A meal replacement is a drink, bar, soup, etc. intended as a substitute for a solid food meal, usually with controlled quantities of calories and nutrients. Some drinks are in the form of a health shake. Medically prescribed meal replacement drinks include the required vitamins and minerals. Bodybuilders sometimes use meal replacements, not formulated for weight loss, to save food preparation time when they are eating 5 to 6 meals a day.
In the European Union, weight-reduction meal replacements intended either to supplement ("Meal replacement for weight control") or to replace totally ("Total diet replacement for weight control") normal meals are regulated as to their energy content, the nutrients they must provide, and information and advice on packaging by COMMISSION DIRECTIVE 96/8/EC of 26 February 1996 on foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction. For example, a meal replacement must provide between 200 and 400 food calories of energy, of which not more than 30% from fat, and not less than specified amounts for various vitamins and minerals. Labeling information is prescribed, and packaging must provide information such as a statement that the product should not be used for more than three weeks without medical advice. This protects users of meal replacements without other food from inadvertent malnutrition.
In the United States, the term "meal replacement" is not defined in federal Food and Drug Administration regulations, but generally refers to a calorie-controlled, prepackaged product in the form of a bar or beverage (ready to drink or powder), that replaces a regular meal. Meal-replacement products usually provide 200 to 250 calories per serving, are fortified with more than 20 vitamins and minerals at "good" or "excellent source" levels and often bear nutrient content claims, such as percent fat free and reduced sugar. Meal replacement products can be regulated as conventional or functional foods.
In popular culture
- Energy bar
- Infant formula
- Liquid diet
- Therapeutic food
- Drink Yourself Skinny, Men's Health
- Meal Replacement Guide, Bodybuilding For You
- EC Directive 96/8/EC on foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction
- "Regulatory Issues: Meal Replacements – Convenience or Compromise?". Food Processing.