Slim Fast Diet Plan: A Review
Slim Fast has been around for many years and their line of meal replacement products has expanded and evolved over time. Manufactured by Unilever, at one time Slim Fast was only the brand name of a reduced-calorie milkshake powder. Now, the full Slim Fast product line includes meal and snack bars, bottled shakes and powdered drink formulas that come in a variety of flavors. The web site promotes a calorie-controlled diet, using these convenience food products, and lifestyle modification for significant and quick weight loss.
What is the Slim Fast diet plan?
The Slim Fast diet plan, also known as Slim Fast® 3 · 2 · 1, is a weight loss diet that reduces calories by suggesting you consume three 100-calorie snacks daily, such as a Slim Fast snack bar, fruits, vegetables or a small serving of nuts; replace two of your daily meals, such as breakfast and lunch, with one of their fortified ready-to-drink shakes or meal bars and consume one healthy, well-balanced 500-calorie meal daily, such as dinner. The website provides a listing of all Slim Fast products, with the corresponding nutritional information as well as information on what makes up a healthy and balanced meal. Dubbed their ‘Portion Plate Guide,’ this is a version of the divided plate method. You fill ½ of your plate with vegetables, preferably non-starchy, ¼ of your plate with a portion of lean protein and the final ¼ with a starch, such as a whole grain or starchy vegetable. You can download a PDF of their Slim Fast meal and recipe guide, which provides a two week sample meal plan, eight dinner recipes and a full shopping list.
The site features testimonials, tools, such as BMI and weight loss calculators. There is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that addresses issues such as how to increase your protein intake and stay within the plan guidelines, nutrition basics, modifications for special diets, such as vegetarianism and low-carbohydrate, and information on setting up a proper fitness and exercise plan. The FAQ’s do not address changes in calorie needs for men versus women and how and in what way vigorous, frequent exercise may increase calorie needs, even on a weight-loss plan.
Does the Slim Fast diet work for weight loss?
In a word – yes – based upon simple mathematical calculations. If you adhere to the Slim Fast diet guidelines strictly, choosing two meal replacement products, three 100 to 120-calorie snacks and a 500-calorie dinner daily, you are consuming about 1,160 to 1,260 calories per day. According to most diet experts, this is as low as women should go when cutting calories to lose weight. Men should, in general, not dip below 1,500 calories daily for safe weight loss. Though there are not separate meal plan guidelines for a higher calorie level, one may increase calories by consuming another meal bar, shake and eating slightly higher calorie snacks.
Remember, you need fuel, in the form of calories to get you through your day with enough energy. In fact, 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 calories for men are likely lower calorie levels than those you will yield from calculating your own calorie needs using a standard equation, such as the Harris-Benedict. This remains true even after you subtract 500 calories from that number to allow for a weight loss of 1 pound per week. While you need a 1,000 calorie deficit daily to yield a 2 pound loss weekly, you can do so from combining a reduced-calorie diet with vigorous exercise.
Since the products are fortified, you are likely to obtain enough of the essential vitamins and minerals daily to support health. However, you are also likely to come up short on fiber-rich complex carbohydrates, found in legumes, root vegetables, whole grains and cereals. The meal replacement shakes are light on certain trace minerals, such as iron and zinc. This may be problematic over time, particularly for vegetarians who do not consume a multiple vitamin and mineral complex.
Calories in Slim Fast products
Form: Ready-to-drink Slim Fast shakes (1 bottle or 295 mL)
Nutrition Information: 180 to 190 calories, 10 to 2 0g protein, 3 to 25 g carbohydrates, 2 to 5 g dietary fiber, 6 to 9 g fat, .5 to 2 g saturated fat and 200 to 260 mg sodium
Form: Powdered shake mixes (⅓ cup or about 26 g)
Nutrition Information (with 8oz fat-free milk): 200 calories, 10 to 15 g protein, 25 to 30 g carbohydrates, 4 to 5 g dietary fiber, 3.5 to 4 g fat, ½ g saturated fat and 230 to 280 mg sodium
Form: Meal bars (1 bar, 45 to 52 g)
Nutrition Information: 200 calories, 8 to 9 g protein, 23 to 32 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, 4 to 8 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat and 110 to 320 mg sodium
Form: Snack bars (1 bar, 22 to 24 g)
Nutrition Information: 100 calories, 1 g protein, 14 to 17 g carbohydrates, 0 to 3 g dietary fiber, 3.5 to 5 g fat, 1.5 to 2.5 g saturated fat and 55 to 80 mg sodium
- Drummond, K.E. & Brefer, L.M.: Nutrition for Foodservice & Culinary Professionals, 7th ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, New York, 2010.