Ensure has been the best-known brand in meal replacement drinks since 1973. While most associate Ensure with meal supplements for the elderly, Ensure has grown to make both an art and a science out of creating highly nutritious meal replacement drinks that work for people of all ages and lifestyles.

With nearly a dozen types of Ensure, including Original, Plus, Enlive, High Protein, Clear, Max Protein, and more, the various types of Ensure are tailored to suit specific dietary needs. Whether you need more protein as your body ages or you’re seeking a high-energy boost for an active lifestyle, there’s an Ensure for you.

With flavors such as vanilla, butter pecan, milk and dark chocolate, strawberry, and coffee, it’s not hard to find a blend that’s a match to your tastes – and they can be mixed and used in a variety of innovative recipes.

Overall Rating

Overall, we’d have to give Ensure’s various offerings a 4.5/5.0. While there’s a great deal of variety in Ensure and it’s great as a meal supplement, it should only be used as a meal replacement in the short term to avoid lasting negative effects. Digestive side effects plus a few issues with cloying or “mealy” flavors bring the score down, as well as the fact that often people – especially the elderly – derive less nutritional value from vitamins and minerals consumed in liquid form over the long term than from solid food.

  • Contains 26 crucial vitamins and minerals
  • Provides nine grams of protein
  • Contains antioxidants
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    Facilitates brain health with 25 percent of daily requirement of B vitamins
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    Comes in vanilla, strawberry, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, banana nut, butter pecan, and coffee latte
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    Six grams of fat with only one gram of saturated fat and zero trans fats
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    Less than five milligrams of cholesterol
Ensure Meal Replacement Nutrition Drink

How Do Meal Replacement Drinks Work?

Meal replacement drinks provide the same nutrition as a balanced meal, rendered from solid into liquid form. While most of the time meal replacement drinks should be used as a supplement for solid food to enhance nutritional value, in the short term they can be used alone. For seniors, they can provide an extra boost to support gaining and maintaining a healthy weight – or dropping those extra pounds by cutting out the excess.

Benefits of Ensure Meal Replacement Drinks

You may not be getting all the vitamins you need from your food. Ensure is a nutritious, delicious way to make sure you get enough nutrients and essentials without falling back on multivitamins, which don’t leave you feeling full and can leave you unsatisfied. Meal replacement drinks also help to overcome certain dietary issues, such as lactose intolerance or food allergies. Using meal replacement drinks can be a great way to round out your diet and guarantee you’re safely supplying your body with the fuel it needs.

Why Should the Elderly Use Ensure Meal Replacement Drinks?

Elderly looking at grocery items

As you get older and your metabolism slows down, it can be difficult to control your weight – especially when dealing with special dietary requirements caused by age-related conditions, such as diabetes, blood pressure, lactose intolerance, and digestive problems.

Drinking Ensure helps you take control over metabolic issues. As a meal replacement it can provide complete nutrition for fewer calories and carbs when trying to lose weight; as a meal supplement it can help with nutritional balance when trying to gain weight. If you’re suffering from nutritional deficiency but can’t find it in your diet due to medical issues, Ensure can provide the nutrients needed without aggravating your conditions.

Features of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

Ensure’s Original formulation has stood the test of time, and it remains one of their top-selling products.

Ensure Original Meal Replacement Nutrition Shake
  • Contains 26 crucial vitamins and minerals
  • Provides nine grams of protein
  • Contains antioxidants
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    Facilitates brain health with 25 percent of daily requirement of B vitamins
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    Comes in vanilla, strawberry, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, banana nut, butter pecan, and coffee latte
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    Six grams of fat with only one gram of saturated fat and zero trans fats
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    Less than five milligrams of cholesterol

Each bottle of Ensure provides a significant amount of daily vitamins and minerals, up to 60 percent of daily requirements, while also offering critical protein and a percentage of the healthy fats required for proper metabolic function.

Pros and Cons of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

While Ensure offers meal replacement options, it also comes with a number of pros and cons.

PROS

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    Balanced assortment of vitamins and minerals
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    Good source of caloric intake
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    Flavors can encourage nutrition in picky eaters

CONS

  • No lasting feeling of fullness
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    Not an adequate substitute for solid food
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    Reported to cause short-term digestive issues in some, including nausea, cramps, and diarrhea
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    May cause more severe health issues when incorrectly consumed, including cramps, breathing issues, and seizures

Ingredients of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

The complete list of ingredients in Ensure Original as provided by the manufacturer includes:

  • Water
  • Corn Maltodextrin
  • Sugar
  • Milk Protein Concentrate
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    Blend of Vegetable Oils (Canola, Corn)
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    Soy Protein Isolate
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    Nonfat Milk
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    Less than 0.5 percent of:
  • Magnesium Phosphate
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    Potassium Citrate
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    Natural & Artificial Flavor
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    Cellulose Gel
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    Salt
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    Calcium Carbonate
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    Calcium Phosphate
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    Choline Chloride
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    Ascorbic Acid
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    Sodium Citrate
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    Cellulose Gum
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    Potassium Chloride
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    Monoglycerides
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    Soy Lecithin
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    Carrageenan
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    Potassium Hydroxide
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    Liquid Sucralose
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    Ferrous Sulfate
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    Zinc Sulfate
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    Acesulfame Potassium
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    dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate
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    Niacinamide
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    Manganese Sulfate
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    Calcium Pantothenate
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    Copper Sulfate
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    Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride
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    Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
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    Vitamin A Palmitate
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    Riboflavin
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    Chromium Chloride
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    Folic Acid
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    Biotin
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    Sodium Molybdate
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    Potassium Iodide
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    Sodium Selenate
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    Phylloquinone
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    Vitamin D3
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    Vitamin B12

