There are many drinks and bars on the market sold as meal replacements and some of them have been formulated specifically for people with diabetes. The latter have a lower amount of carbohydrates (sugars).

What do these meal replacements contain?

Here is a table that lets you compare the nutritional value of meal replacements formulated for people with diabetes:

Meal replacements formulated for people with diabetes Amount/
bottle or bar
 Energy (kcal) Carbohydrates(g) Fibre (g) Protein (g) Saturated fat (g)
Vanilla BoostMD Diabetic  237 ml  190  17  3  16  1 (5% DV1)
Vanilla GlucernaMD  237 ml  225 26,7 1 11,3   0,8 (4 % DV)
Vanilla EquateMC  237 ml  225  27 1 11 1 (5 % DV)
GlucernaMD Almond and Dark Chocolate Bar 40 g 160 17  3 11  2,5 (13 % DV)
ProtiLife Chocolate Chip Diabetic Bar  35 g  130  17 4   10  2,5 (13 % DV)

Is this a good choice to replace a meal?

Although these products are sold as “meal replacements,” they cannot replace a meal. A simple glance at their Nutrition Facts table reveals that they are far from being a complete meal. They do not contain enough energy (calories), carbohydrates, fibre or protein, in addition to not being very filling (like all liquids). To learn about the composition of a balanced meal, read our article on the balanced plate.

Instead, these meal replacements should be considered a quick fix in special situations. It’s better to eat them with other foods, such as a half sandwich, raw vegetable sticks and whole wheat crackers, or even with nuts and fruits, to make a more complete meal.ments comme un 1/2 sandwich, des crudités et des craquelins de blé entier ou encore des noix et des fruits pour en faire un repas plus complet.

What makes a good choice for a snack?

First, you should know that snacking is not mandatory for everyone with diabetes.

A snack is indicated in the following circumstances:

  • To prevent hypoglycemia (blood sugar < 4 mmol/L) in people taking insulin or an insulin secretagogue2;
  • To ensure that individuals with a small appetite and insufficient food intake at meals meet their nutritional requirements;
  • To alleviate hunger pangs and reduce the risk of overeating when the time between meals is too long.

When snacking is necessary, it is best to have a snack of minimally processed foods with little or no added sugar that alleviates your hunger until the next meal. A snack should contain:

  • 2 to 3 g of dietary fibre (e.g., whole fruit or vegetables with the peel, whole-grain starches, nuts and seeds);
  • Protein (e.g., milk, soy beverage, yogurt, low-fat cheese, nuts);
  • 5 to 15 g of carbohydrates;
  • A maximum of 150 kcal.

*Note: the composition of snacks may vary depending on the desired effect. Consult a dietitian for personalized advice or to have your meal plan revised.

Meal replacements formulated for people with diabetes contain more calories than a snack should have, not enough fibre, are not very filling and contain sugar substitutes that can maintain a taste for very sweet foods. The bars contain a lot of saturated fat (13% of DV), which does not promote heart health. For ideas for nutritious snacks, read our snack article.

In conclusion, meal replacements formulated for people with diabetes should not be your first choice. However, they may, on occasional basis, be useful in a pinch and replace a meal if they are accompanied by other foods or serve as a snack if you drink only half the bottle.

*Note that this is a general recommendation. It is always best to discuss this with a dietitian who can advise you based on your specific health situation. Note that these products may be contraindicated for some individuals, such as people with kidney failure (due to their vitamin and mineral content).

  1. percentage (%) of the daily value (DV)
  2. gliclazide (Diamicron® and Diamicron® MR), glimepiride (Amaryl®), glyburide (Diabeta®, Euglucon®), repaglinide (GlucoNorm®)