All About Nutritional Drinks and Shakes

Posted by Brianna Maguire on Nov 13th 2020

Keeping your loved ones healthy is a number one priority. That’s why we offer drinks and shakes loaded with nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals, calcium, and more. Our drinks and shakes are specially formulated to target weight gain, weight loss, diabetes management, dysphagia, or whatever your unique nutritional needs might be. Whether you’re looking for overall wellness, a quicker way to have breakfast, targeted nutrition, or weight management, we offer everything you need to feel your best.

Learn about:

What are they?

Nutrition drinks and shakes are specially formulated beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other vital nutrients. Convenient and portable, these drinks offer advanced nutrition even for those who aren’t able or don’t have time to eat meals. There are varieties for all kinds of lifestyles and nutritional needs - they come in various consistencies, flavors, and nutrient profiles.

Nutritional shakes, like Ensure Original or Boost Original, are designed with complete nutrition in mind, and can be used to supplement diets. Some special shakes are condition-specific, like Glucerna, which is used to prevent blood sugar spikes for those with diabetes. Nutritional shakes come in many varieties - some have high protein, some have extra nutrients, and they come in unique flavors.

Drink mixes are often powdered versions of nutritional shakes that can be added to various beverages, depending on your preference. Some are to supplement diets - like Ensure Original Nutritional Powder - while others are specifically for electrolyte replenishment, breakfast replacements, or high-calorie diets.

Thickeners and thickened drinks are specially formulated for those that have difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia. Thickeners are added to other foods and beverages. These dissolve slowly and thicken the consistency, making them easier to swallow. We also offer pre-thickened beverages, like the Thick and Easy line.

Across the board, many of our drinks and shakes are gluten-free, suitable for those with lactose intolerance, Kosher, and Halal - just check the specific product descriptions for this information.

What are the different kinds of oral supplements?

Basic nutritional shakes

These offer added nutrition, especially for those that need to gain weight or increase daily nutrient intake. These are ideal for occasional meal or snack replacements, added vitamins and minerals, or even sole-source nutrition for some short-term needs.

Advanced nutritional shakes

These offer a little extra nutrition than the original editions. These will often contain words like “Plus” in the title. These are often higher calorie, more protein, and are better for those trying to gain or maintain weight.


These are special nutritional shakes designed just for those with diabetes. Used as a meal or snack replacement, these shakes feature slow-release carbohydrates that curb hunger while managing blood sugar. Designed for those with type 2 diabetes, these can also be used by those with type 1 diabetes or for weight loss (in some cases).

Clear beverages

These also feature essential nutrients and protein, but are more like a juice in consistency and flavor. They’re often easier to drink for those that find milky or thick drinks difficult. Typically fruit-flavored, these are lower-calorie and higher protein than many of their nutritional shake counterparts, so they may also be a good solution for those that want to lose weight.

Electrolyte replenishment

These replenish vital electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, so you can enjoy maximum wellness. These are primarily used by those who are very physically active (electrolytes are lost in sweat), or those that are seriously ill and losing bodily fluids.

Thickened beverages

These are pre-thickened drinks that are specially created to have an easily-swallowable texture. Most are nectar-thick, so check with your doctor to see which consistency is best for your needs.

High-protein drinks

These are ideal for those that eat full, regular meals but want to add a little more nutrition to their diet. They tend to have less sugars and calories than typical drinks and shakes, and much higher volumes of protein. They’re great for those that are working out, those that are growing, or those that are dieting and want a filling snack or mini-meal with high nutritional value.

Drink mixes

These are powdered versions of nutrition drinks and shakes. They easily mix into many kinds of liquids, and are stored in large canisters.

High-calorie supplements

These boast more calories than other drinks and shakes and are designed specifically for weight gain and malnutrition. This supplement is added to other drinks and often food.

Immunonutrition shakes

These are specially designed to be consumed before or after surgery. Surgery creates extra nutritional needs like added protein, higher calories, vitamin D, antioxidants, and more.

Therapeutic shakes

Some of our nutrition drinks and shakes have “therapeutic” versions. These tend to have higher calorie and nutrient counts, and are designed for those that are healing, recovering, or hospitalized. However, they might be a useful alternative for at-home users looking for extra calories. If you’ve been drinking nutrition shakes at the hospital, they probably had the “therapeutic” versions. Talk to your doctor about whether therapeutic shakes are right for you.

