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Best Meal Replacement Shakes Reviewed

We tried dozens of competing products to land on the best for your individual needs.

We receive free products to review and may receive commissions on purchases made through our links. See our disclosure page for details.

Whether you’re an athlete who has trouble filling a high calorie requirement or just a busy human being, you probably know the struggle of trying to prepare healthy food that hits all the right nutrition requirements. This is a task that’s all the more difficult for people following calorie-controlled diets but fortunately, meal replacement powders are finally going mainstream. And when it comes to food replacement, only the best meal replacement shakes should be considered.

Meal replacements have been around for many years, to be fair, but traditionally they’ve been used in hospital settings when patients have difficulty eating or absorbing nutrients. However, more and more meal replacement shakes are now designed for athletes and busy people on the go. Here are our picks for the best meal replacements on the market.

Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of qualified medical advice. If you’re looking to make a significant change to your diet and training regimen, or to replace a significant percentage of your food with meal replacements, please consult your medical professional first.

The trick with these products is that they vary enormously with regard to the nutrition they provide — and human beings vary enormously with regard to the nutrition they seek. Athletes might want more carbs. Women might want more biotin. Men might want more Vitamin D. Some folks want a lot of calories, others just want a nutritious snack.

There’s also the question of the recommended daily intake. Right now it’s about 50 grams of protein, 50 grams of fat, and 225 grams of carbs. Some meal replacements aim to give you these macronutrients in precisely that ratio (in a lower calorie dose), but a lot of people prefer entirely different ratios, particularly with regard to protein.

That’s why there’s no one answer for everyone when it comes to selecting the best meal replacement shake. It’s individual to you and that’s why, after testing many, many products, we’ve landed on a wide variety that can suit your particular needs. 

Best Meal Replacement Picks

Best Meal Replacement Overall: Huel

To land on the best, we didn’t just look at the vitamins and minerals. The macronutrients need to be balanced with a good amount of protein, not too many or too few carbs, and a fair amount of fat — ideally with some Omega-3s. And by gum, we found it.

A kit for Huel meal replacement

Huel Highlights

Huel has pulled off the impressive feat of making a plant-based shake that delivers a great split of protein, carbs, and fat with plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients as well. It doesn’t have the overwhelming nutty taste that’s so common in vegan protein powder, and it’s easy to make shakes that are high calorie or low calorie, based on your needs.


A plant-based, soy-free meal replacement that contains plenty of calories and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Who Should Buy Huel

  • Anyone tired of “meal replacements” that are more like protein shakes; this has carbs and fat, but not too much and not too little.
  • People who want a meal replacement with as many vitamins and minerals as possible; Huel has everything from chromium to choline.
  • Looking for Omega-3s? Huel has almost 4 grams per serving, in the form of ALA.
  • People looking to consume fewer animal products, as Huel is completely vegan.
  • Penny pinchers; it’s under $2.50 for 500 calories.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huel

  • Folks who limit artificial sweeteners, as Huel is made with sucralose. There’s an unflavored version, but you’ll probably want to add some sweetener — it’s not great.
  • If you’re sensitive to gums, you won’t love the xanthan, acacia, and guar here.

Huel! We’re big fans. It suits almost everyone except low carb people, and the protein is complete even though it’s plant-based. 

Best Meal Replacement for Feeling Full: Ample

The best product for weight loss isn’t the one with the fewest calories, it’s the one that’s the most satiating.

Ample six pack

Ample Highlights

Some people might be surprised with the inclusion of Ample on this list because it’s pretty rare to see a weight loss shake with a whole 400 calories. But first of all, we’re talking about meal replacements, not light snacks, and secondly Ample has great macros: 27 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs (10 grams of fiber), and 21 grams of fat. All that protein, fiber, and fat makes for one of the most filling shakes I’ve tried and if weight loss is your goal, you want a product that will fight hunger cravings.

