Are Dietary Supplements a Healthy Substitute for Meals?

Dietary supplements are not intended to replace healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. As the name suggests, they are only meant to “supplement” people's diets and not to replace them. Surveys in the United Kingdom show that many people do not comply with dietary recommendations, so everyone should try to eat as varied and balanced a diet as possible to meet their nutritional needs. Supplements should only be used to fill in any nutrient deficiencies in people's diets and ensure that they continue to comply with recommended intake guidelines.

Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. If you follow a healthy whole food diet, rich in green leafy vegetables, grains, vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, lots of clean water and healthy fats, you are already taking supplements. If your weekly routine includes exercise and adequate sleep, your body gets most of what it needs. If you're trying to lose weight or are simply short on time in the morning, choosing a supplement instead of a full meal may seem appealing.

Many supplements are packed with vitamins and minerals, making them much healthier options than donuts or pastries, but they still can't compare to the nutrition of whole foods. When it's not possible to eat a real meal, you'll make the most of using a supplement that fills you up and is rich in protein. Nutritionist Kellie Nadeau says that if you are going to use a supplement as a substitute for breakfast, it should have 150 to 250 calories, less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber. Check with your pharmacist to make sure that the medications you take don't interact with your supplement. Meal replacement supplements (MRP) have created buzz in the market and claim to be a quick solution for losing weight.

Meal replacements are designed to be more filling and contain more calories than a protein supplement. They are fortified with all essential nutrients, helping to reduce calories and provide nutrients in a single meal. However, the term supplements means food that is intended to complement the normal diet, not replace it. Eating something in the morning is better than not eating anything at all, so it's wise to replace a regular breakfast with a supplement if you would otherwise skip your meal. For more information on when a protein supplement or meal replacement might be right for you, talk to your healthcare provider.

The Health Information and Food Supplements Service (HSIS) works with independent experts in diet and nutrition to provide accurate, evidence-based feedback on issues related to dietary supplements. Pregnant women or women thinking about becoming pregnant should consider certain supplements, such as folic acid. A whole-food diet that uses supplements to fill in the gaps is the best way to live a healthier life, have the most energy, and lose weight sustainably. Supplements should be an addition to an already healthy lifestyle - not a replacement.

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