Who should use nutritional drinks and shakes?

Nutritional drinks are useful for those:

  • Not meeting their daily nutritional values with food alone
  • With dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing (thickeners and thickened drinks - shakes have a "thin" consistency)
  • Facing involuntary weight loss
  • Who are malnourished
  • Focusing on weight loss or weight gain
  • Whose children are not eating enough to sustain complete nutrition
  • Looking for sole-source nutrition (note that this is just for short-term needs)
  • Recovering from injury, illness, or surgery
  • With diabetes that are looking for a way to manage sugar spikes (only Glucerna products)
  • With children that want to provide a protein-rich breakfast
  • Skipping breakfast
  • With lactose or gluten-free diets looking for nutritious snacks or mini-meals

Who shouldn't use these?

Some nutritional shakes may not be a good fit for:

  • Those with galactosemia
  • Long-term tube feeding
  • Long-term sole source nutrition
  • IV use
  • Hypoglycemia, insulin shock, or insulin reaction (Glucerna specifically)
  • Those on low-sugar diets (with the exception of some products like Glucerna or High Protein options)

Do I need a liquid, powder, or thickened beverage?

The consistency you choose is up to personal preference, for the most part. Keep in mind that nutritional values vary from form to form (e.g., one serving of Ensure Original in a bottle will have slightly different nutrition facts than one serving of Ensure Original powder).

Here’s some general guidelines that may help you decide:

Who should use liquid nutritional beverages?

Liquid drinks and shakes are ideal for those who:

  • Prefer the convenience of a pre-made drink
  • Enjoy the many flavors offered (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, and more)
  • Need a more specialized drink (high protein, diabetes management, etc)


Who should use powdered nutritional beverages?

Powdered nutritional beverages are ideal for those who:

  • Want to add nutrition to their favorite beverages
  • Don’t like the traditional nutritional shake flavors
  • Would like to add nutritional flavors to foods, rather than beverages. These are great in mashed potatoes or oatmeal.
  • Prefer to be more environmentally friendly (less packaging than individual bottles)
  • Would like to control the amount of powder they’re adding (either for extra or fewer calories)

Who should use thickened beverages?

  • Those with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing

How do I use them?

How and why you use nutritional drinks and shakes is solely up to you, and in some cases, your doctor.

However, some general instructions are:

  • Consume nutrition drinks and shakes orally
  • In some cases, these drinks and shakes can be used for enteral feeding in the short-term
  • Do not exceed the daily maximum consumption of these products (check the product descriptions for this information)
  • These can be frozen or warmed
  • For more medical products, like Ensure Surgery or Duocal High Calorie Supplement, only use under medical supervision
  • Most of the drinks should be used as a snack or to replace a light meal
  • If using as sole-source nutrition, make sure you consult your doctor
  • Make sure you check product descriptions for specialized instructions

What features exist?

Various flavors

Our nutritious drinks and shakes come in many delicious flavors like chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan, strawberry, and chocolate caramel

Range of thickness / consistency

  • Clear drinks

Clear drinks are designed for those on clear liquid diets, or prefer a light juice-like drink. They’re also great for anyone that prefers fruit-flavored options to creamy shake-like supplements. These are a great refreshing option in the summertime.

  • Thickened beverages

These are ideal for users that have trouble swallowing, like those with dysphagia.

  • Shakes

Most of our nutrition beverages come in a shake-like consistency. This is thicker than juice or water, but not as thick as a thickened beverage. Unlike clear drinks and many thickened beverages, shakes actually make you feel more full, so they’re a great mini-meal replacement.

Amount of calories

Each nutrition shake comes with varying amount of calories to suit your individual needs. Those looking to gain or maintain weight will want to look for higher calorie options, while those that want to lose weight should look for lower calorie options.

Amount of protein

Different diets will require different amounts of protein, so keep your individual needs in mind when considering your nutritious drink options. Most higher protein drinks will have lower calories, and many lower protein drinks will have higher calories.

Range of vitamins and minerals

Each drink has a unique range of vitamins and minerals so if you’re looking for something specific (like vitamin b12 or vitamin D), keep an eye out for that specifically.


