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Meal Replacements, Obesity, and Weight Loss


By Katie Chapmon, MS, RD.

Four in 10 adults in the United States struggle with obesity, which is one of the most complex known diseases to date and prevalence continues to rise each year (Hales et al 2020). The reason obesity is so complicated is because it is associated with an array of other conditions including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and respiratory problems to name a few. Obesity is multifaceted and many factors contribute to weight changes. The imbalance between calories taken in through food compared with calories burned during daily activities and exercise, genetic factors, depression, some medications, limited availability to quality food and physical activity, as well as poor sleep have all been shown as mechanisms that contribute to obesity. It is well known that treatment for obesity is weight loss, however, this does not come without its own difficulties.


Different lifestyle modifications such as nutritional changes and increasing levels of physical activity have been widely studied by researchers to better understand how weight loss can be best achieved to combat obesity. Weight loss of even 5-10% of current body weight has been shown to effectively improve some of the comorbidities of obesity including: lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving the management of blood sugar levels (Blackburn 1995). Another intervention method currently being studied more and more is the use of meal replacements to enhance weight loss.


Meal replacements are substitutes for solid food with controlled quantities and nutrients, and often contain fewer calories than traditional meals. Meal replacements are created in diverse nutrition varieties including low-carbohydrate, high protein, and low fat, but some of the most successful meal replacements are designated as high protein. One study found that high protein meal replacements to be effective to support weight loss. (Treyzon et al 2008).




Meal replacement shakes and soups can assist in weight loss by providing the body with a high amount of protein with a low amount of total calories. High levels of protein intake contribute to a sense of fullness after eating, a term deemed satiety. By allowing the body to use its hunger cues to sense that it is full, weight loss can be achieved due to an overall decrease in calories eaten (Veldhorst et al 2008). To achieve weight loss the body must be in a negative caloric balance, meaning that more calories are burned than taken in. Meal replacements support a negative caloric balance because they are often lower in calories than a typical meal would be. In addition, protein requires the body to expend more energy during digestion. Around 20-30% of the calories ingested from protein will be burned simply by the breakdown of protein throughout the gastrointestinal tract, referred to as the thermic effect of food.  Moreover, protein has a higher thermic effect than both carbohydrates and fat (Westerkep 2004).




High in vitamins and minerals

Meal replacements are fortified to include essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, and iron. These nutrients are critical for bone health, regulating heart rate, and carrying oxygen through the body. During weight loss, less calories are taken in overall, which may make it difficult to get adequate levels of micronutrients when consuming only solid foods without nutrition supplementation.



Meal replacements are a convenient way to ensure weight loss as they require almost no prep time, which may be a major barrier to healthy eating. These meal replacements are also easily stored and transported as packets to be mixed with water or milk. Having meal replacements on hand helps to promote healthier eating when options may be limited due to busyness or traveling.


Used in other recipes for higher protein intake

HealthWise meal replacement and protein products can be supplemented into other recipes to add additional protein and nutrients into a meal. For example, a simple chicken stir fry can be created using HealthWise Chicken Bouillon Soup Mix and HealthWise Italian Dressing. HealthWise provides tutorial cooking videos through their YouTube channel and a Recipe Booklet for more information on how to incorporate their products into daily eating.







As obesity continues to increase among Americans, many will continue to look to products to assist with weight loss. A healthy way of eating, adequate physical activity levels, and the added use of meal replacements is an effective way to reduce caloric intake, while using the body’s hunger cues to sense fullness due to a high protein intake. HealthWise’s wide variety of meal replacement shakes, smoothies, and meals are a great way to spice up your current way of eating and assist with weight loss.


Download HealthWise EasyWayPowerFast Meal Replacement Plan for quick and easy weight loss.



Blackburn G. (1995). Effect of degree of weight loss on health benefits. Obesity Research 3: 211S-216S. Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification,

Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online: pdf icon

Hales CM, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity among adults: United States, 2017–2018. NCHS Data Brief, no 360. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020

Treyzon L, Chen S, Hong K, Yan E, Carpenter CL, Thames G, Bowerman S, Wang HJ, Elashoff R, Li Z. A controlled trial of protein enrichment of meal replacements for weight reduction with retention of lean body mass. Nutr J. 2008 Aug 27;7:23. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-7-23. PMID: 18752682; PMCID: PMC2538539.

Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., Lejeune, M., Luscombe-Marsh, N., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300–307.

Westerterp K. R. (2004). Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutrition & metabolism, 1(1), 5.


By Katie Chapmon, MS, RD About the Author:

Katie Chapmon, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in Bariatric Nutrition, GI Issues and Hormonal Health and with 10+ years of hands-on clinical experience for leading medical providers. She is the proud recipient of the 2010 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award and 2018 Excellence in Weight Management Practice Award through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She spent the first decade of her career as the lead dietitian for Kaiser Permanente Southern California. For the past several years, she has been working with industry partners and consumers to improve nutrition education within the field and maintains a virtual private practice. In April 2021, she launched Bariatric Nutrition Pro – to provide healthcare practitioners education to start (or continue!) their bariatric career with the confidence and knowledge to succeed. She is a past Chair of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Integrated Health Clinical Issues Committee and Chapter author of the 3rd Edition of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Pocket Guide to Bariatric Surgery. She is a national speaker and enjoys time hiking and cooking in the kitchen.