Best High Calorie Meal Replacements

Best High Calorie Meal Replacements

“Best High Calorie Meal Replacements” was written by Daria Zajac, RDN, edited by Avery Karp, & final review/edit completed by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN. Avery is a dietetic student at Kennesaw State University. 

Here at The Geriatric Dietitian, we love to educate others on how food can nourish and heal our bodies. One of the things we love most about food is that it can be prepared in so many ways! 

Food companies now create shakes, bars, and even puddings to provide individualized nutrition support. And individualized nutrition support is key to long-term healthy habits!

We want to see you and/or your loved one living a life full of happiness and health, so this article focuses on yet another exciting way to receive proper nutrition.

Today we are tackling the topic of the best high calorie meal replacements and how they can be added to your diet.

What are High Calorie Meal Replacements?

The name speaks for itself! A high calorie meal replacement is a liquid or solid food product that is similar in nutritional quality to a regular meal. (Fun Fact: there is no official definition of a high calorie meal replacement by the FDA). (1)

A high calorie meal replacement gives you more bang for your buck because it packs in vital nutrients into a smaller portion that’s easier to consume (especially for the elderly). Most liquid meal replacements come in 8 oz bottles. 

Some liquid meal replacements come in 4 oz bottles to pack in the nutrition without the extra volume. 

Commercial meal replacements, like Ensure or Boost, range from 200-600 calories per bottle, but if you choose to make your own (discussed below), then you have control over the ingredients and calories in your meal replacement.

Purpose of High Calorie Meal Replacements

The purpose of a high calorie meal replacement in the elderly population is to increase overall calorie intake while also boosting intake of vital nutrients like protein, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12. (2)

Real Food First

It is common to lose your appetite as you age for many reasons including dental issues, medication interactions with food, and medical conditions such as renal and heart disease, cancer, or dementia. 

So, high calorie meal replacements come in handy when you are not able to eat as much as your body needs!

Keep in mind, however, that high calorie meal replacements should not replace whole foods in your diet. You or your loved one should still attempt to eat meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein to get your nutrients through food first. 

High Calorie Meal Replacements vs Oral Nutrition Supplements

You may have heard of both high calorie meal replacements and oral nutrition supplements.

So, what’s the difference?

An oral nutrition supplement refers to a general food or beverage that contains macro- or micronutrients. They are typically tailored for something specific. For example, Pedialyte is marketed to increase hydration and electrolytes after diarrhea or vomiting. 

High calorie meal replacements are special kinds of oral nutrition supplements because they focus on increasing total calories per serving. Boost, a Nestle product, sells a high calorie beverage that provides 540 calories per bottle. 

Let’s put it this way: all high calorie meal replacements are oral nutrition supplements, but not all oral nutrition supplements are high calorie meal replacements. 

Who Can Benefit from High Calorie Meal Replacements?

Older Adult Drinking Juice

In today’s busy world, people are always looking for new ways to make nutrition simple and convenient, right? 

The great thing about high calorie meal replacements is that anyone can benefit from these products due to their convenience.  

Let’s say you are on-the-go and didn’t have time to prepare a meal last night.

You can grab a pre-packaged high calorie meal replacement and have the confidence that you are receiving all the nutrients you need in one 8 oz bottle!

The elderly can especially benefit from high calorie meal replacements because they are super easy to store at home, require no preparation (unless making your own), and they are COVID-19 friendly since they are factory-sealed and can be delivered right to your door.

Plus, they come in a variety of flavors, so you won’t get bored!

(We bet you’re already opening a tab in your internet browser to see where you can buy some!)

Weight Gain and High Calorie Meal Replacements

We mentioned earlier that high calorie meal replacements are used to promote calorie intake, and more calorie intake over time can help you gain weight. 

To gain weight, we need to eat in a surplus – meaning more than what our bodies use in a day. 

Let’s say your estimated caloric intake needs are 1,800 calories per day and you currently consume 5 small meals a day.

3500 calories / 7 days in a week = 500 extra calories per day to gain a pound per week

(Note: There are 3500 calories in a pound)

If weight gain is your goal, then you could include a high calorie meal replacement in between those small meals to meet your calorie needs.

Most high calorie meal replacements are 200-600 calories, so the type of product will depend on your specific needs. 

Interested in learning more? Check out our free weight gain meal plan

Best High Calorie Meal Replacements for Elderly 

Without further ado, here is our breakdown of the best high calorie meal replacements.

Ensure® Enlive® (Abbott Product)

Ensure® Enlive® packs in the calories AND nutrients all in 8 oz. It contains:

  • 3 gm Fiber 
  • Omega-3-fatty acids
  • HMB

Our bodies cannot make omega-3-fatty acids, so it is crucial that we get it from our diet. Omega-3-fatty acids are great for heart health because they can help improve cholesterol levels and lower your chances of developing heart disease or stroke.  

In addition to the fiber and omega-3- fatty acids, HMB (β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate) is a unique ingredient to this Ensure product. This substance works to build and preserve muscle mass and plays a significant role in wound healing. (3)

Ensure® Enlive® is also considered a good source of calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin C, B12, and potassium. (4)

All in all, this product really is the total package. It is conveniently packed and comes in three great flavors (milk chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) to enjoy. 

