Pros and Cons of Meal Replacement Shakes


At a certain point nutrition can become one of the biggest challenges for an older person, especially if chewing and swallowing are difficult. You can turn to meal replacement shakes as a tasty option for a complete meal.

Nutrition drinks are one of the most widely used food solutions in geriatric nutrition care in Australia – but don’t let that put you off. They’re also popular with athletes and adults in general. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 29% of Australians are on at least one meal supplementary diet a day, with the majority being older Australians.

What Are Meal Replacement Shakes?

Also known as nutritional drinks, meal replacement shakes are intended to replace solid meals. They contain controlled amounts of the required calories and nutrients: they’re high in protein, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Some nutritional drinks are medically-prescribed health shakes for clinical nutrition. Others are bodyweight-reducing shakes that are low sugar, low fat, and a low-calorie diet. There are also nutrition drinks for gaining muscle mass and may have high grams of protein intended for those who need to take in more calories per day.

Benefits of Meal Replacement Shakes for the Elderly

Nutrition drinks are widely popular with fitness enthusiasts, and they can be effective for seniors as replacement meals. They do quite a bit more than just going easy on the teeth. There are several other benefits:

  • Prevents weight loss

A slower metabolism means a smaller caloric requirement. Meal replacement shakes assist weight loss or maintenance as they contain fewer calories per serving. This goes a long way to maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Prevents malnutrition 

Because older people often can’t eat as much or as often as they would like, the danger of malnutrition can be real.

A meal replacement shake as a nutritional supplement helps you or your loved one access their required protein, minerals, and vitamins within a smaller caloric intake. This goes a long way to maintaining a healthy weight and good nutrition.

  • Easy to ingest

A meal replacement shake, unlike solid food meals, can be enjoyed through an extra-wide reusable smoothie straw, or straight from a cup. It takes very little effort to prepare the drink.

  • Yummy taste

A single meal replacement shake contains the recommended grams of protein and healthy fibre for a meal. They come in different flavours (like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry).

Risks Associated with Meal Replacement Shakes

There are also risks to note before choosing nutritional drinks as meal replacements. It’s definitely best to seek advice from a nutritionist to know what nutritional drink is appropriate and how often to have it.

1. They are often high in sugar: These drinks usually have sugar added to make them more palatable for older people, who may have lost their appetite. However, these added sweeteners are a huge risk, especially to older people who may also be watching their blood sugar and other health conditions. Find a naturally sweetened, preferably low-sugar option

2. They’re not natural: Although meal replacement allows you to substitute regular meals, it has one major flaw: it is not natural. The idea behind the drinks is that synthetic nutrients are almost identical to natural nutrients in chemical composition. However, synthetic nutrients are not as easily absorbed compared to their natural counterparts.

3. They’re not as fulfilling: Even with high grams of protein and fibre, meal replacement drinks don’t quite stack up to real meals. They’re not as filling, for a start. Variety and comfort are also important parts of mealtimes, and endless liquid shakes don’t cut it.


Nutritional shakes, in many ways, deliver a good meal for seniors. They provide the required grams of protein, vitamins and minerals in the form of easy to prepare drinks.

But where possible, you shouldn’t replace all your meals with a nutritional shake. Look for other ways of preparing foods in a form you or your loved one can comfortably eat, like soups and purees.

We always advise asking your doctors for dietary advice.


1. Can the elderly drink protein shakes?

Yes! There is actual research from McMaster University that shows that a protein shake with a combination of whey protein supplements and exercise has significant health benefits for older people. A balance of protein, grams of fibre and controlled grams of fat is a good idea for a nutritional shake for seniors looking to gain weight.

2.What is the best meal replacement drink for seniors?

Recommended drinks for seniors include Boost Original Nutritional DrinkEnsure original nutrition shakeIdealshake and Glucerna shake. Idealshake especially has ideal calorie measures for weight loss and low grams of sugars and fat content.

We’ve got plenty more information on all things retirement and aged care here at Aged Care Weekly. Have a browse or sign up for our newsletter.


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