The Best Meal Replacement Shakes of 2024

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Dec 21 2023.

Woman holding a shake.

Many family caregivers use meal replacement shakes to supplement their loved one’s complete nutrition. But with so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know which drink will best meet your loved one’s needs. 

We’ve created this round-up of The Best Meal Replacement Shakes to assist in your efforts.

What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?

Meal replacement shakes are pre-packaged drinks that have a thick, milkshake-like consistency. They have a high protein content and are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. 

Often, meal replacement shakes are prescribed to people experiencing weight loss and other chronic health problems. They provide balanced nutrition and help maintain and build muscle mass.

How We Chose the Products in This Round-Up

The drinks featured in this round-up are a selection of our “highest-rated” and “best-selling” meal replacement shakes. Each entry features real customer feedback under the heading: Hear it From a Caregiver..

The Best Meal Replacement Shakes

1) Boost Very High Calorie, Oral Supplement, Vanilla

This high-calorie meal replacement shake from Boost is formulated for those who need extra calories either to gain weight or combat malnutrition. The vanilla flavor is a customer favorite, even for picky eaters.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Highest calorie-count of Boost formulas, with 530 calories per 8 ounces

  • 22 grams of protein per bottle to help maintain muscle mass

  • Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including iron and selenium

  • Contains no artificial sweeteners, iis gluten-free, and is safe for those with lactose intolerance

Caregiver Tip

Caregivers tell us that this meal replacement shake is rather dense. Try adding a little bit of water if you’re having difficulty drinking it through a straw. 

Boost Very High Calorie Oral Supplement, Vanilla
Boost Very High Calorie Oral Supplement, Vanilla

Calories per Serving: 530

Price: $60.77

2) Ensure Original Nutritional Shake 

Ensure is the number one doctor-recommended brand of meal replacement shakes. The original formula has 9 grams of protein and 220 calories per eight-ounce serving. Your loved one might benefit from Ensure if they need added nutrition, meal replacement for weight loss, or extra calories.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Contains 27 essential vitamins and minerals

  • Comes in two delicious flavors (e.g., chocolate and vanilla)

  • Excellent high-protein meal replacement for people who need to increase their calorie-count

  • Ideal for someone needing to gain weight

  • Gluten-free and suitable for people with lactose intolerance

Hear it from a caregiver

“I ordered the Ensure to help my sister gain weight and because her [doctor] advised her to start drinking Ensure. [My sister] is gaining a little weight. So, I guess Ensure is doing its job. Thank you very much to your entire team.”

- Larry C.

Ensure Original Nutritional Shake
Ensure Original Nutritional Shake

Price: $13.41 - $62.66

3) Ensure Plus Nutritional Shake, Bottle

The Ensure Plus line is specifically formulated for individuals looking to effectively gain weight. To support muscle growth and maintenance, it contains 350 calories per serving and 75% more protein than Ensure Original. Many in our caregiving community use Ensure Plus to help counteract weight loss from medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Formulated for strength and energy

  • Great way to help gain weight 

  • A great tasting way to get essential vitamins and antioxidants

  • Gluten-free and safe for people with lactose intolerance

Ensure Plus Nutritional Shake, Bottle
Ensure Plus Nutritional Shake, Bottle

Calories Per Serving: 350

Price: $14.80 - $59.54

4) Ensure Clear Nutritional Drink

Not everyone likes the texture of a creamy milkshake. Consider Ensure Clear if you want to add some variety to your loved one’s liquid diet. Each ten-ounce bottle has eight grams of protein and 180 calories. The blueberry pomegranate flavor is crisp and refreshing.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Suitable for people with lactose intolerance

  • A tasty alternative to traditional meal replacement shakes

  • Ideal for people on pre or post-surgical liquid diets

Hear it from a caregiver

“I love this as a dietary supplement. I prefer it to regular Ensure since it’s not as heavy. The taste is great, not too sweet, but just right.”

- Patricia C.