It’s not crazy high in vitamins and minerals, but there’s no artificial anything in this product and it has an unusual focus on digestive health, delivering 40 billion CFUs of probiotic bacteria from six different strains, which could be an important part of losing weight and maximizing nutrient absorption.

Use code BARBEND for 15% off.

Ample has a solid amount of calories and macronutrients, won’t leave you hungry, tastes awesome, and succeeds on the digestive health front.

Who Should Buy Ample

  • People who limit artificial ingredients and dairy-friendly Paleo folks; the whey is grass-fed and there are no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
  • Anyone who wants to emphasize their digestive health; very few of these shakes provide this much fiber, prebiotic fiber, and probiotic bacteria.
  • Folks who find high carb or high protein meal replacements to be not that satiating; the combination of fiber, fat, and protein make for an unusually filling drink.
  • People who are focused on reducing inflammation; Ample goes to great lengths to ensure it’s low in Omega-6 and other potentially inflammatory ingredients.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ample

  • People who want a lot of vitamins and minerals in their meal replacements; Ample only provides 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Penny pinchers; this is one of the pricier meal replacements per serving, though on a per calorie basis it’s pretty reasonable.
  • Vegetarians; it contains collagen. 

Ample is extraordinarily tasty and it’s all natural, plus it has a big emphasis on gut health, fiber, and fat. For those who find most meal replacements aren’t that filling or don’t address these undervalued areas of health, Ample can be a great choice.

Best Meal Replacement for Mass Gaining: Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

For some athletes, the idea of a meal replacement isn’t to replace food, but to act as an additional meal in order to meet increased calorie and nutrient requirements. These supplements — generally referred to as “mass gainers” — are popular among everyone from bodybuilders to team sport athletes. And we think Transparent Labs Mass Gainer stands above the rest.

It’s got a solid split of 53g protein, 12g fat, and 109g carbs per serving. Their protein is sourced from 100% grass-fed whey, and the carbs are a mix of tapioca, oat, and sweet potato. It also includes MCTs from coconut, as well as a serving of creatine monohydrate (which can help with strength and power production). It contains no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.

Again, this supplement isn’t mean to replace food, and it doesn’t have the same robust micronutrient profile that many of the true meal replacements on this list have. But if you’re looking for a mass gainer supplement, we think it’s a good pick.

10% off
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer
Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

With nothing artificial, whey from New Zealand, a good amount of fiber, and little sugar, this mass gainer will satisfy most athletes. Use the code BARBEND10 for 10% off!

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • People who want a mass gainer supplement free of artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners
  • Athletes looking for a convenient source of extra calories with a certain macronutrient split
  • Athletes who are also looking for a dose of creatine in a convenient form

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Mass Gainer

  • People who aren’t looking to build mass
  • Folks looking for something with a more robust micronutrient profile

Transparent Labs Mass Gainer shouldn’t replace food, but for building muscle mass, it’s a great choice.

Best Meal Replacement for Weight Loss: IdealShape’s IdealShake

When people are looking for weight loss focused shakes, the emphasis tends to be less on lots of fat and fiber and more on keeping calories low — which is fair enough!

Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.


IdealShape’s IdealShake Highlights

IdealShake is a great product, especially for weight loss (though it doesn’t have to be used for just those purposes), though I did find the Vanilla flavor to be just a little but too sweet. On the plus side it’s very low in sugar with 1 gram per serving and with just 100 calories per scoop, it’s pretty easy to keep the calories down with this product.

The wide range of vitamins and minerals is also pretty impressive with most of them approaching 50 percent of the recommended daily intake.

When it comes to weight loss, though, this is really one of the stars of the industry because of the Slendesta. Potatoes, it turns out, are one of the most satiating foods on Earth and IdealShape believes that this potato extract could make the product one of the most filling low-calorie beverages around. 

