Quinn on Nutrition: Are meal replacement drinks nutritionally complete?

February 8, 2016

Our local supermarket is stocking blue and orange tortilla chips this week. And thatís all Iím going to say about the SuperBowl. On to some questions received from readers this month:

Q: Who are candidates for food supplements such as Ensure or Boost and what is the purpose and nature of these products? I have a friend who has dementia. Where she lives, she can become combative if the staff tries to wake her, so she misses out on meals. Because of this she has lost weight and may eat only one meal a day. Will a food supplement be useful for her? 

Thanks, Gary 

Dear Gary,

Your friend would indeed be a good candidate for some extra nutrition, especially if she is missing meals for any reason. Nutritional drinks such as Ensure and Boost are nutritionally complete, which means they can be used as a meal replacement. These products are also used to increase the calorie and nutrient intake of an individual who ó for one reason or the other ó is not consuming enough real food to meet their needs. 

  The real challenge is to find the right product for the unique needs of the person who needs a nutritional boost. Products like Glucerna and Boost Glucose Control are specifically formulated for people with diabetes, for example. Other products are available for a variety of medical needs. Thatís when a nutrition professional (registered dietitian nutritionist, RDN) comes in handy. Many care facilities employ these professionals. All you have to do is ask.

Q: "After reading your article about your daughterís intermittent fasting, I have a question for you. I worked with dietitians off and on for years, and most of what I read says that you need so much carbohydrate, fiber, and most of all at least 60 grams of protein a day. If you fast a couple days a week, will you not meet your daily requirement?"

Mary S., Stockton, CA

Great question, Mary. You are so right about our daily nutritional needs and the importance of protein. However, according to a position paper entitled "Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating" by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our most important focus for healthful eating is not what we consume at any one meal or day, but what we consume over time ... over several days.

With intermittent fasting, one must be diligent to spend their calorie budget on nutrient dense foods ó those high in nutrition and low in calories. This is especially important on "fasting" days when calories are restricted to not more than about 500. A serving of grilled fish and a large salad, for example, provides protein and other essential nutrients for the same number of calories in two chocolate chip cookies. Itís crucial for those who restrict calories a few days a week to get the most nutritional bang for their calorie budget. 




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