Diet 101: Slim Fast

by in Diets & Weight Loss, March 1, 2010

Meal replacement diets like Slim Fast were all the rage in the 1990s. You might remember friends and coworkers whipping out cans of the liquid shakes during lunch breaks. So are liquid meal replacements a thing of the past or can they be a healthy way to lose weight?

Founded in 1977, the Slim Fast plan was designed to help folks lose weight quickly (hence the name). In 2000, Unilever bought the company for a few billion and now sells more than 50 branded products worldwide.

Here is the basic idea: Consume two shakes or meals bars, a sensible, regular meal and three healthy snacks every day. The theory behind the meal replacement shakes and bars is that they contain an “HC4 formula,” which is a special combination of protein, fiber and fat. It’s supposed to control hunger for up to four hours, help you resist cravings and ultimately lose weight. The promoted rate of weight-loss is between one to two pounds per week.

Typically, breakfast is the meal you replace with a shake or bar (they run around 180 to 200 calories). Lunch can be a combo of a healthy meal and a meal replacement (like a half sandwich and a shake). Dinner should be a 500-calorie, “sensible” meal that includes veggies, a lean meat and whole grains. Snacks are essential and usually consist of fruit or veggies, which you may sometimes pair with a snack bar. Overall, you’re getting about 1,200 calories per day, but this can vary depending on your height, weight and activity level.

When I checked out the Slim Fast site, here’s the meal plan it suggested:
Breakfast: 1 Slim Fast Optima Shake
Snack: 1/2 banana
Lunch: 1/2 turkey sandwich and Slim Fast Optima Shake
Snack: 1 cup carrots and Slim Fast Optima snack bar
Dinner: A 500-calorie meal with a vegetable, starch and protein
Snack: 1 cup grapes

The Costs
Slim Fast has a free website that you can join if you provide some personal information. Features include a personalize meal plan, fitness planner, community access, shopping list and online support, including a section to ask registered dietitians personalized questions. You can also use specialized tools such as a weight calculator, which helps you set weight-loss goals in time for a big event (say, a wedding or graduation).

Sites like sell Slim Fast shakes and bars on and you’ll usually find them at your local drug store or market. A container of three Slim-Fast Optima Meal Shake Mixes runs about $24.99. I also found eight boxes of the 100-calorie snack bars (six bars per box) for $29. Considering you’re eating a few of these a day, this can quickly add up to about $200 per month. Don’t think you’re getting higher quality meals in these cans, either — some of the shakes contain more than five teaspoons of sugar along with various preservatives.

The Good
– There are to grab-and-go meals and snacks.
– Daily calories are reasonable.
– Recipes can be prepared in 15 minutes or less.

The Not-So Good
– There’s not much whole, natural food on this plan.
– You’re getting a laundry-list of chemicals and preservatives in the suggested shakes and bars.
– Bars and shakes are not so tasty!
– Meals and snacks are limited and become repetitive.
– Many folks can’t stick to the calories limit or control portions after going off the plan.
– It doesn’t teach you how to eat healthfully over the long-term.

Bottom Line:
A diet that directs you to primarily eat meal replacements is not teaching you how to eat for the rest of your life. How long can you stay on shakes and bars? You’d be better off learning how to eat moderate portions of real, wholesome food.

TELL US: Have you tried Slim Fast?

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Comments (13)

  1. I attempted Slim Fast's diet at least three times with a serious effort at success. Each time I found myself with 50 pounds to lose. The first week was never too bad but the lack of variety and not so tasty bars/shakes wears on you. I always lost weight (nearly 3 pounds a week). It's a matter of endurance. Can you endure the diet all the way down to your target weight? The best I ever did was a month. I lost 14 pounds but gained them back within two months.

    It took me 6 months to lose 55 pounds on a whole foods only diet, counting calories, and exercising.

    I could see using Slim Fast as a way to manage weight under certain circumstances. I have been into bicycling pretty seriously and I am most effective racing and riding at 150 pounds. During the winter I do more strength training and less actual riding. It's hard not to be above 155 and as much as 160 pounds (not unhealthy but that weight does matter on a double century or a multi-day event). I'm thinking I could work in a couple weeks on something like Slim Fast to quickly drop 5 pounds. I just need to time it right and do it for a couple weeks when I'm focusing on recovery rather than hard training.

  2. Julie says:

    Like roosterteacher, I've tried this a few times with some success. But the repetition, sugar and a host of other factors got to me each time. And each time, I gained the weight back.
    I remember reading info from SlimFast at some point suggesting that when you got to your target weight, you should continue to replace at least one meal a day with a SlimFast shake. That concerns me because it suggests that the weight will come back otherwise and that they know you haven't learned good eating habits.

  3. Marie says:

    I think you're better off just eating healthy rather than resorting to these types of diets. It's a hard habit to develop, but much more healthy.

  4. Teri says:

    I have tried Slim Fast and don't mind it as a quick lunch supplement, when I am on the go. However, if you look at my web-site "KOKOMO-SENIOR-CITIZENS-HELPER.COM" under weight loss, you will see how far I have come. Roosterteacher said it best. Good diet and exercise, is key.
    I quit smoking about a year and a half ago and ate, instead. I started with Atkins but became board with meat and vegs. So I tried Nutrisystem, and WOW! They truely taught me the correct way to loose weight and eat good foods. I was on it for three months and then desided to cook meals for myself and freeze them. I also walk a mile and a half every evening. I have just reached my 40 pound mark but I started in late Aug. I still have about 20 to go but I am determined to do it, this time. I am 55 years young and want to be around a long time. I feel great!!!! Teri

  5. im_pinoy says:

    I haven't tried this one but for sure having a list , tips , guidance can help you slim fast..

  6. Debo decir que, como mucho, ya que me gustaba leer lo que tenía que decir, yo no podía dejar de perder el interés después de un tiempo. Es como si tuvieras una idea maravillosa de todo el asunto, pero se olvidó de incluir a sus lectores. Tal vez usted debe pensar en esto desde mucho más que 1 ángulo. O tal vez usted no debe generalizar lo mucho. Es mejor si se piensa en lo que otros tienen que decir en lugar de dirigirse a una reacción visceral al tema. Piense acerca de cómo ajustar su proceso de pensamiento personal y dar a otros que puedan leer esto, el beneficio de la duda.

  7. Ersoms says:

    Hola, ¿sabe usted acerca de los productos que nos pueden ayudar en este asunto?

  8. One can gain a general idea of how the posters are coping with or accepting the issues that confront them.

  9. Bravo explication. Je ne pouvais pas faire mieux de moi-même!

  10. Su explicación es la mejor que he visto hasta ahora

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