Glucerna Nutritional Shakes for Diabetes

Pros and Cons of Popular Meal Replacement Drinks

Glucerna Nutrition Shake
Abbott Nutrition
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Glucerna is a brand of nutritional shakes and bars formulated for people with diabetes or prediabetes. The vitamin-fortified meal replacement drinks and snacks are made with low-glycemic carbohydrates, which have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.

Glucerna diabetes products are designed to help improve blood sugar control. The products are also used as a weight-loss program for people with or without diabetes.

This article discusses Glucerna for diabetes, which is sold by Abbott Laboratories. It describes the various Glucerna product lines and the nutritional values of the original shakes and bars.

Glucerna Product Lines

Glucerna offers several product lines of premixed shakes, ready-to-mix powders, and snack bars. Glucerna shakes products include:

  • Glucerna Original Shake, with 10 grams (g) of protein per 8-ounce serving
  • Glucerna Hunger Smart Shake, with 15 g of protein per 10-ounce serving
  • Glucerna Protein Smart Shake, with 30 g of protein per 11-ounce serving

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

All Glucerna products are:

Glucerna products contain milk proteins and are not safe for people with an allergy to casein or whey. 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 can be purchased online at Amazon or other major retailers and grocery stores.

Glucerna Original Shakes

Glucerna Original Shake comes in an 8-ounce bottle containing 180 calories, 16 g of carbohydrates, and 10 g of protein. It is available in five flavors:

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

Glucerna Original Snack Shake comes in an 8-ounce can containing 140 calories, 19 g of carbohydrates, and 7 g of protein. Flavors include homemade vanilla and rich chocolate.

Glucerna Hunger Smart Shakes

Glucerna Hunger Smart products come in three varieties.

Glucerna Hunger Smart Shakes come in a 10-ounce bottle containing 180 calories, 16 g of carbohydrates, and 15 g of protein. It comes in four flavors: 

  • Creamy strawberry
  • Homemade vanilla
  • Peaches & creme
  • Rich chocolate 

Glucerna Hunger Smart Meal Size Shakes come in a 16-ounce Tetra Pak carton containing 250 calories, 21 g of carbohydrates, and 23 g of protein. It comes in two flavors: homemade vanilla and rich chocolate.

Glucerna Hunger Smart Powder is a read-to-mix snack replacement that comes in a 22.3-ounce tub that makes 19 8-ounce servings. One scoop contains 120 calories, 3 g of carbohydrates, and 22 g of protein. The powder can be mixed with 8 ounces of water, juice, or milk. It comes in two flavors: homemade vanilla and rich chocolate.

Glucerna Protein Smart Shakes

Glucerna Protein Smart Shakes come in a an 11-ounce Tetra Pak carton containing 150 calories, 7 g of carbohydrates, and 30 g of protein. It comes in two flavors: homemade vanilla and rich chocolate.

Glucerna Original Nutrition Facts

Designed as a meal replacement or a between-meal snack, all Glucerna products are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

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 formulas and flavors, most of the products contain the same key ingredients and nutrients.

Nutrition Facts For Glucerna Original 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.

Glucerna products also 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 Diabetes

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.

1 Source
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  1. 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.