As a busy mom, personal trainer and diet coach, I’m always looking for sensible snacks and meals that clients (and myself!) can have when “on the go.” Generally, I like to recommend something with a decent amount of protein, a bit of healthy fat, and lots of fiber.
Most of us lead busy lives, and sometimes a protein shake of some sort (whey, casein, etc), paired with a high fiber item (like some fruit) and a half ounce of nuts is usually what I find suggesting when people need simple “convenience” food that requires little preparation and keeps them full.
The snack should help bridge the gap in hunger between meals (particularly that one at 3:30 p.m., when you really NEED that candy bar), and preferably be nutritious. And what could be easier than a shake, already made for you?
Enter the SlimFast shake, a meal replacement product designed to actually REPLACE a meal (such as breakfast or lunch). Now, mind you, I did NOT use this product with the intention of replacing any of my meals (I like my breakfast, lunch, and dinner too much), but I did want to see how it would serve as a snack in between meals. Would it, as the product claims, provide:
“Up to 4 hours of hunger control”
Now if anyone would be a GREAT subject for proof of poor hunger control, it would be yours truly. My best friend frequently jokes that I eat for “ten men.” And although it’s true that my activity level warrants it, even with sufficient caloric intake, depending on the foods I eat I get hungry between meals.
The SlimFast shake is a product with 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, and with presumably enough calories (190 kcals) and protein for someone my size. At least enough to keep my satiated for 4 hours.
Well, not so much.
I tried the shake under several different conditions (this is hardly a scientific experiment, my friends), including:
2. As a mid-morning “snack”
3. As an afternoon “snack”
4. And with a peanut butter sandwich.
As you might expect, the shake did horribly as a post-workout as far as hunger control goes. I was hungry within the hour. It served a little better as a midmorning and afternoon snack, controlling hunger for 2 hours, after which I tried to distract myself for another 2 hours to see if it worked to control hunger that long (i.e., for the full four hours —it didn’t).
Frankly, the inability of the product to control hunger isn’t all that shocking.
It has 25 grams of carbohydrates, sourced mainly from milk, sugar, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather EAT my carbs than drink them (all this sugar can play havoc with your energy levels, since it can cause large spikes in insulin production).
A ½ cup of quick cooking oatmeal and a large apple have the same amount of carbs, a lot more fiber, and you get to eat actual food. Neither of those items require much preparation either.
There’s also something to be said of the act of chewing on real food. Having to eat real food slows down the digestion process unlike gulping down a beverage, which gets the calories in you quickly. Liquid calories are not particularly satiating. Yes, there’s a place for shakes (like a pre-or post-workout whey protein shake) in a balanced diet, but they’re meant to supplement the protein needs of the strength training athlete, or for recovery, or having a little something in the tank pre-workout, or for when you can’t get a “real” meal in.
This is meant to replace a REAL meal.
The SlimFast shake ain’t cheap either. I paid $9.98 for an 8-pack (presumably a 4 day supply), around $1.25 per bottle. Compare that to a somewhat similar appetite control protein product like EAS’s Lean 15 (15 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 100 calories) priced at $23.64 for 25 servings. The latter gives you a much better use of your dollar per serving.
The SlimFast shake did best, at least for me, when paired with another food item. But of course, that defeats the intended purpose of the product (eating fewer calories).
So, is there anything good about this product?
If you have a small appetite, the SlimFast shake might be worth a try if the sole purpose is to have an entire meal replaced with a convenience food that doesn’t taste like chalk. I tried the chocolate flavor and it tasted fine. It was somewhat reminiscent of drinking sweetened condensed milk (if you like that sort of thing), so it wasn’t lacking in sweetness.
Not surprising, given that the product contains 18 grams of sugar, some of which come from high fructose corn syrup.
I can’t break down the utility of every ingredient on the label like my fellow authors Elissa or Paul can, but there seems to be a decent amount of vitamins and minerals included in the product. Nevertheless, the addition of well-known diet offenders (e.g., sugar, HFCS) are a turn-off.
I’d rather take a multi-vitamin and eat real food.
Her training website is www.shailafitness.com and she can be contacted for personalized diet coaching directly from here.