Supplement Drinks for Elderly: Dietitian Recommendations 2023

Identifying the best supplement drinks for the elderly can seem like a daunting task. Everyday there seems to be new choices, so where do you start?

As a Registered Dietitian that has worked with the older adults for the better part of 8 years, I will tell you exactly what to look for to find the best supplement drink.

I have become very well versed between meetings with supplement drink company reps, patient experience, and my professional opinion. I will give you expert recommendations on what to pick.

What are Nutrition Supplement Drinks?

Nutritional supplement drinks are designed with special formulas that include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

They are meant to provide a boost of nutrition where someone is unable to get what they need from regular eating.

Each drink will be designed for a different nutrition purpose, these include:

Meeting daily protein requirements
Accommodate a variety of health conditions
Promote wound healing
Improve energy levels
Meet daily nutritional needs
Provide extra calories

There are also a variety of nutritional supplements to meet various medical conditions.

Some health conditions they cover include:

Kidney disease
Unintended weight loss
Diabetes and Blood sugar control
Cancer treatment

Why Do People Take Nutrition Supplement Drinks?

Supplement drinks can be a great way to provide senior citizens with extra calories and grams of protein to meet their daily nutrient requirements.

Older people will take them for a variety of reasons, but the most frequent one is that an individual simply is not eating or drinking enough to meet their daily needs.

If an older adult has a loss of appetite preventing them from eating enough food to maintain overall health and well-being, they can be a great ‘snack’ to provide.

These drinks are also a great option if there is a medical condition that needs a specialized formula to manage the condition.

You should seek professional medical advice for individualized recommendations on the formula to select.

Can They Be a Meal Replacement?

Technically? Sure.

Notice how I’m not very convincing in that answer.

Depending on the nutrition supplement drink, they can have comparable calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats compared to a real meal.

The problem you would encounter is that fluids as a meal may not always be as satiating as real food. It also doesn’t replace the natural vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that food provides.

If you start to resort to supplement drinks as a meal replacement, you are making a choice to not eat food. They are quite filling which overtime WILL replace the food being eaten.

I don’t recommend that they be used as a meal replacement for elderly people.

Instead, they should be used as a supplement between meals. They can be provided as a snack drink to supplement a regular diet.

How is it Different Than a Protein Shake?

If I mention a protein shake you likely think of some muscle guy heading into the gym to lift weights.

But that is not the only type of person who takes protein shakes.

Protein shakes are designed to promote muscle recovery and supplement protein in the diet.

Protein shakes such as Premier Protein can be a fantastic nutrition supplement drink for an older adult to fill in nutrients they are missing.

Though they are marketed to a younger generation, if an individual likes the taste of protein drinks, I have no problem with them being supplemental in their diet.

Cons of Nutrition Supplement Drinks

There are some things to beware of when having nutrition supplement drinks for the elderly.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Some individuals find these drinks have too much sugar and can cause upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and more GI symptoms.

If you find the drinks are causing negative side effects such as GI distress, it’s not time to give up on supplement drinks altogether. It may simply be time to try a different kind.

It’s beneficial to review the labels of any supplement drink you are planning to purchase. A low amount of added sugar (less than 15%) is best to select.


All drinks are not created equal. Some of the nutrition supplement drinks will have a chalky taste. This has been the number one complaint I have received.

It’s important to select a type of drink that someone will actually drink. If someone doesn’t like the taste of one, switch to a different kind. Taste is just as important as the nutrition facts.

You can also make your own homemade nutritional health drink, if you want some amazing recipes, find them here!

Health Benefits of Nutrition Supplement Drinks

The health benefits of nutrition supplement drinks for elderly far outweigh the cons associated with consumption.

Here are the top reasons to take a nutrition supplement drink.

Malnutrition Risk Reduction

Malnutrition is a combination of at least two of the following factors:

Loss of subcutaneous fat
Loss of muscle mass
Insufficient energy intake
Fluid accumulation
Reduced grip strength
Weight loss

When food intake starts to occur, it is usually a domino effect for the others to begin occurring.

Research shows that regular consumption of an oral nutrition supplement drink helps to increase:

Body weight
Protein intake
Malnutrition decrease
Hand grip strength
Calf circumference

Slows Down Age Related Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)

Sufficient protein intake in the elderly can help to keep individuals muscle mass intact, prevent muscle wasting associated with aging, satiating effect, and reduce malnutrition risk!

It can be hard to meet the daily protein requirements in the elderly, which is currently 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

For an individual that weighs 60 kilograms this would work out to be approximately 72 grams of protein per day.

One nutrition supplement drink provided daily, split between two meals can provide anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein!

If you want to know how to spot malnutrition, read this.

Weight Maintenance

Aging individuals can find it hard to maintain their weight. Weight acts as a protective factor as we age, that is why the BMI recommendations for comparison is higher than in those 65 and younger.

Nutrition supplement drinks for elderly can help to maintain weight by providing a high calorie high protein drink between meals.

It’s quick and easy way to add extra calories to a balanced diet throughout the day.

Easy Nutrition for the Elderly

Most elderly individuals want quick, easy, and no fuss meals and snacks.

Having something in the fridge that they can grab and go, or drink while sitting on the couch watching a show is so simple.

