Whole-foods vs Meal Replacements

I recently had someone message me asking about meal replacements and dietary supplements and what I thought as a dietitian. If you’ve read The First you’ll know that I’m an advocate for eating a balanced diet with a whole-foods approach. So I thought I’d share with you all a little on my philosophy.


Through my journey with food, (as well as my very exy dietetics education) I have come to the defiant conclusion that whole-foods are the real superheroes of our day. We are constantly bombarded with companies that want us to believe they have the latest quick fix for our health.  This ‘food of the future’, the meal replacements and dietary supplements that we see everywhere, is suppose to give us all the nourishment we need – and it’s so convenient with our increasingly busy lives. When we’re trying to jam pack so many activities into so little time, it seems like a miracle that we could just pop a pill like in The Jetsons and that’s our meal. We don’t even have to think about what we’re cooking for dinner. But what if taking the extra time to jam pack in fresh whole-foods was even more advantageous?

For starters, lets look at the reason we eat food in the first place: to get the nutrients our body needs to function and to provide energy for us to carry out our never-ending ‘to do’ lists.

Keeping this in mind, here’s why you should get your buzz from eating whole-foods instead of sci-fi ‘cuisine’:

Swapping out whole-foods for meal replacements means that you might be missing out on important nutrients that your body needs.

pexels-photo-207585Scientists are still discovering new compounds in whole-foods that nourish our bodies in different ways that we didn’t know about before. Real whole-foods contain loads of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and likely compounds with really hard names to pronounce that we haven’t even discovered yet. But the gist is; all these are important for keeping your body at it’s best. Meal replacements and dietary supplements generally contain some of the vitamins and minerals that you need, but not all the goodness that you find in real foods.

Because I have some superhuman facade that I should be able to achieve the impossible in just one day – like the rest of you I’m sure – I choose the source of energy that’s going to help me be the invincible human being I am (whole-foods).

I also believe that everyone is unique – as does science.

Did you know that every person has slightly different nutrient needs? And it’s not just a fight between the genders. Your best friend might need more or less vitamin C than you do and your mum might need more or less fibre than you do. Unlike real foods which we can pick and choose how much we want, meal replacements have the same amount of vitamins per packet, pill or shake. Who knows if it’s enough to keep you going through the hustle and bustle of your day? Express your uniqueness not just through the clothes you wear, but what you eat too.

breakfast-orange-lemon-orangesOn a serious note for a moment: you can actually overdose on dietary supplements (but no, sorry it won’t get you high). You can have too much of a vitamin when it’s taken in supplement form. Toxic levels of vitamins are rarely achieved through real whole-food diets so there is no worry there, but it can happen no sweat if you’re using dietary supplements without the guidance from a health profession (and no, Google doesn’t count as one of those). Don’t risk it thinking that you’ll get the biscuit because you’ll just be let down.

There are a time and place for supplements, but generally speaking, getting your nourishment from real foods is going to boost your vitality and save you money.

Unless you have a medical condition or are deficient in nutrients that requires you to take supplements under the guidance of a health professional, eating real foods by following a balanced diet from all the food groups is really the best way to get all the nutrients you need and more.

Interested in packing more nutrients into your diet? See my post on how to fit more fruit and veg into your day.

Have any questions about this post or anything else food and health related?  Write to me! I love to hear from my readers.

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