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Nutrition Drinks for Adults and Seniors for 2021: Top Picks

Nutrition Drinks for Adults and Seniors

Vanilla or strawberry? Clear or normal? High in protein or high in calories? See our recommended Nutrition Drinks for Adults and Seniors for 2021.

Scratching your head and wondering about the many flavors, consistencies, and ingredients in the wide range of nutrition drinks on the market today? Wonder no more! We’ve put together some frequently asked questions from our members, along with a list of our best-selling shakes and drinks for adults.

What Are Nutrition Drinks, and Why Do People Consume Them?

First, let’s talk about what they actually are. Supplemental nutrition drinks come in hundreds of brands and variations, but most are intended to do the same thing: Provide the person consuming them with a healthy balance of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, and, in some instances, fat.

However, no product is perfect. It is good to get clarity on what these drinks for adults and seniors can provide, as well as what they can’t.

Let’s discuss the pros first:

Ease of use. These aren’t just easy to consume—they’re also easy to open. This can be a significant “pro” for seniors who may have limited strength or hand mobility.

Quicker than cooking. Yes, we’d all love to live in a world where we have the time and energy to cook every meal from scratch. But is that realistic for most people? Probably not. Busy schedules, fatigue, and other factors get in the way. Nutrition drinks act as a handy backup when you’re lacking time or energy to bake, boil, or grill.

Delicious Taste! “It tastes just like a milkshake!” is the common response when somebody sips on a nutrition drink for the first time. We’ll talk about the typical reason why the drinks taste so good in a minute. Warning: It’s in the “con” section. Still, a tasty drink can reduce potential resistance to eating, particularly for those who don’t have a big appetite.

Bulk buy opportunities. Another useful thing about nutrition drinks is that they’re often available to buy in bulk, whether online or at stores like Costco. It’s hard to complain when you’re getting a cheaper price, right?

Accessibility for seniors. Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) becomes a lot more common with age. Around 15% of seniors and almost 70% of nursing home residents experience this challenging health issue. Nutrition drinks and shakes are a useful workaround for seniors who can no longer safely eat solid foods.

So what about the cons of nutrition drinks?

Can be high in sugar. Remember when we mentioned that these drinks are delicious? One of the main reasons for this is because they can contain a lot of sugar. Still, despite what your mom might have tried to make you believe, sugar is an essential part of any diet. As Dr. Jennifer Haythe—a cardiologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (NY) says:

“We all need sugar—it’s the basic building block of what runs our bodies.”

Some have more sugar than others, so it pays to shop around and compare the ingredient labels. The best nutrition drinks for seniors and adults should try to at least limit sugar content so that they’re safe to drink on a daily basis.

Less filling than “proper” meals. Like to feel nice and full? These drinks are a great way to supplement calories, but it’s not quite the same experience as sitting down for a standard meal. If you find you’re getting hungry soon after drinking a shake, then you may want to add another snack to make it feel like more of a meal.

The risk of overconsuming. Nutrition drinks are easy to prepare and can be consumed quickly. It may, therefore, be tempting to have a second drink straight after. Particularly for shakes that are meant to serve to replace your meals, you could find yourself loading up on too many calories, leading to unwanted weight gain.

What Should I Look for in a Nutrition Drink?

In truth, what you should look for in will depend on your health needs and goals.

There are several key questions to consider.

Do you:

  1. Want to lose, maintain, or gain weight?
  2. Have any dietary needs, e.g. gluten-free?
  3. Have any lifestyle preferences, e.g. vegan?

Once you’re clear on what you need, it becomes simpler to shop for what’s best for you. To give an idea of what you can get, here’s a Harvard Health comparison of popular nutrition drinks for seniors and adults.

Read: What are Food & Drink Thickeners?

6 of Our Best Selling Nutrition Drinks for Adults and Seniors

In our view, there truly is no one “best” nutrition shake for seniors and adults. For example, an adult looking to be in a caloric surplus may have different health needs than a senior with swallowing issues.