You can purchase this product on Amazon HERE. *As an Amazon Associate I earn on qualifying purchases.

Calories350
Carbohydrate44 gm
Protein20 gm
Fat11 gm
Fiber3 gm

Boost® Very High Calorie (Nestle Product)

Coming in hot with 530 calories per 8 oz serving, Boost Very High Calorie triumphs in the calorie department. It has significantly more calories and fat compared to Ensure® Enlive®. 

Protein, vitamin, and mineral content are very similar to Ensure® Enlive®, but this product does not contain fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, or HMB. (5)

This high calorie meal replacement is great for someone who can tolerate an 8 oz portion and is looking to gain weight. If you were to drink one of these a day, then you would be on track to gain one pound per week! 

Delicious flavor options include: chocolate, very vanilla, and creamy strawberry. 

Calories530
Carbohydrate52 gm
Protein22 gm
Fat26 gm
Fiber0 gm

You can purchase this product on Amazon HERE. *As an Amazon Associate I earn on qualifying purchases.

Ensure® Compact (Abbott Product)

Ensure® Compact provides you with a nutrient dense, volume-controlled option for those that can’t tolerate 8 oz in one sitting. For example, having three of these a day is a great alternative to consuming one Ensure® Enlive® or one Boost® Very High Calorie.

Ensure® Compact’s vitamin and mineral content is also comparable to that of Ensure® Enlive® and Boost® Very High Calorie. 

Unfortunately, this product does not contain HMB or omega-3 fatty acids, and it is also lower in protein and fat content. (6) Despite it ranking a bit lower in protein and fat, it is still jam packed with calories and carbohydrates for energy!

Ensure® Compact is only 4 oz, making it easy to transport wherever you are and comes in milk chocolate and vanilla flavors. 

Calories220
Carbohydrate32 gm
Protein9 gm
Fat6 gm
Fiber0 gm

You can purchase this product on Amazon HERE. *As an Amazon Associate I earn on qualifying purchases.

Plant-Based High Calorie Meal Replacements (Kate Farms)

Lastly, for those looking for plant-based high calorie meal replacements, this product is for you!

Kate Farm’s high calorie meal replacements are certified organic, kosher, non-gmo, and gluten free. Made from pea protein, it contains 16 gm protein per 11 oz. (7

It is also similar in nutrient profile to the other three products discussed, though Kate Farm’s high calorie meal replacements contain a slightly higher amount of calcium, B12, and fiber.

This product is the largest in volume compared to the others mentioned, but a simple solution would be to drink two bottles (split into smaller portions) throughout the day. Enjoy this plant-based high calorie meal replacement in chocolate, vanilla, or coffee flavors. 

Calories330
Carbohydrate38 gm
Protein16 gm
Fat12 gm
Fiber5 gm

Disadvantages of High Calorie Meal Replacements

While there are great perks of high calorie meal replacements, there are also some disadvantages.

First, high calorie meal replacements are meant to supplement your diet, not replace it

Your diet should still contain a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats despite including a nutrition supplement in your daily routine. 

In addition, commercial high calorie meal replacements only come in a few flavors which bore your taste buds quite fast. Most supplements come in chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry.

Lastly, high calorie meal replacements tend to be on the pricier side. Having them multiple times a day can add up fast, so it can be more cost-effective to purchase whole foods or pre-packaged foods to prepare at home.

Can I Make my Own High Calorie Meal Replacements?

High Calorie Meal Replacements Drinks

You are in luck because we have for you:

  1. A FREE resource that tells you step by step on how to make your own high calorie meal replacement!
  2. Access to our High Calorie SHAKES e-Cookbook!

You can also check out the links below for high calorie smoothie and shake recipes, and be sure to head over to our sister blog, High Calorie Recipes, for more ideas! 

High Calorie Meal Replacements Wrap-up

Maintaining good nutrition through your older years is essential to your overall health. 

So, whether you are looking to gain weight or want to have a high calorie snack between meals, high calorie meal replacements can be a great addition to any diet to help you achieve all your nutrition goals! 

References: 

  1. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. FDA: US Food & Drug Administration. Updated July 20, 2022. Accessed September 2022.  https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.12&SearchTerm=high%20calorie%20meal%20replacement
  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2020-2025. USDA. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  3. Why HMB is Important for Aging Muscles. Abbot. Published April 26, 2018. Accessed September 2022.  https://www.nutritionnews.abbott/healthy-living/aging-well/why-hmb-is-important-for-aging-muscles/.
  4. Ensure® Enlive® Vanilla Nutrition Shake. Ensure.  https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/ensure-enlive-advanced-nutrition-shake/vanilla-drink.  
  5. Boost® Very High Calorie Nutritional Drink. Boost.  https://www.boost.com/products/boost-very-high-calorie.  
  6. Ensure® Compact Vanilla Nutrition Shake. Ensure. https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/ensure-compact/vanilla-shake
  7. Everyday Nutrition. Kate Farms.  https://cdn.accentuate.io/41792176914608/1657649074106/20210426_NutritionShake_ProductDetailSheet.pdf?v=0

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