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All About Low FODMAP Meal Replacements & Protein Shakes

Low FODMAP Meal Replacements and Protein Shakes

As a dietitian specializing in the low FODMAP diet and weight management protein shakes and meal replacement shakes are a frequent topic. You may be wondering, what is the difference between a protein shake and a meal replacement shake?

Meal replacement shakes often contain protein, carbohydrates, fats, and are fortified with micronutrients while protein shakes are often more protein based.

Low FODMAP Meal Replacements & Protein ShakesMeal replacements are encouraged if they are providing the majority of one’s calorie needs. Either is acceptable if used as an occasional meal substitute, snack, or supplement. Ultimately I want my patients to cook and eat real whole foods, however this is not always a realistic approach. Life can be hectic and reaching for a protein shake can be a better option than skipping a meal or grabbing a less nutritious snack such as a candy bar.

It is highly recommended to seek advice from a dietitian before starting the low FODMAP diet and when devising a nutrition plan for weight loss or gain, especially when using meal replacements since these vary greatly and may be contraindicated with some medical conditions.

Pros of Meal Replacements & Protein Shakes
  • A quick and easy portable meal or snack that one can reach for when away from home or when time is short.
  • A treatment option for weight reduction, meal replacements can help fill in the gaps instead of skipping meals and can provide a calorie and portion controlled meal. Meal replacement shakes are often lower in calories than a typical meal contributing to an energy deficit.
  • Provide supplemental protein to help meet increased protein needs for wound healing, cancer therapies, and hemodialysis.
  • Promote weight gain in those struggling with involuntary weight loss. Weight gain can occur if shakes are consumed in addition to one’s normal eating habits such as in-between meals or before bed. Meal replacement shakes add extra calories without negatively affecting one’s appetite since they pass through the stomach faster than solid foods.
  • Pre and post exercise fuel. Liquid calories such as meal replacements and sports drinks are often encouraged prior to intense workouts since they leave the stomach quickly and are less likely to cause gastric distress during a workout. A protein-carbohydrate rich snack is often advised after an intense workout or endurance exercises to replete glycogen stores and achieve muscle mass gains.
  • Boost vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in dietary patterns that lack adequate nutrient dense foods.
  • Easy to swallow for those with swallowing difficulties.
Cons of Meal Replacements & Protein Shakes
  • They empty out of the stomach which can result in hunger sooner than consuming a solid, fiber rich meal.
  • Promote boredom if consumed in place of meals for a long duration of time.
  • Challenges when transitioning to regular foods if consumed as main nutrition source with a weight loss program since one often does not always learn how to make healthful choices with real foods. Often times when the program ceases we return to our old eating habits and weight regain can occur.
  • Cost- on average prices meal replacement shakes range from $2 to $5 each. When used as a sole source of nutrition in a weight loss program this can cost upwards of $300 per month.
  • May contain artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, sugar and less than desirable food additives.
  • Lack intact dietary fibers found in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Good for On-The-Go

Low FODMAP meal replacements and protein shakes can be helpful for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) since they are easily digestible, convenient and provide a “safe” meal or snack option. These can be easily consumed when hunger strikes, which can help keep food anxiety under control and portions in check by helping one not get overly hungry.

Read Labels for FODMAPs

Unfortunately, many meal replacements and protein shakes contain high FODMAP ingredients making them unsafe for the Elimination phase. Many contain superfoods, herbal supplements, sweeteners, isolated fibers, digestive enzymes, and probiotics which have unknown FODMAP content and have not been tested by the Monash University.

Nestle ProNourish Vanilla Shake Ingredients Panel
Nestlé ProNourish Vanilla Shake Ingredients Panel                          Certified Low FODMAP

As a RDN I often help my patients decipher food labels to determine if a product is FODMAP appropriate using my best clinical judgment since few protein shakes and meal replacements are low FODMAP certified. For example, beet powder; beets are considered excessive in fructans and galactans in serving sizes greater than 41grams or 2 slices.

Beet powder used for coloring is likely safe however a large dose of beet powder which may be added to provide a therapeutic dose to enhance athletic performance may be too much and probably best to avoid in the Elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. Broccoli crowns are safe up to 1 cup (90 g), however this is hard to translate what this equates to in broccoli powder.

So what should we be looking for when we are looking for protein shakes or meal replacement shakes?

Protein & Meal Replacement Dos and Don'ts for the Low FODMAP Diet

Worth a Look – With Your Dietitian

These protein powders have not been tested by Monash, however they are suspected to be low FODMAP.

  • Soy protein isolate
  • Bone broth protein powder (see below)
  • Collagen peptide powder
What About Bone Broth?

Bone broth contains several amino acids including L-glutamine, proline and glycine found in the collagen. These amino acids have been touted as anti-inflammatory agents that help heal leaky gut by improving intestinal integrity, however, there is inadequate evidence to support bone broth or collagen for IBS symptom improvement. Recent research suggests increased risk of lead contamination with diets rich in bone broth. As a RDN I would advise caution with bone broth powder and only consume on an infrequent basis.


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WHAT TO BUY?

Certified Low FODMAP Safe Products:
Most Likely Low FODMAP Safe Products:

When trialing a most likely safe product start with ½ of the serving size when symptoms are under good control to test your tolerance. If you do fine after 24 hours of observation increase to full serving and monitor symptoms.