In 2017, when we went to our first KetoCon in Austin Texas, I noticed that quite a few of the vendors that were going to be there offered “meal replacement” products marketed to the keto eater – so I decided to do a comparison of the available options, mostly for myself so I could speak intelligently about what’s out there but I thought it would be of value to the community at large.
You can view the spreadsheet I’ve put together here. The table is sorted by whether it’s nutritionally complete and then by cost for 2000 calories. I put “meal replacement” in quotes for a reason: many of the mixes do not give you a nutritionally complete meal, rather they are more of a snack – honestly, you’d be better off grabbing some string cheese (you’ll notice I have an entry in the table for string cheese! =). You cannot use any of the non-complete products for more than an occasional “meal”, once a day at the most though you might want to limit consumption to 2-3 times a week.
The ones that are nutritionally complete are designed to give you all your nutrition for any given meal. Meaning you should get all your vitamins, electrolytes, fats, everything. In theory, you could replace a single meal, multiple meals in a day, or even go nuts and replace all of your meals without suffering from nutritional deficiencies. Personally, I like to call them “engineered staple foods”.
Earlier today, we got an email from a guy using Keto Chow that thought it was remarkable the change in how many supplements he no longer takes when using Keto Chow, you can see that at the top of this post. That email got me thinking about a photo someone posted on Facebook showing the difference in nutrition between their old “meal replacement” and Keto Chow using Cron-O-Meter (which I think is the BEST app for tracking a keto diet, period). I thought it would be good to show a similar comparison, I simply loaded up Cron-O-Meter and selected a meal of 8 different “Keto Meal Replacement” options to compare with Keto Chow, here’s what you get:
None aside from Keto Chow even come close to providing 1/3 of your daily vitamins and minerals, and most are extremely low calorie and low fat – like they’re not sure about this whole “keto” thing. I have no problem at all living for weeks or months on Keto Chow alone, I doubt that any of the creators of the other “Meal Replacements” would even attempt such a thing (and for good reason). I believe that if a product isn’t good enough for me, it isn’t good enough to sell to other people either.
Two of the nutritionally complete options in the spreadsheet require you to buy your own fat source (Keto Chow and Keto Fuel) and that’s included in the cost per meal based on Great Value Heavy Whipping Cream for Keto Chow, Chosen Foods Avocado Oil (also for Keto Chow), and Great Value Olive Oil for Keto Fuel. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on how much you use. Putting in the cost for 2000 calories on these two was weird. If you use 157ml of heavy cream in Keto Chow, it costs $10.86 – use 118ml (for 1600 calories a day) and the cost for 2000 calories goes up to $13.10. The same sort of thing happens with Keto Fuel (which could also use heavy cream instead of olive oil, that’s just what’s in the directions). You could also use your own fat source to amp up the other products to a higher calorie. Anyhow, because of this confounder, I’ve also included a cost per day for how much it would cost to get a full day’s nutrition based on the number of meals per day the manufacturer recommends.