Overall, most of these ingredients are fairly harmless vitamins and minerals, with the exception of corn maltodextrin, which is a highly processed substance used as a thickener. Maltodextrin can cause blood sugar spikes and allergic reactions, and it can alter your digestive bacteria.

One thing to note is that Ensure Original and all Ensure formulations in this review contain soy and milk, for anyone with allergies. It’s also a good idea to be wary of “natural & artificial flavor,” since there’s little disclosure about what this actually is. Ensure Original also includes liquid sucralose, which can cause headaches and migraines.

If you’re worried about some of the more obscure-sounding names in these ingredients, though, don’t be. Carrageenan, for example, is naturally derived from seaweed and is used as a thickener. Dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate is another name for synthetic Vitamin E. And Pyridoxine Hydrochlorine? Is just Vitamin B-6.

Features of Ensure Plus Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

Ensure Plus Meal Replacement Nutrition Shake

Ensure Plus packs a little more than Ensure Original, and it is specifically designed for healthy weight gain and maintenance.

  • 350 calories per serving
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    13 grams of protein
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    26 vitamins and minerals

This formulation comes in vanilla, milk chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, and dark chocolate.

Pros and Cons of Ensure Plus Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

Ensure Plus offers many of the same advantages as Ensure Original, with additional benefits.

PROS

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    Increased caloric intake for weight gain and maintenance
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    Higher levels of protein for muscle and brain function

CONS

  • Same issues as Ensure Original
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    Much higher levels of sodium at 220 mg
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    More fat, with 11g total consisting of 1.5g of saturated fat, 4g of polyunsaturated fat, and 5g of monounsaturated fat
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    May cause unwanted/excess weight gain if used for too long as a meal supplement

Ingredients of Ensure Plus Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

The ingredients in Ensure Plus are almost the same as Ensure Original, including:

  • Water
  • Corn Maltodextrin
  • Sugar
  • Blend of Vegetable Oils (Canola, Corn)
  • Milk Protein Concentrate
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Cocoa Powder (Processed with Alkali)
  • Less than 0.5 percent of:
  • Nonfat Milk
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    Magnesium Phosphate
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    Sodium Citrate
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    Soy Lecithin
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    Natural & Artificial Flavor
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    Calcium Phosphate
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    Potassium Chloride
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    Cellulose Gum
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    Potassium Citrate
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    Choline Chloride
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    Ascorbic Acid
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    Cellulose Gel
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    Carrageenan
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    Salt, Ferric Phosphate
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    dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate
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    Zinc Sulfate
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    Niacinamide
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    Manganese Sulfate
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    Calcium Pantothenate
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    Copper Sulfate
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    Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride
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    Vitamin A Palmitate
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    Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
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    Riboflavin
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    Folic Acid
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    Biotin
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    Chromium Chloride
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    Sodium Molybdate
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    Sodium Selenate
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    Potassium Iodide
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    Vitamin B12
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    Phylloquinone
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    Vitamin D3

The difference here tends to be the concentrations, with Ensure Plus containing more calories and protein. (The inclusion of Cocoa Powder in this list is because this list comes from the chocolate flavor.)

Features of Ensure High Protein Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

Ensure High Protein Meal Replacement Nutrition Shake

Ensure High Protein is the next step up in Ensure’s line of meal replacement drinks. It includes:

  • 16 grams of protein
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    Four grams of sugar
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    Two grams of fat
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    23 vitamins and minerals
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    160 calories

Flavors are strawberry, vanilla, and milk chocolate.

Pros and Cons of Ensure High Protein Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

Looking at the pros and cons of Ensure High Protein is complicated, considering that while it offers more protein, it falls short in other areas compared to other Ensure drinks.

PROS

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    Less fat than other Ensure products
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    Good for a quick low-calorie burst of energy
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    Excellent source of protein with highest protein content yet

CONS

  • Fewer calories; not as viable as a completed meal replacement
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    Fewer vitamins than Ensure Plus

Ingredients of Ensure High Protein Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks

The ingredients list in Ensure High Protein is once again not much different from other Ensure formulations:

