cake.
Soylent: Soylent is a bottled meal replacement shake designed to keep you full in the most effortless, cost-efficient way possible. With 400 calories and 20g of plant based protein per bottle, Soylent is a popular choice for those who are too busy for a sit-down meal. The cacao flavor is popular for its subtle chocolate flavor, but some prefer the original flavor, which is said to taste like cereal milk.
Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder: If you already drink protein shakes as part of your workout regiman, you may want to consider using shakes as a quick meal replacement, too. This protein powder offers 21g of plant-based protein, 7g of fiber, 3g of net carbs, and 0g of sugar. While most users enjoy the flavor, some have difficulty with the chalky texture.
CLICK All-in-One Protein & Coffee Meal Replacement Drink Mix: If you're looking for something that combines your morning joe and breakfast in one portable package, consider the Click Meal Replacement Mix. Click is a low-calorie meal replacement with 150mg of caffeine and 15g of protein per serving, so you can feel awake and full even when you're too busy to slow down.
Quaker Instant Oatmeal Express Cups: While not a shake, these Express Cups by Quaker Oats are an excellent choice for those who are looking for a quick, portable breakfast. If you have a little extra time, you can even add some berries or nuts to up the nutritional value of your quick meal. The cups are available in many favorite oatmeal flavor combos.
Campbell's Well Yes! Sipping Soup: Once again, this isn't exactly a shake, but it is a drinkable, portable soup -- so it's close enough. If you're tired of sweet meal replacement options, this is a savory alternative worth your attention. Campbell's sippable soups are available in a wide variety of flavors, and while they may not totally satiate you, they'll certainly provide a nutritious boost when you don't have time for a full meal.
Vitamix Professional Series 750 Blender: If you're serious about meal replacement shakes and smoothies, consider investing in a Vitamix. This high-performance blender offers five pre-programmed settings to ensure consistent results and easy cleanup. It's the best friend of busy people -- if you don't have time to prepare a meal, you don't have time to wait on a subpar blender.
NutriBullet Rx N17-1001 Blender: If you're making single-serving shakes and smoothies and you're looking for something more affordable than the Vitamix, we suggest investing in this powerful, hands-free NutriBullet. It's easy to clean and offers consistent results. Plus, it comes with a 30-ounce cup and a 1-liter pitcher-sized cup.
Nutri Ninja Personal and Countertop Blender: The Nutri Ninja Personal and Countertop Blender is quick and easy to use this blender on your way out the door thanks to the cups of various sizes that each come with their own sip-and-seal lids. We like that the Auto-iQ technology tells you the right amount of blending time so you're never left with under-pulsed smoothies.
BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle: If you're planning on turning to meal replacement shakes when you're in need of a quick fix, make sure you have a quality shaker bottle on hand too. This 20-ounce shaker by BlenderBottle comes with a stainless steel BlenderBall to whisk your shakes to the right consistency quickly and easily.
While meal replacement options are OK in a pinch, they aren't optimal. If you have the option to prepare your own meals or consume whole foods -- that's always going to be better. Meal replacements can be highly processed and include fillers and additives your body doesn't need. A home-cooked meal is going to be more filling and satiating.
Also, it's best to try to avoid 100-calorie bars that might taste good at the moment but will leave you hungry in an hour. Opt for calorically-dense bars or shakes with lower sugar content and a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats.
Meredith Gallo 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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