In this Ensure review, we will have a look at one of the most popular meal replacement brands on Amazon. With 4.7 stars on 17k user Ensure reviews, surely this must be the best meal replacement shake in the market, isn’t it?
Well, no. During this Ensure shake review, we will analyze its nutritional content, price and discuss some Ensure alternatives you can try – like Lyfefuel. But let’s not jump ahead too much.
We all know Ensure as the drink that grandma and grandpa use as a supplement. Whether they’re lacking nutrients from eating too little, or eating too much of the wrong food, we all have some familiarity with this product.
Consequently, there are over a dozen variations of Ensure, ranging from high protein, to low calorie and even post-surgery recovery.
This review will focus on Ensure Original Nutrition. Each serving is 220 calories and comes packed with 9g of protein, 6g of fat, 33g of carbohydrates and 27 micronutrients.
Ensure Review at a Glance
Flavours: Vanilla, Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry, Butter Pecan, Banana Nut & Coffee Latte
Despite having access to Ensure via the older members of my family, I have never tried it before. Honestly, I just figured that it wouldn’t be very good being I considered it a “hospital drink”.
I will say looking at the ingredient panel, I’m less than impressed, especially with all the corn. Ensure has corn maltodextrin, corn oil & canola oil. This is, low-quality highly-processed ingredients.
There is also a fair bit of sugar. Not a great start.
I’m thinking this will taste really good, or be so sweet that it’s just bad, but let’s start off with what I like:
What I Like
1. Widely available. You can find Ensure literally anywhere you are.
2. Affordable. Can’t be overlooked in these inflationary times.
3. Variety. Many flavors and product types make finding one that you like easy.
What I Dislike
1. Super sweet. Almost like syrup-like. It can be a challenge if you aren’t used to it.
2. Nutritionally not great. Sugar and corn oils are below-par ingredients.
3. Unnecessary segmentation. They have multiple product lines that are the same outside of protein amounts.
Ensure offers shakes with different nutritional profiles, but they are mostly high protein shakes. That said, they opt for highly processed foods instead of natural ingredients to make their shakes cheaper.
Examples of these include the use of corn maltodextrin instead of oats, the usage of corn oils etc. From a nutritional stand-point, whole food ingredients are more likely to provide you with more nutrients. Thus, I tend to prefer shakes that use less processed ingredients.
Ensure Nutrition Shake Overview
|Contains All Micronutrients||Yes|
|Controversial Ingredients||Milk, Soy, Corn Oil|
Ingredients (Original): Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar, Milk Protein Concentrate, Blend of Vegetable Oils (Canola Corn), Soy Protein Isolate, Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides) NonFat Milk, Vitamin and Mineral Blend, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, and Sucralose.
Based on 220kcal serving:
- Total Carbs: 33g, 12% of DV.
- Net Carbs: 32g, (Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber – Non-digestible Carbs)
- Sugar: 10g.
- Fiber: 1g, 4% of DV.
The first thing to notice is that Ensure shakes are very high in sugar. Furthermore, these are not naturally occurring, but added sugars (second ingredient). High sugar diets have been linked with diabetes, obesity and many other chronic diseases. As such, this is a big red flag.
Also present is corn maltodextrin which is highly processed corn starch. Overall, Ensure shakes are likely to have a higher glycemic index than the average meal replacement shake.
Per 220kcal serving:
- Total Protein: 9g, 18% of DV.
- Source: Milk protein concentrate + soy protein isolate
Ensure Original comes in at 9g, which is lower than most competitors.
On the plus side, the proteins from milk & soy should cover the amino acid bases.
Per 220kcal serving:
- Total Fats: 6g, 8% of DV.
- Saturated Fats: 1g, 5% of DV.
- Omega-3s, ?g.
- Omega-6s: ?g.
The fat content has a lot to be desired here, comprising of corn oil, and canola oil which are cheap processed vegetable oils.
Furthermore, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids is not stated on the label. This is a shame since omega-3 fatty acids are essential oils that are often lacking in our diets. As such, meal replacement shakes can be a good source of omega-3.
Ensure contains 27 micronutrients, most of which are 25% or better or your daily needs, with vitamin C coming in at 100%. Impressive!
They contain. milk, soy, corn and artificial sweeteners. It is of the utmost importance that labels are read and studied before consuming Ensure.
They claim that despite it containing animal-based milk, those who are lactose intolerant should be ok. As someone who is, I experience no issues, but I recommend treading lightly with this product.
|Texture||Smooth and pleasant|
|Satiety||A good 45 to 60 minutes.|
|Easy to Clean||N/A|
|Afterthoughts||Wouldn’t want to have them again.|
I had four of each flavor, so I was able to try each more than once to help formulate my thoughts.
This felt like every kind of vanilla all rolled into one. One sip was like frosting, the next was whipped cream, the next, like ice cream. The long and short of it was that it was sweet, but not undrinkable.
This one wasn’t bad. I think it comes down to what flavors your prefer to have sweeter as opposed to others you prefer to have dialed back. Very much like strawberry milk from my childhood. Of course, the homemade variety, that I put far too much sugar in. At any rate, this is the best one.
