Meal replacements are generally smoothies or shakes, aimed at being filling and low-calorie formulations that suppress your hunger and feed you. The idea is that, with a meal replacement shake or smoothie on hand, you limit the number of calories you take in, which in turn helps you lose weight by restricting what you eat.
One of the biggest problems with meal replacements, though, is the expense. Whether it's slim-fast or soylent, you end up buying shakes for every meal you're replacing, and that cost can add up compared to the cost of the food you'd prepare otherwise.
Luckily, the solution is easy: just make your meal replacements yourself! All you really need to make a good meal replacement shake or smoothie is a blender, a recipe, and a source of fresh ingredients. We can't help you with the blender or the ingredients, but we can give you some recipes to try out!
General Tips for Meal Replacements
Before we get into specific recipes, let's talk about some general tips. After all, meal replacements are only as effective as you make them.
Try to use fresh ingredients. You can get away with using frozen fruits and vegetables, but fresh is always going to be better for you and better tasting. Avoid canned and processed fruits, veg, and juices, as they tend to have a bunch of preservatives, sugar, and other stuff added to them. Oh, and make sure that any supplements you use come from a reputable source.
Invest in a good blender. Making smoothies and shakes regularly requires a good blender to mix them up. You can use a personal blender to make single-serving shakes, or you can use a full sized blender to make enough for more than one at a time. You can find good blender recommendations here, or your favorite and most trusted appliance review site.
A good blender will help break up chunks, fully mix in supplements, and minimize issues with poorly blended shakes. You also want one that will stand the test of time; using it every day means it can wear out, and you don't want a blender you'll have to replace every six months.
Know what kind of shake you want to make. You can make vegetarian or vegan shakes. You can make keto shakes. You can make paleo shakes. There are a lot of different options, and we're going to try to give you a few recipes of each kind, so you'll find something here you want. Just make sure you know what restrictions you want to put on your shakes before you start compiling recipes.
Know your goals. In our experience, there are two reasons why people invest in meal replacement shakes. Most people simply want to use them as a way to lose weight. That's fine, and can be effective when done properly. Some people invest in meal replacement shakes simply because they don't enjoy eating and would rather spend as little time getting nutrition as possible. That's also fine, but might mean you'll care more about the nutritional content of a shake than the flavor. Tailor your recipes accordingly.
Don't make too much. Probably the number one mistake people make with meal replacement shakes is making too much at a time. If you're trying to lose weight specifically, drinking larger shakes means you're consuming more calories and might not be maintaining the caloric deficit you need to lose.
Change it up. One of the hardest parts about using meal replacement shakes as actual meal replacements is that they can get boring after a while. Instead of using the same recipe every day, develop a list of a dozen or so recipes you enjoy, and change them up as ingredients go in and out of season and your tastes change.
With all of that in mind, here are a handful of recipes you can use as-is, modify to suit your tastes, or use as inspiration to make your own.
1. The Simple Chocolate Protein Shake
This shake is a simple chocolate shake, using fruit to sweeten otherwise unsweetened dark chocolate. Blend together an apple, a tablespoon each of almond butter, dark chocolate, and cocoa powder, a cup of milk, half a cup of yogurt (Greek is great) and two pitted dates.
You can replace the nut butter with a different nut butter if you prefer, and the milk can be skim, whole, almond, coconut, or another dairy replacement as you desire. We recommend chopping the dates to make sure the whole pit was removed as well, just to avoid those annoying rare chunks that slip through.
2. Paleo Blueberry Pie Smoothie
This recipe comes form Cook Eat Paleo. Blend together 1-1.5 cups of frozen blueberries, half a cup of coconut milk, a pinch of cinnamon, some lemon zest, and some filtered water to give it the consistency you like.
Add in collagen for the protein if you like, or leave it out to keep the whole thing lower calorie. Swap it with a vegetarian protein option and it becomes a vegetarian smoothie. Tastes just like a blueberry pie!
3. Greens and Pear Smoothie
This smoothie focuses on the nutritional value of leafy green vegetables, with a bit of fruit in it to sweeten and deepen the flavor. Blend together a cup of spinach leaves, a cup of kale leaves, half a pear, a frozen banana, and 1.5 cups of milk, milk replacement, or orange juice depending on your desire for tang. Add in a tablespoon of honey as well if you want something a little sweeter. Make sure to remove the tough center stalks from the kale before blending to avoid the worst of the fibers.
4. Simple Reese's Energy Booster
No, you're not blending candy up in this smoothie, but the chocolate and peanut butter flavor reminds us of the candy all the same. Start with eight ounces of Greek yogurt.
Plain and vanilla both work well. Add in half a cup of ice, a banana, and two tablespoons each of cocoa powder and peanut butter. Add in a pinch or so of cinnamon to taste. This smoothie is full of rich, decadent, and surprisingly healthy for tasting like candy.
