Weekend Update: Slim-Fast

      23 Comments on Weekend Update: Slim-Fast

You’ve probably heard that several millions cans of Slim-Fast have been recalled because of a possible bacterial contamination.

Here’s an equally valid reason to avoid Slim-Fast:  it’s junk.  Look at this nutrition label:

This is supposed to be a meal replacement?  It’s a soda with a little fat and protein thrown in.  Okay, given the meals many people eat, I guess that would be a replacement, but you get the point.

Look at the ingredients list for the powdered version:

Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin, Gum Arabic, Milk Protein Concentrate, Cellulose Gel, Soy Fiber, Buttermilk Powder, Potassium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Salt, Guar Gum, Soybean Lecithin, Artificial Flavor, Carrageenan, Sodium Phosphate, Acesulfame Potassium (A Non Nutritive Sweetner) and Aspartame.

Sugar is listed first.  That means it’s the primary ingredient — ingredients are listed in order of their proportion in the product, if you didn’t already know.  Not surprisingly, the nutrition website where I found the label gives Slim-Fast an “A” for nutrition.  It’s low fat in fat and cholesterol, you see.

I tried the Slim-Fast plan maybe 15 years ago, one of my many failed attempts to lose weight.  I lasted three days on it.  After drinking a can of this swill for breakfast, I’d be famished by lunch.  I’d be hungrier than if I just skipped breakfast entirely.

Now, of course, I know why:  the sugar.  I most likely woke up in a mild state of ketosis, burning stored fat for fuel.  Then I’d down a can of sugar, which would spike my insulin.  The insulin in turn would tell my body to start packing the calories into my fat cells and hold them there.  So I ran out of fuel.  I remember sitting at my keyboard one morning, an hour from my usual lunchtime, feeling mentally fuzzy, my hands shaking from what was obviously low blood sugar.

At that point, I said to heck with this and went out for lunch instead of drinking another Slim-Fast.  Unfortunately, since I didn’t know any better in those days, I probably went out for pasta.  But even that’s an improvement over this glorified soda.

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23 thoughts on “Weekend Update: Slim-Fast

  1. gallier2

    And 4 different thicking agents! Your description as soda is not that far off. Gum arabic (stamp glue), Xanthan Gum (can be considered a laxative sugar), Guar Gum (laxative, reduce mineral absorbtion (except Calcium) , Carrageenan (if you want Crohn’s be my guest).

    You’d be far better off just drinking a glass of whole milk if you don’t want to eat.

  2. Bruce

    As someone who has had both parents in the hospital systems for some extended stays, the only thing worse then Slimfast, is Ensure and it’s kind. These are foisted off on people in the hospitals as a cure all. I told both of my parents they would be better off drinking whole milk (which you could not get off of the menu) and taking a vitamin. I would bring this or full fat yogurt to them to supplement the poor food that is served in the hospitals. Of course, the menu in the hospital is crazy. I tried to order 2 percent milk for my mothers oatmeal, and was told that it had to be skimmed milk, as she had a heart (pacemaker) condition. Yet she could have the delectable egg beaters and, probably, an Ensure drip if needed.

    I looked at an Ensure label awhile back out of curiosity. It’s pure swill.

  3. Angel

    I was lucky if a Slim-Fast shake kept off the hunger for an hour – and when that hour was over, I was REALLY hungry! There was no way I could last for a few hours after drinking one of those things. Same for the “protein” bars (any brand).

    Then I eventually found out that I couldn’t handle soy too well either, so then I had two reasons to avoid meal replacement stuff. Pretty much all the “meal replacement” products are crap.

    Summer sausage is a great convenience food, and much more satisfying.

    Yup. When a “meal replacement” makes you hungrier than not eating at all, something is wrong.

  4. nonegiven

    The low carb version (with the low fat sticker on the box) is also junk and it tastes funny but it travels well and will get me through a few hours on the road without my teeth. That goes for the Atkins kind, too.

    I tried a few of the low-carb shakes a few years ago, after dental surgery — no solid food for a week. They weren’t as bad, but not nearly as good as the shakes I make now.

