Glucerna Nutritional Shakes for Diabetes

Pros and Cons of Popular Meal Replacement Drinks

Glucerna Nutrition Shake
Abbott Nutrition

Glucerna nutritional shakes are a line of vitamin-fortified meal replacement drinks formulated for people with type 2 diabetes and sold by Abbott Nutrition. They are created with low-glycemic carbohydrates to enhance control of blood sugar and to assist with weight loss.

People with type 1 diabetes and prediabetes may also benefit from using Glucerna. The shakes are also often used as part of a structured weight-loss program for people who do not have diabetes.

About Glucerna

Glucerna offers several varieties of shakes: premixed bottled drinks (original Glucerna or Hunger Smart, which offers 15 grams of protein as opposed to 10 grams in the original line), or a ready-to-mix powder that can be added to other liquids.

The Glucerna product line also includes meal replacement snack bars which, like the shakes, are low in sugar and carbs and high in protein. Glucerna Mini Treat bars are intended to serve as a healthy dessert choice or small snack that won't spike glucose levels.

Glucerna products are all gluten-free, kosher, halal, and suitable for people who with lactose intolerance. However, they also contain fructose (a natural fruit sugar) and artificial sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium, which may cause potential health issues in people with diabetes.

Glucerna comes in five flavors:

  • Classic butter pecan
  • Rich chocolate
  • Homemade vanilla
  • Creamy strawberry
  • Chocolate caramel

Glucerna can be purchased online at Amazon or other major retailers and grocery stores.

Nutrition Facts

Glucerna's nutrition facts are in line with recommendations from both the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA). According to the ADA, 36% to 40% of your daily calories should come from fat;the AHA maintains that just 5% to 6% of those calories should be saturated fats.

While Glucerna offers several different flavors, most of the shakes and bars contain the same key ingredients and nutrients.

Nutrition Facts Comparing Glucerna Shakes and Snack Bars*
Nutrient Shake Bar
Calories 180 160
Carbohydrates 16g 18g
Fiber 4g 2g
Protein 10g 10g
Total fat 9g 6g
Saturated fat 1g 1.5g
Total sugars 4g 4g
Added sugars 4g 3g
Vitamin A 25% DV 25% DV
Vitamin C 100% DV 10% DV
Vitamin D 60% DV 2% DV

Vitamins B6, and folate

25% DV 20% DV
Vitamin E 40% DV 100% DV
Calcium 20% DV 15% DV
Iron 20% DV 10% DV
*Based on the primary nutritional values of an 8-ounce Glucerna Homemade Vanilla shake and one 40g Crispy Oats and Nuts bar.

Both Glucerna bars and shakes contain smaller amounts of additional vitamins and trace minerals, such as riboflavin, chromium, and manganese.

Pros and Cons

Glucerna shakes offer benefits for people either trying to lose weight or maintain tighter control of their blood sugar. But they also have shortcomings, particularly for those who do not have diabetes. Among the considerations:

  • Good source of protein: An 8-ounce Glucerna shake has 10 grams of protein, which is equal to approximately one-and-a-half whole eggs. On average, 46 grams of protein is recommended daily for an adult woman, while 56 grams are recommended for an adult male.

  • Low-glycemic food: Glucerna nutritional shakes can be considered low-glycemic, meaning that the carbohydrates contained in them are digested slowly and cause less of a spike in blood sugar.

  • Convenience: Glucerna shakes and bars are a portable option when you're on the go and don't have access to diabetes-friendly food.

  • Satisfy cravings: If you've got a hankering for something sweet but are trying to keep your blood sugar in check, Glucerna's five sweet flavors can help satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your glucose.

  • Contains fructose: Research suggests that fructose may impact glycemic control in those with diabetes and may pose a risk of type 2 diabetes in those who do not have the disease.

  • Contains artificial sweeteners: According to a 2017 study, thrice-daily use of sucralose and acesulfame potassium (both contained in Glucerna) has been shown to impair the glucose response in people without diabetes.

  • Risk of over-reliance: While Glucerna shakes and bars are a convenient food option when you don't have time for a full meal, it may be tempting to rely on them too often as a meal replacement. Glucerna products shouldn't take the place of more than one meal or snack per day, as they're technically a processed food and not a true substitute for fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

How Glucerna May Help

If you're trying to better manage your glucose levels and/or weight, Glucerna products can supplement a diabetes-friendly meal plan that's lower in carbs and higher in protein. Glucerna is formulated from slow-burning carbs that are designed to be digested slowly so as not to quickly raise your blood sugar.

Try occasionally incorporating a shake as your breakfast or use it as an after-lunch snack to hold you over until dinner no more than a few times per week. Test your blood sugar levels before and after to see how Glucerna affects you personally.

With type 2 diabetes, your best bet for long-term success is to center the bulk of your diet on low-glycemic whole foods such as whole grains (oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, etc.) and non-starchy vegetables (peppers, onions, cauliflower, leafy greens, etc.), lean protein (poultry, fish, and legumes), and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados), and use Glucerna to help fill in the gaps when necessary.

For the most part, whole, unrefined foods are better options than processed foods such as Glucerna. If you have type 2 diabetes, Glucerna shouldn't be used in place of healthy diet changes and lifestyle habits, but in addition to those shifts.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Evert AB, Dennison M, Gardner CD, et al. Nutrition therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes: a consensus report. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(5):731-754. doi:10.2337/dci19-0014

  2. American Heart Association. Saturated fat.

Additional Reading

By Stacey Hugues
Stacey Hugues, RD is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who works as a neonatal dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.