5. Breakfast Berry Smoothie
This is a sweet mixed berry smoothie that uses milk and peanut butter to cut down on the acidic tang of the berries themselves. Blend together a base of a cup of milk, 1.5 cups of blueberries, a third of a cup each of raspberries and blackberries, and 1.5 tablespoons each of peanut butter and honey. As always, you can use a different nut butter if you prefer. We find that it's thicker and richer if you freeze the berries first, but you don't have to.
6. Apple Crisp Protein Shake
This protein shake uses apples as the primary flavor, and oatmeal as the main bulk of the substance, for plenty of fiber.
Blend together three tablespoons of oatmeal or ground oats, two cups of milk, a chopped apple, some cocoa powder, and three tablespoons of your favorite nut butter. You can also mix in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to give it more of the dessert apple crisp taste. If you do, we recommend a mild flavor nut butter rather than something strong like peanut butter.
7. Banana-Chia-Ragi Shake
This protein-packed shake makes liberal use of chia seeds. Some people love them, some people can't stand them, so this may be an acquired taste for some of you.
Using the blender as a food processor, mix six almonds and a tablespoon of chia seeds and blend until they're as close to a powder as you can get. Then add in two small bananas, three tablespoons of ragi powder, a tablespoon of jaggery, a cup of milk, and a quarter cup of warm water (plus or minus some to get the consistency how you like it).
8. Tropical Mango Post-Workout Shake
This shake has a bunch of protein and a tropical kick to help restore you after a workout, but it can work just as well as a breakfast or lunch replacement shake. Chop up an alphonso mango and blend it together with a cup of milk or milk replacement, a cup of yogurt, an ounce of cashews, and a tablespoon or two of chia seeds. Drink chilled for the most refreshing version.
9. Vegan Banana Raspberry Shake
This vegan shake is full of antioxidants and a good amount of vitamins and minerals, plus it's delightfully rich and tangy with fresh berries. Blend together a half cup of raspberries, a banana, two tablespoons of nut butter, a cup of almond milk, a tablespoon of hemp powder, and a tablespoon of flaxseed. Use water a tablespoon at a time to adjust thickness to taste.
10. Paleo Green Detox Smoothie
This veg-heavy green smoothie is great and easy to prepare.
Blend together a green apple, half a cucumber (peeled), the juice of half a lemon and half a lime, a tablespoon of chopped or grated fresh ginger, a cup of kale (destemmed), a cup of coconut water, and a tablespoon of gelatin/collagen powder. It's healthy, packed with nutrients, and full of superfood greens. What's not to love?
11. Key Lime Pie Smoothie
This paleo smoothie uses avocado to bring some healthy fat into the usual smoothie equation. Start with 14 ounces of coconut milk and a cup of ice cubes. Add in a small avocado, half a banana, two tablespoons of lime juice, and a hint of cinnamon. You can also add maple syrup for some additional sweetness, and protein powder to enhance the heartiness of the smoothie. This one comes from Cotter Crunch here.
12. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
If you're a seasonal pumpkin spice addict, but you feel bad about getting those seasonal Starbucks drinks, you're in luck. Pumpkin spice is a simple blend of flavors you can make at home. Blend together three quarters of a cup of almond milk, half a cup of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!), a quarter of an avocado, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, a tablespoon of maple syrup, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, a tablespoon of nut butter, coconut oil, and a cup of ice cubes. You can adjust the spices to get the flavor just how you want it.
13. Strawberry Kiwi Mojito Smoothie
This meal replacement smoothie is unique in presentation; by making it in two stages, you can have distinct layers of strawberry and kiwi, so it looks gorgeous.
Blend together 1.5 cups of strawberries, four mint leaves, and a cup of ice and pour into a glass. Then blend together the same thing, but with kiwi instead of strawberry, and pour on top.
14. Tropical Pink Smoothie
This one makes use of dragonfruit to give your smoothie a bright and vibrant pink color. Blend together half of a dragonfruit, a wedge of melon, half a cup of coconut milk, a scoop of your favorite protein powder, a tablespoon of chia seeds, half a cup of water, and a bit of your favorite sweetener. If you find the pink a little off-putting, you can use white dragonfruit instead.
15. Keto Oreo Shake
Love Oreos but trying to stay in keto? This shake is perfect for you. Blend together 1.5 cups of milk or milk alternative, a quarter cup of heavy whipping cream, and four large eggs. Blend for a bit, then add in four tablespoons of nut butter, a tablespoon or two of your favorite sweetener, three tablespoons of cocoa powder, a quarter teaspoon of vanilla powder or extract, and blend again. Finally, top with some whipped cream to complete the Oreo taste.
There you have it; 15 assorted meal replacement shakes and smoothies you can add to your recipe list. So now we turn to you.
Do you have a favorite meal replacement recipe? If you'd like to share, add it to the comments below!