"Complete" seems to be relative

I just went to the grocery store and noticed the section of Ensure and other “complete nutrition” meal replacement drinks, and all I can think is “that’s false advertising.” How is it that they get away with calling that stuff “complete”? Why are people so concerned about Soylent when it’s got so much more in it than that stuff, not to mention compared to the typical American diet?


Yeah, I never really understood how those things can be called “complete” meals at all. Some of them have enough of most(but not all) of the micros(or too much), but never enough calories to be called a meal. Maybe if you’re on a calorie restrictive diet they could be.

There are medical-grade ones that are complete nutrient-wise but still very low calorie because they’re intended for bed-ridden patients who aren’t using many calories anyway.

This is why I get annoyed when I tell people about Soylent and they say “How is that any different from stuff like Ensure that’s been around for decades?”


Until “complete”, with regards to its usage as a foodstuffs label, gets a grounded definition which is legally binding it is a useless descriptor.

Then again, if it does get that definition it’ll end up being as stupid as “organic” in that it dumbs-down an idea to cater to a lowest common denominator.

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Is there a list of those words for different countries?

I did find this Wikipedia page and by clicking around a lot you can sometimes find a pdf for a certain country about certain kind of labeling rules.

Well, saying Ensure isn’t complete doesn’t mean we should lower our standards for Soylent. Also, Ensure isn’t meant to be consumed by itself where that is actually a big selling point for Soylent. Take a look: https://ensure.com/nutrition-products/ensure-complete

What isn’t complete in it? Ensure Complete includes 24 vitamins and minerals at 25% or higher DV. I count 23 vitamins and minerals in Soylent 1.5 near 25% DV.

Full of sugar and maltodextrin, I can only imagine the sugar spike

Protein and calories are low and table sugar way too high, not enough sodium and chloride. It’s complete in almost all micronutrients but not macronutrients making it a poor meal replacement, more like a good supplement with a bit of extra calories on top.

13g protein per 350 calories is 74g protein per 2000 calories. The RDA for protein is 56g, so no, it is not too low in protein.

So the only thing it is short on is salt? That’s an extremely minor detail. People can get a little extra salt quite easily.


I suppose you could eat 2000 calories of it, but if it were made for 5.7 servings a day it wouldn’t have 25-60% micronutrients per serving. It’s probably harmless to overconsume micros by that amount though, so if you did it that way it would be complete.

edit: consuming that much table sugar would be harmful, but that’s not the same as it being incomplete.