How To Choose The Best Nutritional Drinks: A Complete Buying Guide

Nutritional drinks

With a well-rounded blend of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to support overall nutrition, nutritional drinks are garnering popularity. Your everyday diet may fall short of meeting essential nutritional requirements for your body. A nutritional beverage can effectively address these deficiencies.
Seeking the ultimate nutrition supplement drink involves a thorough examination of the ingredients within the product. Look for the key elements such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to match your dietary requirements. For example, Horlicks can be your drink of choice with the most vitamins. Simultaneously, it requires assessing the taste and texture of the drink to enhance your overall consumption experience. It is also essential to be mindful of potential allergens or dietary restrictions that could impact your choice.
Choosing the right nutritional drink can be tricky, but worry not. Explore this well-curated guide to the best nutritional drinks to help you make an informed decision.

1. Understanding Nutritional Needs: Nutritional drinks offer a convenient and efficient way to address dietary gaps, making them beneficial for individuals with busy lifestyles, specific dietary needs, or those seeking a nutrient boost. They can serve as a quick and controlled source of essential nutrients, supporting overall health, recovery, and specific health goals. Whether used as a meal replacement, a supplement for targeted nutrition or to enhance energy levels, the decision to incorporate nutritional drinks into one’s routine depends on individual circumstances and health objectives. Consulting with a healthcare professional or dietitian is advisable to ensure alignment with personal health needs. Ensure is recommended for adults, particularly those in the pre-or post-illness/surgery stages, and should be consumed as directed by a physician or dietitian.

2. Types of Nutritional Drinks: Broadly, nutritional drinks can be categorized as shakes and formulas.
A. Shakes:
-Intended Use: Oral consumption
-Availability: Found on grocery store shelves
-Purpose: Formulated to help meet general nutrition goals, such as increased calories and protein. For example, include Protinex for the maximum protein as it has the highest protein content of 31.4 percent by mass.
-Ingredients/Taste: Usually fortified with vitamins and blended with sugar to improve taste.

B. Formulas: These can be standard, elemental, and specialized. Formulas are often available in various strengths or caloric densities, distinguished by numerical values ranging from 0.5 to 2[2].
Intended Use: Can be consumed orally but often used in feeding tubes
Availability: Doctor supervision is necessary for use
Purpose: Designed for specific disease states such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and later-stage kidney disease
Taste: Not designed to taste good
-Special Considerations: Some nutrition formulas are designed to be compatible with specific health conditions such as diabetes.

3. Ingredients/ Nutritional Content:
-Natural and Nutrient-Rich: Look for drinks with natural, whole-food-based ingredients to ensure a well-rounded nutritional profile.
-Avoid Artificial Additives: Choose products that minimize artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors for a cleaner and healthier option.

4. Purity & Quality:
-Check for certifications indicating purity, such as non-GMO, organic, or third-party testing, to ensure the absence of contaminants.

5. Purpose: Whether you aim to enhance your daily nutrition, are a fitness enthusiast seeking post-exercise recovery, or are an individual with specific dietary requirements, you can choose the nutritional drink that suits you best.
-General Nutrition: If you’re seeking overall nutritional support, choose drinks formulated to meet general dietary needs with a balance of macronutrients and essential vitamins.
-Specialized Formulas: For specific health conditions (e.g., diabetes, kidney issues), consider drinks designed to address those concerns, ensuring compatibility with your health goals.

6. Added Sugar Content:
-Low Sugar Options: Choose drinks with minimal added sugars to avoid unnecessary caloric intake and support overall health.
-Natural Sweeteners: If sweetness is desired, look for drinks sweetened with natural alternatives like stevia or monk fruit.

7. Strength:
-Different nutritional formulas are categorized by strengths or caloric densities, ranging from 0.5 to 2, indicating calories per milliliter.
-Lower caloric density formulas are generally more tolerable, while higher densities may be prescribed for patients unable to consume sufficient volume or with specific nutritional needs.
-It’s worth noting that higher caloric density formulas necessitate increased water intake due to lower water content. For instance, Ensure or Boost has around 85% water.

