I am sure many of you reading this blog have heard of some sort of quick-fix weight-loss plan through the TV, magazines, or friends. I'm sure you are also tired of hearing friends or family talk about going on their 21-day "insert diet gimmick here." Not only do they flaunt their crash-diet techniques like they are the end-all to weight-loss efforts, but also brag to their friends/family about how much weight they are losing as compared to those following their healthy lifestyle.
So, what is so bad about these products? I mean, I am sure you have heard about some of your friends/family losing weight with them. For starters, they are expensive! One 30-day supply from Beach Body costs $39.95 (not counting shipping and handling) and it is only for breakfast and/or lunch. That means dinner is on your own! Another famous company is Shakeology. For their chocolate 30-servings package, they charge $129.95! That comes out to be $4.33 per serving.
To put these prices in perspective, lets just say you do one shake per day from Beach Body. Not counting the extra money for S&H and the milk you add to it, you are spending $1.33 per shake. That doesn't sound too expensive right? Lets say instead of your shake, you made breakfast: 2 eggs ($2.79/18count), 1 banana ($.30/each), coffee ($.29/oz), and 1/2c broccoli ($1.25/12oz) in your eggs. This comes out to be about $1.17 for the meal. About $3 cheaper than Shakeology! I don't know about you, but eating the meal sounds a whole lot more appetizing than the shake.
One thing I find funny, is most of these products still say to drink water, get enough sleep, and exercise. My thoughts are, why not do all of those things, eat a healthy balanced diet and save yourself the money on these products!
Besides seeing how expensive these products are, lets get into the nutrition. Herbalife has a "healthy meal shake" (with no price tag on it) that contains 90 calories, 1g fat, 13g carbs, 9g sugar, and 9g protein. Woah, low-calorie! It must be healthy! NOT! For starters, protein and fat are the macronutrients that are going to keep you fuller for longer. My egg breakfast will give me about 15g of protein and 12g of fat (more on fat later and how it is an important part of your diet!). Also, the sugar I will have in my breakfast will come from a natural source (fruit). If you are looking for an energy-boost for the morning, 90 calories won't get you very far.
Skimming the rest of the package for Herbalife's product, there are some vitamins and minerals (about 25% of daily value); however, you can get what you need just from eating fruits and veggies throughout the day. 1 orange will give you 100% of the daily value for Vitamin C! Lastly, the ingredient list is a mile-long and most of them you can't pronounce, another red flag on the play.
Another Shakeology product featured on Beach Body has a bit more protein and calories; however, again, another mile-long ingredient list. Don't let the 300% of daily value for Vitamin C awe you. Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means whatever your body doesn't need, it will pee out. Also, the high amounts of vitamins and minerals you can get from your fruits and vegetables. Just 1/2c of carrots contains about 200% of your daily value for Vitamin A. Again, cheaper and more appealing to me for a meal/snack.
Not of of these products on the market are necessarily bad for you. They are pretty useful for those on-the-go, that can't make the time to prepare a breakfast meal or pack the night before. They are also pretty useful in a pinch. The pure proteins (whey protein types) are also great for a quick shake or for an added protein boost in snacks or baked goods. I like putting whey protein powder in my fruit smoothies; however, I buy mine from local grocery stores, where it is cheaper. The cans usually last me a while because I don't rely on it for all of my meals and snacks.
My advice is to see these products as just that, supplements to your diet. They shouldn't be the end-all-be-all and they are certainly no match for real food like fruits and vegetables. If you go the route of these products, look for ones with low amounts of sugar, 5g or more of fiber and at least 10g of protein (if it is replacing a meal). Also, try and find a short ingredient list and at least 25% of your daily value for vitamins and minerals.
Instead of focusing on a quick weight-loss fix that is hard to maintain long-term, focus on healthy habits for the long-term. If you have a family, instead of taking the easy way with shakes and smoothies, choose real food and instill those healthy habits on your children. Take the time to analyze what you are eating. Where do most of your calories come from? Carbohydrates/sugar? Healthy or unhealthy fats? Protein? Write down what you eat and be honest with yourself. Take small steps to change your eating behaviors (like replacing 1 snack of chips with veggies and dip or peanut butter and celery). Your body and wallet will thank you later :)