Answer: While they are now being advertised as meal supplements for healthy, active older adults, these products were created to help increase the caloric intake of patients with eating issues. When I worked in the clinical setting I would often prescribe them to patients who were too sick to eat or were unable to eat due to mouth sores or difficulty chewing or swallowing. For those patients they proved to be a great way to get calories and nutrients into someone who was consuming very little – until they were able to eat enough food.
But with 250 to 300 calories per serving, these meal supplements are not appropriate for someone with a robust appetite. Adding these drinks to an already calorically adequate diet will result in weight gain, which can put you at risk for many chronic diseases and health conditions.
While I am hesitant to recommend meal supplements for any healthy adult, I can see the argument that they are a way to help someone, who routinely skips breakfast, get their day off to a healthy start. But with corn syrup and no fiber, I’d much rather see that person eat a bowl of bran flakes with fat-free milk or an egg and two slices of whole grain toast – both of which provide about the same number of calories.