If you don’t live with your loved one, it can also be something to leave in the fridge for them to have easy access to whenever they want.

These are an easy way to increase calorie intake, achieve a healthy weight, boost blood glucose control, and get enough protein daily.

Do I need Doctor’s Approval to Drink Supplements?

I would actually recommend speaking with a Registered Dietitian for nutrition supplement drink recommendations.

Dietitian’s are experts in the field of nutrition, and have gone through 4+ years of school, 2+ years to get a Master’s Degree, and 1200+ hours of supervised internship in clinical settings.

I would look for a Dietitian that has experience in the field of older adults and geriatric nutrition, as they will likely better understand the needs of this population.

If you’re on specific medications, I recommend letting the Dietitian know so they can have all the information needed to give you an informed answer.

What to Look for

When searching the aisles of a grocery store for supplemental nutrition drinks, here’s what you can keep an eye out for on the nutrition panel:

High protein content, greater than 10 grams per serving
More than 300 calories per serving
Less than 15% added sugar
More than 1 gram of Fibre
More than 20 grams of Carbohydrates

Those are general recommendations, and what you look for in a supplement drink will be specific to what your nutrition goals are.

Below are a variety of nutrition supplement drinks, each with a specialized formula for different nutrition goals.

Top Picks for Supplement Drinks for Elderly!

Now that we’ve reviewed nutrition supplement drink, here are my top recommendations!

Ensure Protein Max

Ensure Protein Max.

Not only does it have a great flavour to it, it has 30 grams of protein, an easy to open carton. It is lower in calories and carbohydrates, which may help those with Diabetes!

Who is it for?

Individuals who need help with muscle mass loss prevention (Sarcopenia), Muscle building, Wound healing, and need extra protein.

Who is it not for?

Individuals who need extra calories, have unintentional weight loss.

Nutrition Facts:

1 Serving = 330 mL
Calories = 150
Protein = 30 grams
Carbohydrates = 6 grams
Fat = 1.5 grams

Resource 2.0

Resource 2.0

Resource 2.0 will always be my go-to for anyone suffering from Malnutrition, poor intake, or weight loss.
It is VERY high in calories, a great source of protein, and the vanilla flavour is very smooth!

Who is it for?

Individuals who have had non-significant and significant weight loss, people with protein malnutrition, malnourished, wound healing, and inadequate intake.

This is also a really great option for individuals that can’t tolerate a high volume of nutrition drinks. They can be quite filling. You get 2 calories for every 1 mL unlike any other drink.

Who is it not for?

Individuals who do not need to gain weight, obese.

Nutrition Facts:

1 Serving = 237 mL
Calories = 477
Protein = 20 grams
Carbohydrates = 52 grams
Fat = 21 grams

Boost Complete Diabetic

Boost complete diabetic.

If you’re looking for a great supplement drink that is best for those with Diabetes, Boost Complete Diabetic formula is for you! The chocolate flavour is definitely my favourite.

Who is it for?

Diabetic patients.

Who is it not for?

I wouldn’t serve it to non-diabetics, unless they have a taste preference for it. It is usually slightly more expensive than a non-medical condition specified drink.

Nutrition Facts:

1 Serving = 237 mL
Calories = 190
Protein = 16 grams
Carbohydrates = 17 grams
Fat = 7 grams

Boost High Protein

Boost high protein.

Boost High Protein offers a variety of flavours, with its high protein content, sufficient amount of calories, and fridge stable formula, it’s a delicious choice.

Who is it for?

Diabetic patients that need extra protein in their diets. Malnutrition, wound healing, with a lower carbohydrate count.

Who is it not for?

I wouldn’t serve it to non-diabetic patients due to the higher cost of regular high protein drinks.

Nutrition facts:

1 Serving = 237 mL
Calories = 120
Protein = 22 grams
Carbohydrates = 2 grams
Fat = 2.5 grams

Boost Fruit Juice

Boost fruit Juice

Boost fruit juice offers an excellent alternative to those who don’t want milky flavoured supplement drinks. With a variety of juice flavours, it taste more like a thirst-quenching drink than anything!

Who is it for?

It’s a great alternative for people who want a ‘juice’ flavour to their nutrition supplements.

Who is it not for?

This is a formula that is good for just about anyone who doesn’t like traditional supplements.

Nutrition facts:

1 Serving = 237 mL
Calories = 180
Protein = 9 grams
Carbohydrates = 36 grams
Fat = 0.5 grams

Nepro High Protein

Nepro high protein drink.

Nepro protein powder is a great option for those who have Kidney Disease and need extra protein in their diet. It can be mixed in with morning oatmeal, protein smoothies, or mashed potatoes!

Who is it for?

Anyone with Renal disease that requires a higher protein content with a low water content. It’s specialized to have a lower water content while replacing the protein lost in dialysis.

They also have two formulas, one for those on dialysis and one for those who are not but have renal disease.

Who is it not for?

I personally would not recommend a renal specific product to anyone without renal disease.

Nutrition facts:

1 Serving = 220 mL
Calories = 401
Protein = 17.82 grams

There’s your list! If you have any further questions regarding nutrition supplement drinks, feel free to drop it in the comments below!

Michelle saari dietitian
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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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