Photo: Will Taylor

Photo: Will Taylor

Paddle Healthy: Top Meal Replacements

It used to be that meal replacement drinks and bars were chock full of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and a bevy of other artificial ingredients, plus sugar—lots and lots of sugar. Thumbs up for convenience, but a big thumbs down for nutritional content.

Although such unhealthy options still line supermarket shelves and people are still spending millions of dollars each year on them, the demand for healthier fare has led to the development of new offerings that give paddlers worry-free meal replacement choices. Unlike the first generation of SlimFast and the like, which were created in a lab with largely synthetic ingredients, new products include superfoods, naturally sourced vitamins and organic, non-GMO fruit and vegetable extracts. There are also plenty of Paleo and allergen-free products for those with special dietary needs. Take a look at our picks for top meal replacement options that you can throw down before or after a workout, or in place of a meal when you're on the go:

UB Super Shakes

Scott Kanyok almost died when he was hit by a truck while cycling near his home in 2008. Though he fought his way back physically, Kanyok's immune system was shot and he kept getting sick. To overcome this, he started eating only 'clean' foods, which meant organic fruits and vegetables and superfoods such as acai and camu camu. Working with nutritional scientist Jason Mitchell, Kayok eventually came across the ideal formula to re-set his immune system and, wanting to share the benefits with others, founded UB Real shortly after.
The company's UB Super shakes mix easily with milk, water, and just about any other liquid, and will soon be available in a whey-based variety as well as the vegan version that sources its 15 grams of protein from chia and other plant sources. If you're interested in getting a broad range of superfoods, prebiotics and probiotics into your diet, plus fulvic minerals that act as a transport system for efficient metabolism, follow the lead of pros like Travis Grant and Connor Baxter and check out UB Super.

Papa Steve's No Junk Raw Protein Bars

As we recently discussed in our Paddle Healthy article on going gluten free, food allergies are more prevalent than ever before. That's one of the reasons Steven Diebold founded Papa Steve's. He also believed that, "Most protein bars are just disguised candy bars covered in chocolate with some protein thrown in." Not the case for the bars that Diebold and his family started making by hand in a Southern California kitchen that's certified by the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals.
Each bar—whether you choose almond coconut crunch, apple cinnamon, banana oat, or one of six other flavors —is free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy and GMO ingredients, so there's no better option if you have food allergies. The dates in Papa Steve's have unique phytonutrients that lower the bar's glycemic impact, meaning you won't get a sugar spike and crash as with many meal replacement options. And, with 20 grams of complete vegan protein per bar, they've got the perfect amount of muscle building power for your post workout fix. Heck, even the brown paper packaging is good for the environment (although we don't recommend you eat it!).


Whether you agree with its principles or not, the Paleo Diet is here to stay. And while firing up some eggs or a steak with veggies is a fine paleo option, it's not going to work when you're on the run. Enter Alex Bonesteel, creator of PRIBARS. The "No BS, just real food" slogan is legit, as these 276-calorie bars contain none of the additives, preservatives or artificial sweeteners you'll find in most meal replacement bars.
Instead of a long list of unknown chemicals that are difficult to pronounce, Bonesteel and his team jam a list of simple, whole food ingredients into each bar, such as hemp seeds, tart cherries, and almonds. The hemp is high in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, and the tart cherries—an underrated superfood—help promote restful sleep, reduce soreness and lower stroke risk. And, from a taste perspective, there's a unique twist: a pinch of sea salt that not only makes PRIBARS palatable, but also helps you replenish sodium after a long paddle or tough gym session. If you're into localism as well as the Paleo Diet, you'll like the fact that each PRIBARS ingredient is sourced from the Western US, too. —Phil White

Click here for more Paddle Healthy.