  • Water
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    Milk Protein Concentrate
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    Corn Maltodextrin
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    Sugar
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    Soy Protein Isolate
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    Cocoa Powder (Processed with Alkali)
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    Canola Oil.
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    Less than 0.5 percent of:
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    Magnesium Phosphate
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    Natural & Artificial Flavor
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    Potassium Citrate
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    Cellulose Gum
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    Salt
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    Sodium Ascorbate
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    Liquid Sucralose
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    Carrageenan
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    Cellulose Gel
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    Acesulfame Potassium
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    Gellan Gum
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    dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate
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    Ferrous Sulfate
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    Niacinamide
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    Zinc Gluconate
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    Calcium Pantothenate
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    Vitamin A Palmitate
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    Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride
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    Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
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    Riboflavin
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    Manganese Gluconate
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    Folic Acid
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    Beta-Carotene
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    Biotin
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    Chromium Chloride
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    Potassium Iodide
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    Phytonadione
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    Sodium Molybdate
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    Sodium Selenite
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    Vitamin D3
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    Cyanocobalamin

That new addition to the list, cyanocobalamin, is nothing to worry about. While technically it’s a member of the cyanide family, it’s also a form of B-12. You would need a dose thousands of times higher than is available in a standard dose of B-12 for it to equate the toxicity of poisonous cyanide.

Features of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Powder

Ensure Original Meal Replacement Powder

Ensure’s powder form can be a more cost-effective alternative that lets you mix up your own servings, with multiple servings per container instead of one. Each serving includes:

  • 250 calories
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    Nine grams of protein
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    26 vitamins and minerals
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    Antioxidants

The Original formula powder only comes in milk chocolate and vanilla flavors.

Pros and Cons of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Powder

The powder offers a few benefits and detriments over the shakes, including:

PROS

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    More affordable in powder form, with multiple servings per container
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    More portable
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    Self-determined serving sizes

CONS

  • Mixing may be difficult, especially for the elderly
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    Not as smooth as the pre-made shakes
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    Differences in flavor

Ingredients of Ensure Original Meal Replacement Powder

Ingredients in Ensure Original Meal Replacement Powder include:

  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Maltodextrin
  • Sugar
  • Corn Oil
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    Sodium & Calcium Caseinates
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    Soy Protein Isolate
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    Artificial Flavor
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    Potassium Citrate
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    Magnesium Chloride
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    Calcium Phosphate
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    Sodium Citrate
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    Less than 0.5 percent of:
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    Potassium Chloride
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    Soy Lecithin
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    Ascorbic Acid
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    Choline Chloride
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    dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate
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    Zinc Sulfate
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    Niacinamide
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    Ferrous Sulfate
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    Calcium Pantothenate
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    Manganese Sulfate
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    Cupric Sulfate
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    Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride
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    Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
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    Riboflavin
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    Vitamin A Palmitate
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    Folic Acid
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    Biotin
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    Chromium Chloride
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    Sodium Molybdate
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    Potassium Iodide
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    Sodium Selenate
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    Phylloquinone
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    Vitamin D3
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    Cyanocobalamin

Still not much different from the shakes. One newcomer to the list, though, is phylloquinone. This is just a K vitamin found in spinach, cabbage, and certain other leafy greens, and it’s critical to blood clotting.

Customer Reviews of Ensure Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks and Powders

Ensure generally gets favorable ratings among consumers at Amazon. A 16-pack of Ensure Original maintains a 4.7 out of 5 star rating out of nearly 650 reviews, with one reviewer stating that, as a person in his or her 50s, Ensure provides a boost to start the day as well as providing necessary vitamins and minerals. Another rating of the powder cites the usefulness of using it to get fluids and nutrients into elderly patients, particularly resistant ones.

Ensure Meal Replacement Nutrition Drinks vs. Boost

Boost is another meal replacement drink with a solid position in the market. So how does it stack up against Ensure?

When it comes to nutritional content and ingredients, they run almost neck and neck, with Ensure offering 250 calories per serving and Boost offering 240 – but balancing out with Boost’s 10 grams of protein per serving versus Ensure’s nine grams. What makes one standout difference for Ensure, though, is that it has 320 milligrams of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which Boost utterly lacks.

On other vitamin and mineral fronts, the two vary depending on specific ingredients, but overall Boost provides a higher percentage of essential vitamins. And as far as pricing? Just doing a price comparison on Amazon shows wildly fluctuating price differences, so the price may depend on the source. On average, though, a case of Boost costs $5-6 more than a similarly sized case of Ensure.

Other Ensure Products Seniors Can Take

Ensure also offers a wide range of other specialized products, such as Ensure Clear – which is reminiscent of Crystal Light, but with the same nutritional value as Ensure shakes. For the lactose intolerant or others who can’t have milk-based shake-type drinks, Ensure Clear offers an excellent alternative.

For specialized needs there’s also Ensure Pre-Surgery and Ensure Surgery Immunonutrition Shake. These drinks are specifically formulated to meet requirements for both pre- and- post-surgery nutrition, providing an advantage over sports drinks.

Happy Elders

Final Review of the Best Ensure Meal Replacement Drinks for Seniors

While people with certain conditions or sensitive stomachs may need to be wary, in the end Ensure can be a balanced meal supplement or replacement when used appropriately. The extra protein and vitamins can be essential for seniors struggling with getting enough nutrition or adapting to a changing metabolism, and as long as the drinks are used as recommended, they can be a valuable daily addition to your diet.

Questions? Comments? Leave a response below and let us know what you think of Ensure.

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