IdealShape’s IdealShake
IdealShape’s IdealShake
IdealShape’s IdealShake

This nutritious meal replacement is both satiating and low in calories, plus it has digestive enzymes that might help with nutrient absorption. Use code BARBEND15 for 15% off your order!

Who Should Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • Anybody who wants a shake that’s both filling and low calorie; the potato extract here really does help with satiety.
  • Folks who like a wide variety of potently dosed vitamins and minerals; IdealShake has a good 50 percent of most of your micronutrients.
  • It contains digestive enzymes, which might be useful for folks with sensitive stomachs.

Who Shouldn’t Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • People who want to avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Those who want to replace a meal; IdealShake is too low in calories and probably too sweet to replace a full 500- to 1,000-calorie meal.

IdealShake is one of our favorite meal replacements all around and it’s terrific for those looking to minimize calories and hunger — yes, it can be done!

Best Meal Replacement for Men: Huel

Why would a meal replacement be geared toward men? Generally, guys want a shake that’s not too low in calories and can support an active lifestyle. For that, you need good macros, good calories, and a mild flavor.

Trying Huel

Huel Highlights

In our extensive article on optimizing testosterone production, one pointer leapt out at us: you need to eat enough protein, carbs, fat, and all the micronutrients. It’s not just about fat or Vitamin D, you need enough of everything. That’s why Huel landed at the top of our list for meal replacements for men: it’s got a fantastic balance of macronutrients and micronutrients (yes, including Vitamin D), plus it’s got plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids to help with inflammation, which might hamper T production. It’s also a great product for both low and high calorie diets: you simply adjust the number of scoops, and the flavor is mild enough that it’s not overwhelming to down 600 calories of the stuff. 


A plant-based, soy-free meal replacement that contains plenty of calories and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Who Should Buy Huel

  • People who don’t just want plenty of micronutrients, but a good serving of protein, carbs, fat, and fiber as well.
  • Anyone looking to build or maintain muscle; it’s easy to adjust your serving to provide as many calories as you like.
  • Those who want Omega-3s with their meal replacement.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huel

  • Folks who want to limit artificial sweeteners, although there is a “natural” version — but it’s not popular. 

Huel is a fantastic meal replacement for just about any goal, so long as you’re fine with a little sucralose and an oat-y taste.

Best Meal Replacement for Keto: Ample K

The keto craze has reached new heights, and many companies are trying to cash in. We’ve tried many keto-focused shakes and found this one to be head and shoulders above the rest. 

A review of Ample K

Ample K Highlights

Ample’s attempt at a keto-friendly product really the mark. Available in both 400- and 600-calorie varieties it avoids some of the common pitfalls of keto shakes, like too much protein or not enough fat. In the larger size there are 50 grams of fat and 19 grams of protein and 22 grams of carbohydrates with 13 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar.

As mentioned earlier it comes in a super convenient fillable bottle — finding keto snacks on the go can be extremely frustrating — and this variety of Ample actually has more nutrition than the regular kind with 25 percent of your daily Vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium. Remember there are no artificial ingredients either, so there aren’t many reasons to avoid this one.

Use code BARBEND for 15% off.
Ample K
Ample K
Ample K

A keto-friendly shake packed with probiotics, it’s a great way to curb hunger while keeping you in ketosis.

Who Should Buy Ample K

  • People following a strict keto diet.
  • Those who want to limit artificial ingredients.
  • Folks who like shakes that are geared toward improving gut health and combating inflammation.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ample K

  • Penny pinchers; this is a pricy product.

Ample K is delicious and, unlike many keto shakes, has a lot of ingredients known for helping reduce inflammation, as opposed to simply making a shake out of butter powder and cocoa.

Best Meal Replacement for Diabetes: 310 Meal Replacement Shake

It’s really important to note that people with diabetes should speak to a physician or certified diabetes educator before trying any new supplements. This isn’t medical advice.