Some shakes may contain antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, or beta-carotene. These have been proven to fight the onset of cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Plant-based Omega 3 fatty acid

Some of our drinks and shakes contain plant-based omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, and it can be difficult to obtain these acids through food alone.

Ability to use as sole-source nutrition

Some nutritional shakes can be used as the only form of nutrition (for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to eat). However, even these can only be used in the short-term, and you should consult your doctor if you’ll be using these as sole-source nutrition.

Suitable for lactose intolerance

Many nutritional drinks and shakes are safe for those that are lactose intolerant, even though they have a delicious, creamy taste.

Gluten-free, Kosher, and Halal options

Most of the nutritional drinks we offer are gluten-free, Kosher, and Halal.

How do I choose?

The best way to decide which nutritional drink or shake to choose is to think about what you’re going to use the drinks for.

Ask yourself:

Why am I looking for a nutritious drink or shake?

Everyday health and balanced nutrition

For balanced nutrition, you’ll want to look at options like Boost Original and Ensure Original. Be mindful of calorie and sugar counts. If you’re eating regularly, you may want to choose something with less sugar, like a high protein option.

Weight gain

If you’re looking to gain weight, you’ll want some of the more high-calorie options like Boost Plus or Ensure Plus.

Weight loss

If you’re using nutritional shakes as a replacement for mini-meals and snacks as an attempt to lose weight, you’ll want to choose shakes that have low sugar and low calories. 


Those who are working out may want to drink higher amounts of protein to gain or maintain muscle mass. Also, your doctor may recommend that you add more protein to your diet. In these cases, look for options like Ensure High Protein or Boost Max Protein.

Pre or post surgery

If your doctor recommended that you look for “Immunonutrition Shakes” or “Surgery Shakes” to help with recovery, you’ll want to shop for those specifically.

Manage diabetes

The Glucerna line of shakes is specially designed to manage blood sugar spikes in those with type 2 diabetes or type 1 diabetes. If you’re using Glucerna to manage diabetes, you’ll want to replace one snack or mini-meal a day with a Glucerna shake.

Sole source nutrition

If you or a loved one cannot consume their daily value of nutrition through eating, you may be looking for nutrition supplements that can be your sole source of nutrition. Certain drinks - like Ensure Original and Boost Original - can be used as a sole source of nutrition for short periods of time. Keep in mind that many of these products do not contain fiber, so for digestive health, you’ll also need to incorporate some sort of fiber supplement.


If you have dysphagia, you likely want to look for thickened beverages or thickeners. Another option is to chill nutritional shakes - when chilled, they have a nectar-like consistency.

Caregiver favorites

Our caregivers love nutrition drinks and shakes from brands like EnsureBoostGlucerna, and Thick-It.

Ensure Original Nutritional Shake

This shake is delicious and packed with the calories, protein, and vitamins and minerals you need to feel happy and healthy. Ensure is the #1 doctor-recommended brand, and our caregivers love that they can choose from vanilla, milk chocolate, or strawberry.

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Boost Breeze Nutritional Drink, Wild Berry, 8 oz.

Refreshing and delicious, this drink provides essential calories, energy, and vitamins. Caregivers love this fruity alternative to shake-like nutrition options, and it tastes just like juice!

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Thick & Easy Thickened Beverage, Nectar Consistency

This convenient, pre-thickened juice is ideal for those that have difficulty swallowing. In delicious flavors like Apple Juice, Kiwi Strawberry, Cranberry Juice, and Iced Tea, this is tasty and dignified drinking option for those with dysphagia.

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Med Pass 2.0 Nutritional Shake, Carton

Both a thickened beverage and a nutritional shake, this supplement is ideal for those that love the taste and added nutrition of nutritional shakes, but need a thickened option because of difficulty swallowing.

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Brittany's pro-tips

1. For children or those who have a really tough time getting their calories in, sometimes it can help to freeze drinks and shakes into an icy treat! Clear drinks like Boost Breeze and Ensure Clear can be frozen into popsicles, and the creamier drinks almost taste like ice cream. Just make sure that you don’t thaw and refreeze them, as this can cause the ingredients to separate.

2. Even though most of the drinks are fine for people that are lactose intolerant, most of them are not suitable for those with galactosemia.

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