Are Meal Replacement Shakes Safe During Pregnancy? (3 Pros & 3 Cons To See If They’re Worth Taking)

Meal replacement shakes are high-protein, single-serve powders or shakes that are good for pregnancy, but only when used properly. It can be one of the sources of much-needed protein for pregnant women. However, it should be used sparingly. Unlike organic protein sources, meal replacement shakes may contain ingredients that are unsafe. It can also spike up the recommended daily intake of some nutrients. The best, and obviously the safest way of loading up protein, is through eating a variety of protein-rich food. 

What are meal replacement shakes?

Meal replacement or protein shakes are powdered proteins sourced from milk, eggs, or plants. These shakes are often used as a quick meal for people wanting to lose weight and manage their appetite.

A newly pregnant woman is pouring a glass of protein shake that she just blended

These shakes are usually low in calories and high in added fiber, which can also be handy for pregnant women (make sure to look at the product nutrition info to make sure). 

However, although it does supply the body with protein, it is also laden with added sugar and caffeine. It may also contain other minerals and vitamins that are already in your prenatal vitamins

Thus, meal replacement shakes may be good for occasional use but can become detrimental when taken regularly and in high amounts. 

Pros and cons of using meal replacement shake in pregnancy

Meal replacement is a good snack for people on the go. If you don’t have time to stop for a meal, you will only need water to dissolve the powder. Then, you can have your protein fixed no matter how busy you are. 

If you are pregnant, a protein shake is a handy way of meeting your protein needs.

In the early stages of pregnancy, when morning sickness becomes a little unbearable, you can easily reach for a packet. However, as long as you are on track with a healthy diet, a meal replacement is unnecessary. 

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages when using meal replacement shakes

Pros

Reach the daily protein needs

A pregnant woman is having a protein shake to help get to her daily protein intake

Protein is an essential nutrient for supporting the growing baby’s development.

It is a crucial element for the baby’s growth, not just in the early stages, but throughout the pregnancy.

According to the University of California San Francisco Health, pregnant women should take at least 60 grams of protein.

Protein shakes roughly have about 25 to 30 grams of protein to up the daily requirement.

It contains added fibers

Constipation and other digestive issues are common in pregnancy. Thus, it is also recommended to load on a high-fiber diet.

Most meal replacement shakes are high in fiber to compensate for the daily intake of 20 to 35 grams.

It may help with morning sickness

Many pregnant women compromise their meals because of morning sickness.

Some may feel very ill and develop an aversion to food. They may also suffer from dehydration from the vomiting that goes along with it.

Protein shakes are tasty and may be a good substitute for food, but only temporarily. 

Cons

Meal replacement shakes contain artificial ingredients

Protein powder mixes are processed and may contain artificial ingredients and preservatives. They are also not approved by the FDA since they may or may not be beneficial for the health.

One of its questionable ingredients is its added sugar, which is risky when taken excessively during pregnancy. 

Low-calorie drink

If you are a person trying to lose weight, it may appeal as an advantage to you. But in pregnancy, you need to support your body and the growing baby.

Thus, you will need to increase your calorie intake by 300 calories daily.

It is ideal in the second trimester, but you should also monitor an appropriate weight gain

You may exceed the recommended amount of vitamins

From the moment you know you are pregnant, prenatal vitamins become a staple in your lifestyle.

These pills are already packed with necessary nutrients for you and the baby. Milk replacement shake also has added vitamins and minerals.

Taking both at the same time may increase the recommended amount of nutrients than what you really need.

How to safely take meal replacement shakes

1. Use it sparingly 

Moderation is the key when it comes to taking meal replacement shakes in pregnancy. If you want to use it as a protein supplement, it may not be the best idea.

Taking more protein than necessary can slow down the baby’s growth and cause gestational diabetes. 

2. Read the labels

Please read the labels carefully to check the nutritional value of the protein shake before using it.

Watch out for sugars and other added herbs that may not be suitable for the pregnancy.

Avoid products containing caffeine, artificial sweetening agents, and other doubtful ingredients. 

3. Do not use it to replace a meal

The name meal replacement does not apply to pregnant women. They should not be used to substitute for a healthy diet.

A good and balanced diet is sourced from meat, plants, poultry, and dairy products.

Observing a healthy plate is enough to supplement you with the needed nutrients. It will also safely complement the essential vitamins that your prenatal pill can give. 

4. Check with your physician

Do not incorporate a meal replacement shake into your diet without consulting your doctor. Only health professionals can give you complete information on its benefits and risks.

Your doctor can also tell you when and how much protein shake is too much for consumption. 

FAQs

A glass of mixed berries smoothie is shown as an alternative to meal replacement protein shakes

What is the best alternative for protein shakes?

If you cannot tolerate your diet because of morning sickness, use fruit and vegetable shakes.

They are also easy to make and packed with natural nutrients for a guilt-free indulgence. 

Can protein shakes cause allergies?

Protein shakes are a possible allergen, especially if you have a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance.

If you do and want to try a glass, you can opt for a plant-based protein shake instead.

What can help with pregnancy weight gain?

An appropriate weight gain in pregnancy is a good indicator of a healthy pregnancy. But if you are worried about your weight, talk to your healthcare provider.

They can teach you about a healthy pregnancy diet and may set up an appropriate exercise program.

Do not turn into protein shakes in the hope of losing weight, as dieting is not recommended during pregnancy.

Takeaway

Drinking high-quality meal replacement shake in moderation is safe for pregnancy. But, it should never be used as a meal substitute in any way.

A variety of food in all food groups is what you and your baby need during this time.

Vegetables, fruits, crops, meat, poultry, and dairy are economical, easily sourced, and safe sources of essential nutrients.

Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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