310 Meal Replacement Shake Review

310 Meal Replacement Shake Highlights

People with diabetes tend to prefer shakes with plenty of protein and fiber and not much saturated fat or cholesterol, and 310 Shake fits that bill perfectly. With 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, there are just 2 grams of net carbs per serving and no saturated fat or cholesterol at all.

The nutrition is also on point with about 30 percent of the RDI of some two dozen vitamins and minerals, and for the consumers concerned about the potential effects of sucralose on insulin sensitivity, they’ll be glad to learn there are no artificial sweeteners here either.

310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake
310 Meal Replacement Shake

The 310 Meal Replacement Shakes offer a tri-plex blend of protein to control hunger and promote muscle growth.

Who Should Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • People who want a shake with protein and fiber to help slow digestion.
  • Anyone after a really low calorie shake; there are just 90 in a serving.
  • Those who want to avoid artificial sweeteners.

Who Shouldn’t Buy 310 Meal Replacement Shake 

  • Anyone who wants a shake to replace a meal; let’s be honest, 90 calories isn’t a meal.
  • People who like plenty of carbs to fuel energy; there are just two net carbs in a scoop.

310 shake has a nice, mild flavor, and it contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. Whatever your diet, there’s a good chance there’s room for a 310 shake.

Best Low Calorie Meal Replacement: IdealShape’s IdealShake

Some meal replacements are really low in calories, but they’re so low in fat and carbs that they’re not that satiating or nutritious. 

A review of IdealShake by IdealShape


IdealShape’s IdealShake Highlights

There are only 100 calories in a scoop, but in that you’re getting 11 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and about 75 percent of your recommended daily intake of fifteen vitamins and minerals. There are also enzymes to aid digestion, but what makes it even more diet friendly is the addition of an extract made from potato protein, which may help to decrease hunger.

IdealShape's IdealShake
IdealShape's IdealShake
IdealShape's IdealShake

Extraordinarily low in calories and high in nutrients, plus an unusual potato extract to help manage hunger. Use code BARBEND15 for 15% off your order.

Who Should Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • People who want a lot of nutrition in their shake; there’s about 75 percent of the RDI of most vitamins and minerals, here.
  • Anyone who struggles with hunger; the fiber, protein, and (above all) potato extract do a great job of satiating hunger on very few calories.
  • Folks who like enzymes in their shakes, as they may help nutrient absorption.

Who Shouldn’t Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • People who want to support athletic performance; there are very few calories and carbs, here.
  • Anyone who wants to limit artificial sweeteners.

It’s hard to combine “low calorie” and “satiating,” but IdealShake does a very commendable job, here.

Best Meal Replacement for Elderly: IdealShape’s IdealShake

As we age, we tend to absorb some nutrients more poorly and we tend to need more of some vitamins and minerals. That’s why we landed on this nutritious meal shake.


IdealShape’s IdealShake Highlights

This shake is particularly high in a lot of vitamins and minerals that are important for older folks. This includes a good hit of protein, over 50 percent of the RDI of calcium and 20 percent of your Vitamin D, all of which are crucial for strong bones. Plus, there’s plenty of B12 for brain health and 20 percent of your daily fiber to help you stay regular. It’s quite sweet, but IdealShape also has a naturally sweetened version that may be an alternative for those without a sweet tooth. Use code BARBEND15 for 15% off your order.

IdealShape’s IdealShake
IdealShape’s IdealShake
IdealShape’s IdealShake

A big hit of calcium and Vitamin D, both crucial for strong bones, plus plenty of B12 for brain health and fiber to help you stay regular. Use code BARBEND15 for 15% off your order.

Who Should Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • Folks interested in bone health; there’s plenty of Vitamin D and calcium here.
  • Those who want a lot of micronutrients, which may be preferable to those with hampered absorption.

Who Shouldn’t Buy IdealShape’s IdealShake

  • People who don’t love artificially sweetened products, though there’s a naturally sweetened version that may be preferable.
  • Those who need help consuming more calories; IdealShake is quite low calorie. High energy meals will still need to be consumed at other times.

