Real food vs. meal replacement drinks

I was raised to believe that whole, natural food is better than processed, packaged foods. (Thanks, Mom.) Don’t get me wrong. We ate plenty of processed food growing up in the 70s and 80s. But a single mom raising three kids doesn’t always have the luxury of regular grocery store visits or the time to make meals from scratch. Whatever we ate, Mom always made sure we understood the difference between “real” and processed foods, and she managed to instill in me the ability to choose whole, healthy food more often than not.

When it comes to meal replacement drinks, like Ensure® and Boost®, I knew there was probably a time and place for them, but not as a regular alternative to food. For too many seniors, meal replacement drinks are commonplace, especially in care homes and hospitals, and are often recommended for sudden weight loss. According to Dr. Paul Mulhausen, chief medical officer for Telligen, a health management company based in Iowa, the use of meal replacement drinks as medical nutrition therapy needs deeper discussion.

Many meal replacement drinks are high-calorie, contain copious amounts of sugar and no fibre. Dr. Mulhausen says they’re good for treating people suffering from malnutrition and unable to meet their dietary needs with food. But they are much more widely used and marketed. His Number One recommendation is real food—like a simple smoothie of yogurt and fruit—because it offers nutrients, contains fibre, relies less on simple sugars, and tastes better.

The use of meal replacement drinks as medical nutrition therapy was one of the top 10 issues at a recent conference attended by Dr. Mulhausen and other geriatricians. Click here for more information.