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Compare the Most Popular Meal Replacement Drinks to Select the Right One for You
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Compare the Most Popular Meal Replacement Drinks to Select the Right One for You

Lily Lou, Gawker Media

Photo by Rick Kern /Getty Images

Meal replacement drinks have become more ubiquitous as we're getting busier and working longer hours . Not to be confused with protein shakes, meal replacement drinks typically have less protein, more carbohydrates, and more calories per serving . Some meal replacement drinks are being marketed to help people lose weight whereas others are there to help people save time and money on meal prep.

Whether meal replacement drinks are good for you has been hotly debated, especially in light of recent recalls and concerns over nutrition . Below are the nutritional comparisons for different meal replacement drinks and what people have to say about them.

Soylent Drink

Soylent products have recently expanded to California 7-Eleven stores , but they're mostly sold online . Soylent Drink is Soylent's newest line of products and comes bottled in original, cacao, and nectar flavors. Each serving claims to deliver one-fifth of your daily nutrition requirement.

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  • Calories per serving: 400 calories
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Sugars: 9g
  • Cost: $32.30 for 12 bottles
  • Cost per serving: $2.69 / serving
  • Main ingredients: soy protein, maltodextrin, sunflower oil, isomaltulose
  • What people say: Many Amazon reviewers say that Soylent Drink has a consistency that's a little thicker than milk. One reviewer says , "the taste kinda tastes like pancake batter, it's not too sweet but not bad." Another says , "The taste is pretty bland. Not as delicious as ice cream, but you don't have to force yourself to drink it like a protein shake. I actually enjoy it and find myself looking forward to drinking it every morning." Its nectar flavor is compared to Fruity Pebbles "but somehow worse" and to lemon aspartame . Its cacao flavor is more popular and is compared to hot chocolate .
  • Takeaway: Soylent Drinks are an improvement from Soylent 1.0 and, because there are different flavors, you won't tire of them as easily. They're also a lot more convenient because they're pre-packaged in bottles.

Soylent Cafe

Packaged in the same way as Soylent Drink, Soylent Cafe is a line of caffeinated Soylent that comes in chai tea, vanilla coffee, and regular coffee flavors. It's meant to replace breakfast or to be used for afternoon pick-me-ups, and it has the same nutrition that Soylent Drink does.

  • Calories per serving: 400 calories
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Sugars: 9g
  • Cost: $37.05 for 12 bottles
  • Cost per serving: $3.09 / serving
  • Main ingredients: soy protein, maltodextrin, sunflower oil, isomaltulose
  • What people say: Gizmodo tried the regular coffee version, and they give it a 69/100 . Eater calls the coffee flavor, also known as Coffiest, "surprisingly almost good." "If regular Soylent tastes and feels sort of like runny pancake batter, Coffiest tastes and feels sort of like runny pancake batter with some coffee grounds and maybe a tiny bit of chocolate mixed in," writes Matt Buchanan in his review.
  • Takeaway: This product is a little more expensive than Soylent Drink, but it can double as your breakfast and your morning caffeine. Like Soylent Drink, it's portable, people think the taste is okay, and it gives you 20% of your daily nutrition.

Soylent Powder

Soylent Powder is the original Soylent flavor that you make by mixing it with water in a Soylent pitcher. It's an updated version of the original, meaning it tastes a lot better and you no longer have to add oil.

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  • Calories per serving: 200 calories
  • Protein: 10g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Sugars: 8g
  • Cost: $54 for 17 pouches, or 35 meals
  • Cost per serving: $1.54 / meal
  • Main ingredients: soy protein, canola oil, maltodextrin, isomaltulose
  • What people say: Amazon reviewer Michigoon describes it as "milk that's been blended with some fiber and a hint of banana, making a slightly gritty and thin shake." Though Michigoon claims to be a big fan of Soylent ("I love Soylent Powder"), they give the tub a one-star review for being too pricey and recommend that people buy the pouches instead.
  • Takeaway: Soylent Powder has a higher sugar-to-calorie ratio than Soylent Drink, and Soylent Cafe and is less convenient to make. The main benefit is that it's a little cheaper if you buy the powder in bulk, but you can save money by buying Soylent's other items in bulk as well. It's mostly for people who don't really care about the taste of their food and just want to save time on eating.