If you’re concerned about your nutrient absorption or any other nutrition related issues as you age, it’s best to share them with a physician. That said, we found IdealShake to contain a lot of nutrients that tend to be favored by older folks.

Best Meal Replacements Reviewed

Can You Live On Just Meal Replacements?

So can you really replace a meal with powder? It depends on who you ask. Even when looking for the best meal replacement Shakes on Reddit, it’s hard to know where to start. There have been quite a few meal replacements out there that have aspired to completely replace food and encourage consumers to live on nothing but their product.

That has now become pretty uncommon, with the argument leaning toward what became one of Soylent’s slogans: it shouldn’t replace every meal, but it can replace any meal.

Is that a good idea? It’s complicated, and we’ll get into the specifics below, but generally speaking there’s pretty decent evidence that meal replacements can be smart for certain consumers. A meta analysis of six randomized controlled trials, published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, found that adding one of these products into a low-calorie diet — that part is important — “can safely and effectively produce significant sustainable weight loss and improve weight-related risk factors of disease.”(1) Multiple studies, like a 2018 randomized controlled trial published published in  Nutrition & Health, have also suggested they can be effective at helping to manage Type 2 diabetes, perhaps by helping with calorie control or blood sugar levels.(2)(3)

That said, there are a lot of ingredients in whole foods that aren’t vitamins or minerals, but they’re still healthful. Meal replacements will often (but not always) have all the essential vitamins and minerals, but there are still components like certain antioxidants and phytonutrients that are healthful, but not technically vitamins or minerals. (An example would be indole-3-carbinol, which may help to balance hormones and is found in broccoli.)

So it’s best to ensure you still eat plenty of real foods in addition to your powder.

[Explore this question further: are meal replacements actually healthy?]

Quest protein powder

How We Decide the Best 

Here’s the criteria we used when trying to select the best meal replacement for a variety of needs.


Diets are composed of calories, which are pretty much always made up of a combination of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A good meal replacement, unless it’s marketed for an unusual type of diet (eg. keto) has a balanced combination of the three.

When looking at what makes a diet healthy outside of macronutrients, you’re more or less looking at five components.


Organic molecules that an organism needs for the proper functioning of its metabolism but can’t synthesize on its own. There are thirteen required for human metabolism..


Chemical elements that are made in the earth and can’t be made by living organisms. Plants get them from soil and animals get them from plants. There are five major minerals for humans (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium) and the rest are called “trace elements.”

Essential fatty acids

Fatty acids that we can’t make ourselves so we need to consume them. Linked to a variety of health effects such as immunity and mental health, a 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the amount of Omega-6 in Americans’ diet has increased astronomically over the past hundred years.(4) You want your ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 to be as close as possible, which is why a lot of people supplement with fish oil.


A kind of carbohydrate that the body doesn’t quite digest, fiber is usually categorized by “soluble” or “insoluble,” both of which serve important functions for digestive health. It’s uncommon for a product’s nutrition label to mention what kind of fiber it contains.


Compounds found in plants that aren’t considered essential for human survival — and some are poisons — but many (like catechins in tea) are linked to health benefits and lower risks of various diseases.

When you’re assessing the quality of a meal replacement, you’re usually looking for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and if you’re lucky, Omega-3 fatty acids. While they may contain ingredients with phytochemicals (like the isoflavones in soy), they’re seldom specifically written on the ingredients list. For those kinds of supplements, you may want to look at greens powders.

So to wrap up: A good meal replacement usually has:

  • A good balance of protein, carbs, and fat.
  • A wide variety of vitamins and minerals. (Supplements typically tap out at around 24.)
  • A dose of fiber.
  • Essential fatty acids.

Hitting all of these points in a meal replacement should mean you have a quality product in hand. 