Ensure Clear Nutritional Drink
Ensure Clear Nutritional Drink

Price: $13.81 - $35.05

5) Ensure Max Protein Nutritional Shake 

The Ensure Max line of nutrition shakes has even more protein than Ensure Plus. This is an excellent meal replacement option if your loved one needs to gain weight quickly, has a poor appetite,  or is recovering from an illness. 

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Each bottle contains 30 grams of protein

  • Contains 100 mg of caffeine (as much as a cup of coffee)

  • Gluten-free with only 1 gram of sugar

  • Four different flavors - coffee, mixed berry, cafe mocha, and chocolate

Caregiver Tip

Make liquid meals more interesting by thinking “outside the carton.” Try adding greens, berries, or bananas for a scrumptious breakfast smoothie. Note: Adding ingredients changes the shake’s nutrient profile.  

Ensure Max Protein Nutritional Shake
Ensure Max Protein Nutritional Shake

Calories Per Serving: 150

Protein Per Serving: 30g

Price: $12.92 - $50.99

6) Nepro with Carbsteady Ready to Use Oral Supplement, Vanilla Flavor

Many patients with kidney disease experience rapid weight loss because of their nutritional requirements. Nepro with Carbsteady Ready is a meal replacement shake formulated specifically for people on dialysis. It’s higher in calories and high-quality protein than many of the other nutritional and protein shakes on this list and can be administered with tube feeding. 

Key Benefits & Features: 

  • Each shake contains 420 calories, and 19 grams of protein per serving

  • Low in phosphorus, sodium, and potassium as well as being gluten-free

  • Specially formulated for people with kidney disease

  • Contains 6 grams of fiber, including prebiotics. 

Hear it from a caregiver

“My husband is on dialysis and he loves these! We also love the price.”

-Gwendolyn W. 

7) Boost Breeze, Nutritional Drink, Wild Berry

Boost Breeze is similar to Ensure Clear in that it’s more like fruit juice instead of a thick, creamy shake. The wild berry flavor is sweet, refreshing, and a hit with discerning palates. It provides similar nutritional value to the other shakes featured on this list. The only real difference is its appearance and consistency.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • A delicious alternative to thicker meal replacement drinks

  • 250 calories and 9 grams of protein per serving

  • Fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low sodium

Commonly Asked Questions

1) Who Should Drink Meal Replacement Shakes?

Meal replacement shakes are ideal for people who need help maintaining or gaining weight. The shakes we carry at Carewell are formulated to build and maintain muscle mass. They come in high or low-calorie options, are packed with nutrients, and save you the hassle of cooking.

2) Are Meal Replacement Shakes a Substitute for Whole Foods?

Meal replacement shakes can help supplement your loved one’s diet but aren’t a complete meal or a substitute for whole foods. We recommend partnering with a registered dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions. These professionals can help you develop a personalized meal plan that meets your loved one’s nutritional needs. 

3) What Should I Consider Before Buying Meal Replacement Shakes?

Before buying meal replacement shakes, it’s important to consider your loved one’s needs. Start by reading the product label and consider the following factors: 

  • The number of calories and protein per serving

  • Whether there are potential allergens (e.g., gluten or lactose)

  • The amount of added sugars (this is especially important if your loved one is diabetic)

  • Whether it contains essential vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants

4) What meal is best to replace with a shake?

As we mentioned before, meal replacement shakes are not a complete meal and work best alongside whole foods, but breakfast is an ideal meal to drink a shake with. Shakes are a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like high-quality protein and carbs, so drinking one alongside your morning meal can kickstart your day by promoting energy. 

Takeaways

Meal replacement shakes can support your loved one’s health and nutritional needs. But with so many options to choose from, making the right decision might seem daunting. After speaking with your loved one’s doctor to understand what nutritional needs they have, you can look for replacement shakes that meet those needs and experiment with flavors to find the one your loved one enjoys most. 

Need Help?

Our knowledgeable Caregiving Specialists speak English and Spanish and are familiar with the meal replacement shakes we carry. They can answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction. Call (800) 696-CARE today or send an email to support@carewell.com

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.