Slimming foods are always on the rise, especially as summer approaches. In this market – up 5.7% in 2022 – meal replacements are doing well because their claims are dreamy. In addition, they are easy to use and increasingly diversified: puree or soup to rehydrate, chocolate bar, dessert cream ... But be careful to use them well: if they are a precious help to control your weight or to lose it, they should not be consumed in any way, as recommended by Julie Avrillier, nutrition engineer and general secretary of Nutex, which brings together companies in the nutrition health and well-being.
Should we believe in the promises of meal replacements?
JULIE AVRILLIER. These are not miracle products, but their effectiveness has been clearly proven. A study carried out in 2018 by the independent laboratory Biofortis showed that their use allows a 2.5% decrease in body mass index in one month, an average loss of more than 2 kg and a significant reduction in waist circumference (nearly 3 cm), without feeling hungry. Even better: the benefit is maintained in the medium term since, six months later, 44% of study participants have stabilized their weight and 18% have lost a little. These results have been demonstrated with real meal replacements that comply with European regulations. These are marked "Meal Replacement for Weight Control". They should not be confused with slimming snacks, which are low-calorie but not intended to replace any of the three main meals.
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Do they meet all our nutritional needs?
The legislation regulates their nutritional composition precisely in order to cover our needs of essential nutrients and to avoid the appearance of deficiencies. A meal replacement provides between 200 and 250 kcal per meal. Its protein content must represent between 25% and 50% of its total energy value and its lipid content must be no more than 30%. Its intake of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids must be strictly respected. However, these products are not intended to be consumed alone. They must always be accompanied by a fresh fruit or vegetable, as well as a dairy product. All have the same nutritional profile but do not contain the same ingredients. Some are made from milk proteins, for example, others with soy protein. Everyone is free to choose according to their preferences and diet (flexitarian, vegetarian ...).
How to consume them well?
It is out of the question to use substitutes on their own at all meals and in the long run. It is necessary to preserve at least one real meal a day (breakfast, lunch or dinner of your choice) and use the substitutes in the form of a cure of three to four weeks, no more without medical advice! Two a day for two weeks for example to start weight loss, then one a day the following two weeks to consolidate and gradually reintroduce a more diversified and balanced diet.