Before Buying a Meal Replacement

It can be a little daunting to look for products that are meant to replace a whole meal not just one macronutrient like a protein shake. Here are a few pointers:

You’re Not Replacing Your Whole Diet

Don’t even think about living on meal replacements alone; the body needs phytochemicals and enzymes and antioxidants that you’ll only get from plants. This attitude — that shakes are helpful, but not everything — should help to take the pressure off of finding the absolute perfect option.

Ask About the Calories

When people consume too many calories they gain weight, but if they don’t eat enough calories they experience fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and more. So before you buy the lowest calorie meal replacement on the market because you want to lose weight, ask yourself if it’s enough to keep hunger at bay and lower the odds of you overeating later. For some people, they’ll eat one or two large meals after taking one or two meal replacements, and it works wonders for them. For others, they’ll have 90-calorie shakes and wind up so hungry and unsatisfied that they binge later.

For most folks, 500 calories is actually pretty small for a meal — it’d total 1,500 in a day. Work out where a meal replacement should fit in your diet to make sure your energy intake is not too high or too low.

Make Sure It’s Satiating

If you’re trying to bulk up and gain a lot of muscle, this won’t apply to you. But if you want a shake to be satiating, consider not just the calories but also ensure there’s adequate protein, fiber, and fat, all of which are great for satisfying hunger. Slimfast, for example, is very low in protein and fat, so although it’s nutritious we didn’t find it to be that great a meal replacement. 

Chat to a Doctor

Before making any changes to your diet and supplement regimen, like replacing a meal with powder, be sure to book an appointment with a physician or a registered dietitian to make sure it’s a good option for you.

Wrapping Up

Meal replacements really aren’t just for the bedridden and the elderly. They can support a variety of lifestyles and needs, and let’s be honest: we could all stand to save a few minutes of meal prep. Of all the products we’ve tried these were the most outstanding in their field, so no matter if you’re looking for nutrition, for weight gain, for weight loss, or another goal, we’re confident the best meal replacement shakes can be easily picked for you. Cheers!


Can I only drink meal replacement shakes?

Meal replacement shakes are designed to do what they say: Replace a meal, which can be a convenient way to get nutrition for your specific dietary needs. Some meal replacement shakes were originally designed to serve as a full and complete nutritional substitute for regular food. However, relatively few recommend drinking only their product to meet your full nutritional needs. Speak to your medical professional before you consider switching to a completely meal replacement-based diet.

Can I use meal replacement shakes to lose weight?

Meal replacement shakes can be a convenient and easily measurable way to track calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Many people use them to help meet weight loss goals by tracking calories and hitting a calorie deficit. But like it or not, you only lose weight if you’re in a calorie deficit — that’s the main thing to be mindful of.

What is in a meal replacement?

A good meal replacement has a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Usually the ingredients have whey (made from dairy) for the protein, maltodextrin for the carbs, and vitamins and minerals are added in. Many meal replacements try to be as low in fat as possible, and it’s hard to say where the fat comes from — sunflower oil isn’t uncommon.

How many calories are in a meal replacement?

Some meal replacements are as low as 90 calories, others are as high as 600 calories or more. It’s fair to say that 90-calorie meal replacements aren’t really replacing meals — these sorts of products are typically very low in carbs and fat and wind up closer to nutritious protein shakes than anything approximating the calorie and macronutrient balance of an actual meal.

Other Great Meal Replacement Reviews


1. Heymsfield SB, et al. Weight management using a meal replacement strategy: meta and pooling analysis from six studies. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 May;27(5):537-49.
2. Boonyavarakul A, et al. Effects of meal replacement therapy on metabolic outcomes in Thai patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled trial. Nutr Health. 2018 Oct 1:260106018800074.
3. Kempf K, et al. Individualized Meal Replacement Therapy Improves Clinically Relevant Long-Term Glycemic Control in Poorly Controlled Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Nutrients. 2018 Aug 4;10(8).
4. Blasbalg TL, et al. Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):950-62.

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