But rest assured, there are many high-quality products that will serve you well for a range of purposes. Below, we’ll share some of our drink and shake “top picks,” based on six criteria:

  1. For therapeutic nutrition with higher calories
  2. A refreshing, clear alternative to creamy shakes
  3. To aid recovery from illness, injury, or surgery
  4. To minimize blood sugar spikes
  5. For medication pass programs
  6. For those who follow a plant based or vegan diet

Feel free to scroll to the section most relevant to you or your loved one’s current circumstances.

Best Nutrition Drinks for Seniors and Adults—Carewell’s Top 6 Picks

For Therapeutic Nutrition with a Calorie Boost

Ensure Plus

A Refreshing, Clear Alternative to Creamy Shakes

Boost Breeze

To Aid Recovery from Illness, Injury, or Surgery

Ensure Enlive

Glucerna Hunger Smart Shake, Bottle

For Medication Pass Programs

Med Pass 2.0, Carton

For Those Who Follow a Plant-Based or Vegan Diet

Kate Farms, Vanilla


Light Nutrition Shakes vs. Max Nutrition Shakes

Nutrition shakes don’t take a “one size fits all” approach. A wide variety of drinks with different specifications are available, such as:

  • High-protein
  • Low-sugar
  • High-caloric

“Light” nutrition shakes are, as you’d expect, lighter on calories. There are also 0-gram sugar options, such as this original Ensure light nutrition shake:

Ensure Light, Bottle

But what if you want to maintain or gain weight rather than lose it?

This is where high-caloric or “max” nutrition shakes come in… One of the best nutritional shakes to gain weight is the drink below from Boost. It contains over 500 calories per serving—a useful supplement for building muscle mass:

Boost Very High-Calorie Oral Supplement


What If I Need a Gluten-Free Nutrition Drink?

As the options listed above show, many are gluten-free. However, some shakes on the market can contain gluten.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find a gluten-free product, but you’re welcome to reach out to our team if you need more info. While it’s not technically a drink, one of our favorite gluten-free products is the Ensure nutritional pudding:

Ensure® Nutritional Pudding

Fruit smoothies are another gluten-free alternative to consider for easy meals.

Food-based smoothies tend to have lower amounts of added sugar than shakes, but it’s worth noting that they are pricier in most cases.

Read Next: 6 Easy At-Home Exercises for 2021. A great complement to nutrition.

Can Nutrition Drinks Serve as a Meal Replacement?

Nutrition drinks come in a variety of forms. Both “light” and “max” options are on the market. For these drinks to replace a meal, it will need to provide around 400 calories per serving. Harvard Health also offers advice on the ideal nutritional ratio for a replacement shake (8-oz serving):

  • 10 to 20 grams of protein
  • Less than 6 grams of fat
  • Around 40 grams or less of carbohydrate (including sugar)

Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Protein Shakes

Scratching your head about what the difference is between high-quality protein shakes and meal replacement shakes? The most important thing to keep in mind is that not all protein shakes can take the place of a meal.

A regular max protein drink will usually have fewer calories and a much lower vitamin density than the latter. Always check the product’s nutritional label before buying to ensure the shake has what you or your loved one need to do the job.

Meal Replacement Shakes vs. Bars

Meal replacement shakes and bars have different advantages. Seniors who struggle with food intake are likely to be better off opting for shakes. They’re easier to consume and there’s a lower risk of choking than with bars.

But if you’re an adult who wishes to lose weight, meal replacement bars can make more sense. They’ll keep you feeling “full” for longer than a shake will, which can reduce your overall caloric intake throughout the day.

Do Nutrition Drinks Need a Doctor’s Approval?

You don’t usually need a doctor’s approval for nutrition shakes unless you’ve been prescribed a specific health or diet plan.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, though. Nutrition drinks may provide an influx of nutrients that your body isn’t used to, so unexpected reactions are always possible.

We’re Here to Help.

Remember, if you have any questions about the best nutrition drinks for adults and seniors, we’re always here to help.

A 5-minute phone call may be able to save you hours of research, so please feel free to contact the Carewell team:

Call: (855) 855-1666 or Email: support@carewell.com

Declan Davey is a health and wellness copywriter from London, UK. His background includes roles as a psychological therapist for Islington Memory Service, where he worked with family caregivers, and as a rehab assistant at Camden Neurology & Stroke Service. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or on his website https://www.declandavey.com.

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