Health & Spirit

Nutrition News: Meal Replacements for Weight Loss

Charlyn Fargo on

Meal Replacements for Weight Loss

Since the 1970s, Americans have gained weight -- and lots of it. As of three years ago, 68.5 percent of U.S. adults and 31.8 percent of children are overweight or obese, according to statistics from the National Weight Registry.

It's a result of an abundant food supply that is affordable and jobs that don't require many calories to perform.

Most would agree losing weight is an uphill battle, but so rewarding when accomplished.

"Managing weight is a long term, lifelong endeavor, " said Corby Martin researcher with Pennington Biomedical Research Center. He spoke recently at a class I took to become certified in Adult Weight Management (level 2) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

One of the surprising findings was to include meal replacements if you're trying to lose weight. Meal replacements can be anything from a smoothie, protein bar, bowl of cereal or protein shake. It can also be a frozen meal. The idea is something that is calorie and portion controlled.

It worked for Hazely Lopez of Tampa, Fla. She's the new spokesperson for Slimfast and was sharing her story at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Chicago.

"In November of 2015, I was 154 pounds and 5 foot 4 inches," she said. "I started Slimfast in January 2016 and 26 weeks later, I lost 30 pounds and 16 inches. I knew I had to do something when I realized I couldn't wear what I wanted or keep up with my two kids (ages 7 and 11). I didn't feel pretty anymore."

Her plan involved a shake or smoothie for breakfast and lunch, bars for a snack and a regular meal at dinnertime. She also worked out daily to a 25-minute video (at home) or hot yoga.

"When I couldn't do either, I walked around the soccer field when my kids were playing," said Lopez. "I made sure dinner was 500 calories or less."

She tracked her calories on the free app, myfitnesspal. Dinner was often a protein, such as chicken or fish and a salad or sushi or a quinoa salad with a flat iron steak. Her goal was 64 ounces of water a day and seven or eight hours of sleep.

Now that she's reached her goal weight of 120, she continues the meal replacement once a day and continues to exercise.

She also weighs daily, another recommendation from Martin, who says research has shown daily weighing helps keep people on track.

Martin's research has found that portion controlled foods are effective at promoting weight loss and weight loss maintenance and can promote rapid weight loss without rapid weight regain.

The bottom line? Meal replacements and portion-controlled foods can be a tool in weight loss journey.

"The best predictor of long term weight loss is short term success," says Martin.

It may be just the jump-start needed.

Q and A

Q: Does lemon-lime soda count as one of the sugar-sweetened beverages we're advised to limit? Lemon-lime makes it sound a little healthier.

A: Yes, lemon-lime soda sweetened with any caloric refined sweetener (like high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar) is a sugar-sweetened beverage and should be limited or avoided. There's a lot of observational research showing sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with metabolic diseases like heart disease, abdominal obesity and fatty liver. To help put the added sugars in soda into perspective, consider that 4 grams of sugar is about 1 teaspoon. So, the 38 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of lemon-lime soda equals 9 1/2 teaspoons sugar. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of daily calories. So a female needing 1,600 calories a day should limit added sugars to less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) a day. Despite the splash of lemon-lime flavor in the product description, the drink ahs no nutritional value but about 150 calories per can. - Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.


Here's a recipe for Sauteed Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Lemon from the National Pork Board. At 150 calories, it fits the bill for a low calorie dinner. Serve it with whole wheat linguine or brown jasmine rice and broccoli or spinach.

Sauteed Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Lemon

1 pork tenderloin (1 pound) trimmed

1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chicken broth, low-sodium

1/2 cup dry white wine

Grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Cut pork into 12 slices, about 1-inch thick. Sprinkle pork on all sides with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning once, until the pork is well browned and reaches a temperature of 145 degrees, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to serving platter and cover to keep warm. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to skillet. Add garlic and cook, stirring until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, until liquid is reduced by 2/3, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice and parsley. Serve the pork medallions drizzled with the sauce. Serves 4.

Per serving: 150 calories, 24 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 0 fiber, 220 mg sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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