The Daily Beet

30 Jul Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Meal Replacements?

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©Jeff Novick, MS RD

I was asked to evaluate a Cliff Bar according to my label reading guidelines and it failed on several accounts.  In response to that, I received the following question.

Q.  If I’m cutting out Clif bars,then what?  I need a recommendation for a healthy meal replacement – something that will do for breakfast on the run for the high schoolers and for lunch for me – something that can be tucked in a jacket pocket and eaten on the stairs between classes or meetings. the biggest problem with stuff like dried fruit is it takes too long to eat! and since it’s got to do for a complete meal, wouldn’t it get unbalanced after a while? what’s your take?

A: When I was in graduate school, I was a single parent of a young teenage girl, and had a full time school schedule and a full time internship. Time was a scarce commodity. But, by planning ahead, my daughter and I were able to always have healthy food and healthy meals. We never had to compromise.

So, let me address your specific comments…

>>> I need a recommendation for a healthy meal replacement….. what’s your take?

My first recommendation is I don’t recommend meal replacements. They never provide the same amount of nutrition as a real meal.

In addition, if I was to lay out all my guidelines for healthy nutrition/food and you turned them all upside down and used the upside down guidelines to invent a food, you would have a meal replacement. Whether it be a powder, drink or a bar, they all embody the exact opposite of what i recommend. They are all usually very high in calorie density, usually fairly high in sugars, sometimes high in fats (and sometimes the unhealthy fats), low in fibers, low in satiety, and low in overall nutrient density.

>>> something that will do for breakfast on the run for the high schoolers and for lunch for me –

I really recommend that people take the few minutes to sit down and enjoy a meal if they are going to have one, especially together as a family, if possible. And, especially that we teach children, whether they are young of high school age, the importance of eating real food and real meals and not “replacements”. After all, there is no replacement for our health.

There are many healthy meals you can make in just minutes that I just do not want to recommend that someone not do that. In addition, the few minutes it takes to prepare the meal, will have numerous health benefits.

>>> something that can be tucked in a jacket pocket and eaten on the stairs between classes or meetings. the biggest problem with stuff like dried fruit is it takes too long to eat!

It sounds like you are looking for a magic bullet of which I know none. In our fast paced crazy world it is understandable though why people want these magic bullets, they just don’t exist.

Remember, eating and the process of chewing is part of digestion and good health. Chewing helps break food down and release certain enzymes and also helps exercise our facial muscles. It is a good thing to take the time to eat and to eat food that requires time and chewing.

>>> and since it’s got to do for a complete meal, wouldn’t it get unbalanced after a while?

If you choose healthy food, than healthy food is “balanced” and you don’t have to worry. These concepts of incomplete and unbalanced are really based on myths or typical refined and processed food diets. When you eat an intact whole food, plant based diet, than all the foods and meals are complete and balanced. If you are worried about eating meals that are complete and balanced, the last think you should be thinking of is a meal replacement.

Having said all that, if I was on the run and wanted to grab something quickly, I would either grab a piece of fruit or two, or grab some leftovers of some healthy food I had prepared at an earlier time. This is why I always keep healthy food around and with me wherever I am.  Whenever I cook anything, I always make lots of extra and keep some in the refrigerator and some in the freezer.

I have to help plan for my success and not my failure. I can’t think of anything more important.

In Health


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Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

  • Colleen
    Posted at 11:35h, 30 July

    Our favorite breakfast on the run is to make a big batch of burrito filling which can be anything from beans and rice, potatoes and tofu scramble, many plant-strong possibilities. Then wrap about a dozen of these in whole wheat or corn tortillas and wrap each one in foil and freeze. When you need a quick breakfast, just unwrap and microwave for about 2 minutes. Not messy so you can eat in the car if necessary. Also keeps in backpack, so it could be microwaved later for lunch.

    • Jill
      Posted at 11:51h, 30 July

      This is an excellent on-the-go recommendation! I’m going to do this today.

  • Alyssa
    Posted at 12:19h, 30 July

    Cold Black Bean, Corn, Salsa Salads are awesome! Forks Over Knives Companion Book has Ann’s Quickest Black Bean Salad. No microwave needed!

  • Carla W.
    Posted at 12:46h, 30 July

    I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, and I am always on the go. It is standard for me to bring food with me everywhere I go, including a small container of hummus, cut up veggies, fruit, and some guilt-free oatmeal cookies (made with bananas, old-fashioned whole oats, no sugar added applesauce, vanilla and raisins I make dozens of these at a time & freeze them). None of this requires refrigeration or heating, and all of it is nutritious and delicious!

    • kaleaid
      Posted at 22:15h, 30 July

      can you share the oatmeal cookie recipe? sounds really tasty

      • shirley
        Posted at 23:10h, 30 July

        yes, please share.

        • Carla W.
          Posted at 13:20h, 31 July

          OK, here it is:Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine: 3 mashed ripe bananas, 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 cup raisins, 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (dry). Spoon onto parchment paper lined baking sheet & bake for 15-20 minutes.

          • kaleaid
            Posted at 13:42h, 31 July

            Thank you! I’ll make a batch this weekend.

      • Carla W.
        Posted at 13:20h, 31 July

        I posted it below. Enjoy!

  • Bill Gere
    Posted at 06:56h, 31 July

    Sounds like the best advice would be to slow down, eat right.

  • rosezing
    Posted at 21:55h, 31 July

    In addition to guilt-free oatmeal cookies, I have baked sweet potatoes & white potatoes cooked and in a zip lock bag in the fridge ready to grab & go.

    • Jaime Sina Zuzolo
      Posted at 21:12h, 25 August

      I’ve done this too! I sprinkle the sweet potatoes with cinnamon, yum!

  • Jaime Sina Zuzolo
    Posted at 21:10h, 25 August

    My husband & I both are huge foodies & I love to cook..but after him having a heart attack all my great recipes are in a transition & a week in I have to say I’m getting better but I would love to share my recipes & ideas and also be able to see others that are on this same journey of plant based, no oil, no animal products, dairy etc… So, I found this site and I’m hoping this will work. Already I found 2 recipes that I love! I’d like to share a super easy one that tasted very similar to a French Onion Soup but…no onions. I made it in a couple minutes and it was delicious! In a deep skillet, I rinsed large & small portabella mushrooms and added water on high heat. I seasoned with garlic powder, fresh ground pepper & let them steam up. After they started to stick the pan a little I poured in a few cups of Vegetable Stock from Rachel Ray & let simmer. … That is it! Now this is a super fast way that if you don’t want to add that much stock to make a soup just add a little and enjoy the mushrooms with some steak sauce..I did that too! I think this is good meal that can remain simple or can just serve as a platform for many other options like the “approved noodles”‘ or potatoes, onions, carrots … lots of other veggies. I hope you try it & enjoy it as much as we did. I made enough to be able to just warm it up when we are in a rush!

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