Americans are always on the go. Between work and home life, who has time to eat healthy? A good diet requires planning, right? Not for some. People are finding their answer in tiny little packages and cans filled with promises of weight-loss, energy boosts and “all the vitamins and minerals you need.” Go into any grocery store, drug store or even a convenient store and you’ll find a large selection of meal replacement bars and drinks. They’re portable, convenient and they offer a relatively cost-efficient way of replacing a high-fat, high-carb meal with a low-fat, low-to moderate carbohydrate meal. But are they a healthy answer to weight-loss and a time and energy crunch? Read on the find out.
Opting for a “meal in a can” in moderation won’t hurt, but making a habit out of it will. Liquid meal replacements were originally developed to meet the nutritional needs of people too sick or weak to eat. Sound like you? Probably not. Manufacturers have discovered a new market to pitch these products to – people looking for a quick fix or an energy boost between meals. While some of these products do contain vitamins and minerals, regular use doesn’t provide all the benefits of a varied diet.
Energy bars are packed with carbs (sugar and starches) that provide the body with quick energy. The added vitamins and minerals don’t provide the body with energy and have no value if you’re already eating a healthy diet. Many people think eating a “bar” in the place of a meal with help them lose weight. The thing to remember is this: they still contain fat, sugar, calories and carbs. They won’t provide nearly as much substance as a regular meal would. They simply don’t keep you from eating more than you normally would.
Because MRB’s lack the health-protecting factors your body needs, it’s best to use them as a last resort. If it’s the choice between a Butterfinger and a Balance bar, by all means grab the Balance bar! If it’s either the fudge brownie or the slim fast shake, drink the shake! But if you can help it, skip all of it and grab some real food. There’s no evidence that MRB’s can do more for you than carbohydrate rich foods like cereals, breads and other grain products and fruits and vegetables.
Here are a few things you can eat on the run that provide the vitamins, minerals and energy you need, naturally.
• Vegetables and Fruit
• Bananas, apples and other fresh fruits • Carrots, green peppers, cherry tomatoes or other raw vegetables • Snack size fruit cups or apple sauce
• Dried fruits • Tetra pack fruit juices
• Grain products
• Raisin Bread • Whole grain bagels, crackers or pita wedges • Raisin bran other mini muffins • Single serve box cereals • Rice cakes
• Milk products and other alternatives
• Skim or 1% milk • Low-fat flavored milks • Fruit yogurt (2% or less) • Cheese cubes (20% fat or less) • Hard boiled eggs • Peanut Butter and crackers or stuffed in celery • Trail mix (nuts, seeds, cereal, dried fruit) • Roasted soy beans or chick peas • Gingersnap, arrowroot or fig newton cookies
Remember; keep whole food consumption high and meal replacement use low. You’ll look better, you’ll feel better and you’ll be healthier!