Largely interchangeable with vanilla. The chocolate taste is mild, overshadowed by how sweet it is. Maybe you can heat it up and use it as hot chocolate.
Beyond a midday sweet tooth, I’m not sure of the best application for these. Nothing about these is very memorable outside of how sweet they all are.
More about Abbott Labs
Abbott Laboratories is an American multinational medical devices and healthcare company with headquarters in Abbott Park, IL, in the United States. The company was founded by Chicago physician, Wallace Calvin Abbott in 1888.
Today, Abbott Labs sells medical devices, diagnostics, branded generic medicines and nutritional products.
Specifically, Ensure was introduced into the market in 1973 and has been providing people with complete, balanced nutrition ever since. Ensure is the #1 Dr. Recommended Brand among doctors who recommend oral nutritional products to their patients.
Pricing & Shipping
Ensure Original Nutrition Shake is offered as a box of 24 bottles. You can purchase from Abbott’s retail site, Abbottstore.com, as well as many online retailers.
There are no subscription, or bulk purchase savings offered.
Ensure is also attainable from most grocers, drugstores, department stores, and even dollar/discount stores.
Abbottstore.com offers free shipping on all orders over $35, and is only available within the USA.
|Product||Servings||Box Price||Serving Price|
|Original Nutrition Shake||24||$36||$1.50|
Other Ensure Meal Replacement Products
A brief summary of other products in the Ensure line.
- Formulated for daily use
- Immune system support
- Scalable protein
- Higher protein
- Includes a bar & plant option
- Lower sugar
- Lower Calories
- Designed for weight management
If you are looking to lose weight, you can check out our selection of the best meal replacement shakes for weight loss, instead.
- Pre/Post Surgery applications
- Varied portion sizes
- Specific additives to aid recovery
Is Ensure Worth It?
Are Ensure shakes worth it, then? Simply put no. When looking at Ensure’s meal replacement and protein shake offering there’s nothing there to recommend.
There are cheaper, healthier and tastier alternatives in the market that I would consume before Ensure.
Ensure vs. Kate Farms vs. OWYN
In this head-to-head, we have another medically tailored product, as well as one that can be found on local store shelves.
OWYN (pronounced oh-win) is a manufacturer of all-natural protein shakes with the goal of providing easy-to-digest plant protein in the form of tasty shakes. They also have a line of meal replacements that offer protein and add many micronutrients while remaining all-natural and allergen-free.
Our other competitor are the nutrition shakes from Kate Farms. They also have several specialty formulas.
Lets see the results…
Head to Head
|serving price||$4 (USD)||$2.92 (USD)||$1.50 (USD)|
|Other Products||Other RTDs||Protein Drinks &|
|Other RTDs, Bar|
OWYN, a product rated favorably by me, does provide a similar amount of calories and carbs per serving. It does fall short of offering fewer micros, and not as much variety, but definitely makes up for it with its omission of additives, allergens and artificial sweeteners.
Kate Farms hits the wallet the most. It’s vegan, organic, non-GMO and allergen free, so that all comes with higher costs. Ironically, while having the most sugar, it wasn’t as jarringly sweet as Ensure is. Goes to show that the type of sweeteners really matters.
Ensure really only wins on price here. At well under $2 per serving, makes it accessible to many. I guess since it has many flavors, you can break the monotony that other products will eventually have.
Below are a few RTDs we’ve had, and we like should want to go in a different direction.
- 400 Calories
- 20g of Protein (soy)
- Widely available in US
- 8 Flavors
- 400 Calories
- 20-22g of Protein (Pea)
- Available worldwide
- 8 Flavors
- Only buy the 2.0
- 250 Calories
- 20g of Protein (Pea/Pumpkin)
- Available in the US
- 3 Flavors
- Very easy to drink
Ensure Original is designed to provide complete, balanced nutrition to help people maintain or gain a healthy weight, particularly for patients who are at risk of malnutrition or are experiencing involuntary weight loss.
All Ensure products contain some lactose but do not represent a medical concern for individuals with lactose intolerance due to the small amount.
Ensure products should not be consumed by people with galactosemia.
No, Ensure shakes contain milk and therefore are not vegan-friendly.
Verdict – Ensure Review
Abbott Labs should change the name to “Are you sure?”
They throw around some claims that may attract some consumers like “Doctor’s #1 recommended brand” which the fine print caveats with if they were planning to recommend you a shake anyway.
No way to soften the blow….I didn’t particularly like these. They are literally so sweet, it was hard to tell the flavors apart outside of Strawberry. And I didn’t even like drinking more than one a day.
I feel like the saying “you get what you pay for” really rings true here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you can walk into any store and pick some up, and it’s even better that it’s inexpensive enough to fit into most budgets. Seems nutrient dense too. However, the milk & soy are going to be issued for some, all the corn additives aren’t great for anyone, and the sugar will also be problematic.
Ultimately, products like Ensure are the reason that better products exist. Check out Lyfefuel or Ka’chava for healthier Ensure alternatives.
Bottom line – Skip this product. We have many articles with decent alternatives including Huel, Ka’chava, Lyfefuel or Soylent.