Rochester, Minnesota - As meal replacement options expand, it's important to remember two things: Not all replacements are created equal, and not all meals should be replaced.
"Meal replacement shakes and products should not replace eating or consuming whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables," says Anya Guy, a Mayo Clinic dietitian. "If you're looking to implement these into your diet, talk to your physician or a dietitian about how many you can have per day."
Guy says when you do need to replace a meal with a bar or shake, ignore the packaging claims and read the nutrition label.
"Look for whole-grain ingredients or whole-food ingredients, which might be nuts or seeds," she explains.
An ingredient like nuts can boost the protein in a bar and can contribute to the product's fiber content.
"A good amount of fiber will help you feel fuller longer," she adds.
Guy says to choose replacements that offer at least a part of your daily vitamin and mineral needs.
"Many of these products are also fortified with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. It's really a personal preference on what you prefer added to your bars or shakes," concludes Guy.
Finally, check for added sugar and pass on replacements that come with too much of it.