Ensure Original

Ensure has often been compared to Soylent as a meal replacement. It has been around longer than Soylent and comes in six flavors: milk chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, dark chocolate, butter pecan, and coffee latte. There are also variations of Ensure, like Ensure Plus for gaining or maintaining weight and Ensure Light to supplement meals.

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  • Calories per serving: 220 calories
  • Protein: 9g
  • Fiber: <1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32g
  • Sugars: 15g
  • Cost: $19.99 for 16 servings
  • Cost per serving: $1.25 / serving
  • Main ingredients: corn maltodextrin, sugar, milk protein concentrate, canola oil, corn oil
  • What people say: Most reviewers are satisfied with Ensure (" Good Stuff!!! ," " Great Stuff!! ," " Ensure for life! "), but some critique it for being too sweet and tasting artificial . Others want to fight the stigma of it being a drink for the elderly . Some say that it is best served cold .
  • Takeaway: Though it isn't shown in the values above, Ensure contains a higher percentage of daily vitamins and minerals than Soylent does per serving. One disadvantage over Soylent is that it doesn't have as much fiber but has almost double the sugar. Soylent and Ensure Original were both created to replace meals, but Ensure has enhanced nutrition to make up for the nutrition you weren't getting from other meals.

Light Fuel

Light Fuel is Super Body Fuel's low-carb answer to Soylent. To make it, you mix olive oil and water with the powder. You can customize the amount of oil you add depending on your dietary preferences.

  • Calories per serving: 260 calories (500 calories with 2T olive oil)
  • Protein: 25g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Cost: $50 for 20 servings
  • Cost per serving: $2.50 / serving
  • Main ingredients: olive oil, oat flour, sprouted brown rice protein, l-lysine hydrochloride
  • What people say: Its website says that it " tastes a bit like pancake batter ." It comes in other flavors like chocolate, which one reviewer described as "really liquidy chocolate oatmeal." People also describe the original flavor as tasteless, and one reviewer said that the "recommended amount of olive oil can overpower the Light Fuel's flavor."
  • Takeaway: Light Fuel has no sugar, which is great for people following low-carb diets. It's customizable but that also makes it less convenient to make. You also have to buy olive oil to mix in with the powder. It's only $2.50 per meal, but the smallest portion you can buy is 20 servings, which is a pretty hefty investment if you're not sure whether you like the taste or not. Super Body Fuel also makes a lower-carb version for the same price called Keto Fuel (ostensibly for those on ketogenic diets).

Athlete Fuel

Athlete Fuel is a high-protein powder made by Super Body Fuel. To make it, you mix the powder with whole milk. You can customize it so that it's vegan or non-dairy by substituting it for non-dairy alternatives.

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  • Calories per serving: 330 calories (630 calories with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Protein: 32g (47g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Carbohydrates: 38g (62g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Sugars: 0g (25g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Cost: $50 for 20 servings
  • Cost per serving: $2.50 / serving
  • Main ingredients: whole milk, oat flour, sprouted brown rice protein, l-lysine hydrochloride
  • What people say: Its website says that it tastes "slightly like cookie dough." It comes in original, vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon flavors and has an "overall smooth" texture, according to a review .
  • Takeaway: Athlete Fuel is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan. It has a lot of protein, so it's good for people looking to build muscle. Like Light Fuel, it's customizable, but that also makes it less convenient compared to premade bottles like Soylent Drink and Ensure. You also have to buy milk to mix in with the powder.