  5. mrfreddy

    haha I tried the slim fast diet too, about 20 years ago… and got the same results as you. Couldn’t make it work. Don’t know how Tommy Lasorda did it.

    I still have the blender I bought for making slim fast shakes, I use it now to make my super fine and very satisfying 6 week cure style shakes. That plan works MUCH better.

    Quite a difference, isn’t there? I make a protein shake with some heavy cream in it, I’m good for several hours without getting hungry.

  6. Dave

    Nothing says yummy like sugar, high oleic sunflower oil, and maltodextrin. Sounds more like “Slime-Fast”, probably a good description of what it does to your liver.

    The equivalent diet would be sugar soda and vitamins. Odd that some nutritionists would call Slim-Fast healthy, but not the soda/vitamin diet.

    Slime-Fast. Perfect.

  7. Ellen

    Hey Tom, I agree, a homemade smoothie is so much better, and you can control what’s in it. Mine includes:

    1 cup heavy cream
    ½ cup half and half
    Heaping scoop vanilla whey powder (the kind made with stevia)
    1 cup frozen unsw. sliced strawberries
    1/2 cup frozen unsw. blueberries
    2 squirts of liquid vanilla crème stevia

    Makes two really yummy shakes each with 20 g Protein, 51 grams fat, 16 grams carb. Real food with fewer carbs, more protein and fat, and no chemicals.

    Sounds delicious.

  8. Alexia

    Well, for all the crap that’s in Slim-fast, you’d think it’d taste better. I thought the stuff was horrible. I mean, if I’m gonna eat junk, it better at least taste good!

    I’d be interested in seeing you post some of your shake recipes – I could sure use a good healthy one for when I’m between jobs. I normally end up eating out and am not a fan.

    I make the shakes listed in the 6-Week Cure plan. Whey protein powder, some heavy cream, water, ice, and maybe some flavoring. A few strawberries mixed in with the vanilla whey powder is good.

  9. Laurie

    Right before I finished reading Taubes (June 16, 2007), I had started giving my mother, with mild dementia, “Ensure”. I was duped into thinking it was good for her. I stopped quickly thereafter when I looked at the ingredients. Scandalous is what that heavily marketed garbage poor excuse for ‘food’ is. Sadly, my mom loved the taste. I try to get her to eat as much quality animal fat now as possible.
    I love the Eades new book. I love the shakes. When I was on weeks one and two, I could NOT consume 3 shakes a day. I could only EVER drink 2!!! I was so darn full all the time.

    I forgot a couple of shakes here and there myself during those weeks. No hunger pangs to remind me.

  10. Sizzlechest

    I’ve tried the low carb Slim Fast and they taste a lot better and have lower net carbs than the other canned shakes including the ones made by Atkins.

    BTW, the image you posted is an uncompressed BMP. For people who don’t have an unlimited data plan or aren’t on a 3G connection are getting killed. Here’s a compressed PNG file of the image. Please use it: http://yfrog.com/bgslimfastp

    I tried those after dental surgery, and if I recall, the taste was okay. Now, of course, I’d simply make my own protein shakes.

    Thanks for the compressed image. It’s swapped in now.

  11. Tracee

    Kinda scary. I used to drink those things in between meals to gain weight in hopes of getting my immune system better. I had no idea the sugar was making it worse. REAL food worked….who would have thought? I mean, since it’s so unfashionable and all. We all can’t be hip I suppose.

  12. Jenn

    A few years ago I figured out that I could get the same nutrition of a Slim-Fast chocolate shake by drinking a glass of skim milk with chocolate powder and taking a multivitamin, so why waste the money on the shakes?

    Exactly. Or just drink whole milk; you’d get less sugar and more actual nutrition.

  13. Dave, RN

    “Xanthan Gum (can be considered a laxative sugar), Guar Gum (laxative)”
    Gee, maybe that’s why you can lose weight on that crude, it has two laxatives!
    It’s be easier to take some whole, raw milk, and then blend in a chocolate ex-lax. 😉

    I smell a new product idea.