8. Flavour & Texture:
-Opt for a product with a flavor that suits your preference. They can be available in many flavors like chocolate, vanilla, etc, and many others[3].
-It was found out that Horlicks (Taller & Stronger) has the most acceptable taste, followed by Ensure. Protinex, known for its subtle bitterness, possesses a less universally accepted taste[1].
-Take the texture of the drink into account. Some favor a denser, creamier texture, while others lean towards a lighter, more aqueous consistency.

9. Cost-Effectiveness:
-When purchasing nutritional drinks, consider cost-effectiveness by evaluating the overall value of your investment.
-Look beyond the initial price and factor in the serving size, nutritional content, and the brand’s reputation.
-Consider the cost per serving to determine long-term affordability.

10. Packaging & Handling: Consider the following when buying nutritional drinks:
-Check for secure, undamaged packaging.
-Check for the Expiration Date, ensuring the product is within its shelf life.
-Look for unbroken seals for safety.
-Follow recommended storage guidelines.
-Check the portability and choose convenient, spill-resistant options.
-Opt for recyclable or sustainable materials.

11. Customer Reviews & Recommendations:
-Gauge the product’s reception by delving into customer reviews and extracting insights from their experiences.
-Examine both positive and negative feedback patterns to make well-informed decisions.
-Additionally, consider overall product ratings, as higher ratings typically signal widespread customer satisfaction.
By carefully considering these factors, you can tailor your choice of supplemental nutritional drinks to meet your needs and preferences while ensuring optimal health benefits. Do not forget to consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice based on your health requirements.

Here’s the list of the top 6 Nutritional Drinks in India:
1. Proteinex
2. Ensure Nutrition Drink
3. Horlicks nutrition drink
4. PentaSure
5. Celevida

Nutritional Drinks: Weighing Risks & Benefits
The market has witnessed a significant surge in demand for these customer-friendly Nutritional Drinks, driven by their affordability and effectiveness[3]. Despite their numerous advantages, overconsumption can lead to complications. Individuals frequently turn to nutritional supplements, sports drinks, and energy drinks for perceived physiological benefits, potentially without being fully aware of the associated risks [4].

Let’s check out some pros and cons of nutritional drinks:

Pros of Nutritional Drinks:
Caloric Intake: Ideal for individuals needing to gain weight, providing an easy and flavorful way to ingest essential calories.
-Balanced Nutrition: Helps address malnourishment by offering a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, nutrients, calcium, and vitamins.
-Convenient Source of Protein: Particularly beneficial for adults facing challenges in preparing proper meals, aiding overall strength and supporting bodily functions.
-Satiate Appetite: Assists those with difficulty swallowing or a diminished interest in eating by delivering rich, delectable flavors, ensuring sufficient calorie intake.

Cons of Nutritional Drinks:
Sugar Content: Some nutritional drinks may have high sugar content, posing concerns for individuals, especially older diabetics. Look for low-glycemic options for diabetic individuals.
-Digestive Issues: Overreliance on these drinks can lead to digestive problems like diarrhea.
-Drug Interactions: High levels of minerals and vitamins in nutritional drinks can interact with medications, potentially causing harmful effects or affecting organ systems. Consult with a doctor before altering medications.
-Complications from Overconsumption: Regular consumption, especially multiple times a day, may lead to complications due to an excess of vitamins and minerals, underscoring the importance of moderation and medical consultation.
-Nutrient Source Limitations: While providing essential nutrients, these drinks may not offer the full spectrum of benefits found in whole food sources. Relying solely on supplements or as a meal replacement may lack the diversity of a well-rounded diet.

Disclaimer: Nutritional Drinks should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. No supplemental nutritional drink is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

(The article is written by Dr.Subita Alagh, Senior Executive, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Available online from:
2. The Oral Cancer Foundation. Available online from:
3. Nutritional Drink Market Report Summaries Detailed Information By Top Players As Unilever, Zydus Wellness, GSK, Abbott, The Hershey Company, The Kraft Heinz Company, Among Others. Available online from:
4. O’Dea JA. Consumption of nutritional supplements among adolescents: usage and perceived benefits. Health Educ Res. 2003 Feb;18(1):98-107.Available online from:

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