Schmilk

Schmilk was created by the same company that makes Light Fuel and Athlete Fuel. It is very similar to Soylent, only it requires milk instead of water, which makes it less convenient than Soylent. It comes in original, vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon flavors.

  • Calories per serving: 200 calories (500 calories with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Protein: 8g (24g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Carbohydrates: 34g (57g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Sugars: 0g (25g with 2 cups of whole milk)
  • Cost: $30 for 20 servings
  • Cost per serving: $1.50 / serving
  • Main ingredients: oat flour, sprouted brown rice protein, l-lysine hydrochloride
  • What people say: Its website says that it tastes like cereal milk, which many reviewers agree with. One big problem that reviewers bring up is the shake not mixing well without a blender.
  • Takeaway: Schmilk is an alternative to Soylent made with oat flour instead of soy. It's a little more expensive because you have to buy milk, but the nutrition is comparable.

Atkins Shakes

Similar to Ensure, Atkins Shakes are creamy meal replacement drinks available in most stores, and come in a large variety of flavors. But, unlike Ensure, they were created to follow the Atkins diet.

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  • Calories per serving: 160 calories
  • Protein: 15g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 2-5g (depending on the flavor)
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Cost: $30 for 20 servings
  • Cost per serving: $1.50 / serving
  • Main ingredients: milk protein concentrate, sunflower oil, pasteurized cream, soy protein
  • What people say: Reviews are mostly positive. "It's tasty and healthy without leaving a chalky aftertaste. It's not super sweet like all the other low-fat protein drinks. Plus I like that it's in a cardboard container instead of metal cans," writes Amazon reviewer Dawn T .
  • Takeaway: Atkins shakes are lower   in carbohydrates and have more protein than Ensure. There are also two caffeinated coffee flavors: mocha latte shake and cafe caramel shake. Since they're available in stores like Walmart, you can buy them in small packs of four instead of having to online order supplies of powder in bulk like you would for other meal replacement drinks.

Shakeology

Shakeology is being marketed as "a superfood protein shake that can help you feel energized, reduce cravings, lose weight, improve digestion and regularity and it tastes delicious too." It's not sold in stores, so you have to visit a website to buy it.

  • Calories per serving: 140 - 170 calories
  • Protein: 16-17g
  • Fiber: 4-5g
  • Carbohydrates: 13-18g
  • Sugars: 7-8g
  • Cost: $129.95 for 30 servings
  • Cost per serving: $4.33 / serving
  • Main ingredients: pea protein, flax seed, whey protein, oat protein
  • What people say: Some flavors taste better than others-chocolate and vanilla are the most popular. One reviewer compares the flavor of the shakes to cereals and noted that they left a bitter aftertaste.
  • Takeaway: Shakeology is one of the most expensive meal replacement shakes. It has fewer calories per serving than Soylent, but a higher sugar-to-calorie ratio. Its ingredient list is easier to read and understand, but the nutrition is comparable-one exception is that has more fiber.

Vega One

Vega One is a vegan nutritional shake made without gluten or soy. It gets its protein from pea, hemp, SaviSeeds, and flax seeds. One serving claims to give you 25% of your daily fiber. It comes in chocolate, berry, natural, vanilla chai, French vanilla, coconut, and almond mocha.

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  • Calories per serving: 160 calories
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g (depending on the flavor)
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Cost: $28.49 for 10 servings
  • Cost per serving: $2.85 / serving
  • Main ingredients: pea protein, flax seed, pea starch, acacia gum
  • What people say: Amazon reviewers often claim it's a better alternative to Shakeology. Like Shakeology, there are complaints of it leaving a weird aftertaste: "There is this sickly sweet aftertaste that is similar to that of an artificial sweetener," writes Amazon reviewer Bruce Barlow .
  • Takeaway: Vega One is a good alternative to Shakeology because it has comparable nutrition and a comparable taste. It's also a lot cheaper and you can buy a lot less of it (the smallest package of Shakeology comes with 30 servings while the smallest package of Vega One comes with 10).

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