  14. gallier2

    Jenn, 2 laxatives? What about Cellulose Gel and Aspartame. I recognized always if something had aspartame at the effect on the “output stream”.

  15. Todd

    A good friend is recovering from his second bout of cancer, yet is still only in his 40s. He’s also a vegan activist. As he won’t eat anything that could actually help him recover his strength (he dropped roughly 30 pounds, and was already on the slender side), his docs have him on Ensure. Despite a very short period where it seemed to help him (at least he got some extra calories besides the vegan soups he was favoring), he relapsed rather quickly and now cannot gain no matter how many cans he drinks a day (all the while shunning the protein his doctors have recommended (besides the occasional protein shake – he seems to also believe that protein is only necessary for those who work out like bodybuilders). It is really sad to see someone who has embraced the religion of veganism and fundamentalist animal rights. I have agreed with him time and again about the evils of factory farming, and have tried to help him source organic milk, eggs, and meat, all to no avail.

    So much for vegan diets preventing cancer. Any chance you could get him to read The Vegetarian Myth? Lierre Keith does a brilliant job of shredding both the moral and health claims of vegans — and she knows them all, because she was a vegan for 20 years. At the very least, show him this video on vitamin D and cancer; maybe it will help.


  16. Cathryn

    This has Sugar and Aspartame. Do you realize what a double-whammy you are getting here? Aspartame actually tricks your brain into wanting more. It’s as addictive to your brain as methamphetamines–the illegal stuff that gets you locked up in prison. Only our government calls it “food.”

    Imagine what else is being touted for weight loss.

    Frightening, isn’t it? I got off the diet sodas awhile back, and I feel better for it. I learned to love iced tea again.

  17. Dr.A

    Good post, Tom. It makes me angry that people think that a low carb diet, even a real food, primal one, is an unhealthy fad diet, while a SlimFast diet is perfectly acceptable. I recently did a post on my blog about KetoCal, which is what they feed kids with epilepsy. It’s main ingredient is hydrogenated soybean oil. It also has refined soybean oil, soy lecithin, corn syrup solids and aspartame. Then they wonder why the kids get kidney stones.

    Yeeuck. I think it’s great that kids with epilepsy can minimize symptoms with a ketogenic diet, but why not use real food?

    Your post, so others can read it:

  18. Todd


    Thank you for the vitamin D video on YouTube. I will forward that on to my friend. I think I’ll buy myself a copy of The Vegetarian Myth, and pass it on to him. We often exchange books we’ve read and liked. He’s caught in a strange limbo, with his own faith-based vegan beliefs on the one side, and the medical/legal system’s political stance on steroids as a legitimate treatment in wasting conditions. If anyone is interested in seeing how the political and agenda based “science” is applied to steroids in the same way that the science is applied to fat and carbs, check out the documentary “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” by director Chris Bell.

  19. April

    Ugh, I think I know which site you got the stats from. Seems like you aren’t allowed to mention it by name (or just didn’t want to), but they are tied with a prominent go-to website for anything you want to know.

    I HATE that they grade the foods- I use it often myself when trying to figure out carb counts. They even mention that Slim-Fast is bad in that it is “very high in sugar” Why doesn’t that factor into the grade?

    Why must organizations and the government insist on blanket advice for everyone? As I recall from Fat Head, this was a concern of the McGovern report that doctors brought up as a reason for why they didn’t want the report to come out. What a concept- different things might work for different people!

    Yup, I think we’re talking about the same site. I think they use the American Heart Association method — anything lowfat gets a good grade.

  20. Trish

    I missed this post the first go-round but every time I hear about Slim-Fast I remember a comedian from the nineties, a young and very obese man whose name escapes me, that had a great line about it: “Yeah, I like Slim-Fast. Goes great with nachos.”

    I believe that may have been Jeff Garlin, currently on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He added, “Not that they’ll make me a spokesman or anything.”


    Wher can i get refund from puchasing over three cases of slim fat I still have a few bottles left? Is there a website for this/ Thank you for this valuable lifesaving information.

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