NHS soups and shakes diet: Second Nature’s response

Tamara Willner
Written by

Tamara Willner

11th September 2020

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll no doubt have heard that the NHS has launched an 800-calorie meal replacement weight-loss programme, with the aim of tackling type 2 diabetes.

This news has caused some controversy on social media platforms, with some suggesting that the NHS is advocating the efficacy of ‘crash diets’ or ‘detox diets’ in a similar way to influencers or celebrity personalities.

Here’s what we think of the new NHS soups and shakes plan.

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What is the plan?

The year-long plan includes an initial 3-month phase where patients are provided with soups and shakes to replace their daily meals, alongside advice to increase exercise levels.

After this phase, patients are offered ongoing support from healthcare professionals to reintroduce healthy foods into their diet.

Where did this come from?

The rationale behind launching this plan comes from the DiRECT trial. This was the first ever high-quality dietary and lifestyle intervention trial with type-2 diabetes remission as the primary goal. This is a very large-scale, ongoing study where participants are followed up after 2 years.

This trial demonstrated that dramatically reducing energy intake (to around 850 calories per day) and then slowly reintroducing a healthy, balanced diet, led to significantly more individuals achieving remission compared with those receiving standard NHS care.

The results so far are incredibly promising, as they tell us that significant weight loss can result in type-2 diabetes remission and potential reductions in medications for some, even if the individual had been diagnosed up to 10 years ago.

So what’s the issue?

It’s really encouraging to see the NHS using the latest research to inform their strategy and actively trying to tackle the condition, especially given the recent links to poorer outcomes from coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, there are some challenges with how this approach has been depicted in the media.

Calorie-counting alone isn’t healthy

This sort of science often gets mistaken for evidence that ‘eating a very low-calorie diet is healthy’. Calorie counting alone pays little attention to the nutritional benefits of different foods. Media coverage of the ‘800-calorie NHS diet’ has failed to provide information on the other aspects involved in this approach.

For example, people who choose to participate in the new NHS scheme will be medically supervised and fully supported by healthcare professionals to reintroduce foods in a healthy way once they’ve completed the 3-month meal replacement phase.

The media focus on the number of calories that the NHS diet provides might send the wrong message to the public – that calorie-counting alone is an effective and sustainable weight loss tool.

Simply cutting your diet in half without supervision from a medical professional to reach your ‘calorie goal’, isn’t a healthy way to achieve weight loss in the long term. In fact, doing so can result in nutritional deficiencies, hunger, and a higher likelihood of regaining the weight lost in the long run.

There are other ways to lose weight

The DiRECT trial is a high-quality study showing the effect that significant weight loss can have on type 2-diabetes, but a liquid diet isn’t the only way to lose weight. At the end of the day, we’re all unique and the best ‘diet’ is the one that you can stick to in the long term.

Some people won’t mind consuming meal-replacement shakes and soups for 3 months before reintroducing food, whereas others might really struggle to do so.

Evidence suggests that a lower-carbohydrate diet is an extremely effective alternative for weight loss. As a lower-carbohydrate diet is naturally higher in protein and fat, you’re not left feeling hungry, which means you’re more likely to stick to your healthy eating plan in the long term.

We’d also argue that long-term weight loss and lifestyle change is far bigger than nutrition and exercise alone. Evidence suggests that accounting for our sleep, stress, and mindfulness habits, as well as focusing on motivation, is key to achieving long-term results.

That’s why we take the full picture into account on the Second Nature programme and combine each piece of the puzzle with support from a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

Take home message

  • The new NHS low-calorie shakes and soups diet is based on high-quality evidence
  • It’s really encouraging to see the NHS actively trying to tackle the condition, but there are some negative consequences with how this approach has been depicted in the media
  • Patients enrolled in the NHS initiative are medically supervised and offered a lot of support from health professionals
  • Calorie-counting alone isn’t an effective and sustainable weight loss tool
  • We’re all unique and the best ‘diet’ is the one that you can stick to in the long term
  • Evidence suggests that a lower-carbohydrate diet is effective for long-term weight loss
  • Nutrition and exercise are just two pieces to the puzzle when it comes to health; sleep, stress, motivation, and mindfulness are just as important.
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Write a response


28 November, 2021

Can you get the bar from nhs on pre


7 December, 2021

Hi Maxine,

Thanks for your comment!

Apologies, we’re not quite following – could you detail your question so we can better help? 🙂

Madalynn lightfoot

30 August, 2021

How do I get hold of this?


6 September, 2021

Hi Madalynn,

To signup for the Second Nature programme, you can click here to take our health quiz.

If you have any questions, please email 🙂

Maxine Gregory

17 July, 2021

I am dietbeatic 2 and just what to know about if you do the optifast shakes


13 June, 2021

I am having trouble with my liver and it currently under investigation. I would like to look at your shake and soup diet thank you

Ann Brearley

1 June, 2021

I am on antidepressants and have a under active thyroid and find it very difficult to lose weight Thany you


1 June, 2021

I desperately need to loose weight as I’m waiting to have a hip operation and can only have it if I loose weight. Can you help me please

thelma needle

1 June, 2021

please send me your free plan for the soup and shake diet.


1 May, 2021

I am on Oviva NHS plan diabetic plan to loose weight.?
I am very interested where I can purchase
Some of your products as a partly meal replacement.?I think it would be better than slim fast products .


9 March, 2021

I’d really love to try this I’m 38years old from Scotland I have fatty liver and was diagnosed last year with under active thyroid I cannot seem to shift the weight no matter what I do I’m 23st 7

Amy Groome

19 April, 2021

Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your interest the Second Nature programme! Whilst we recognise that it may be harder to lose weight with these conditions, our guidelines are designed to help you make sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes. Through following our dietary and exercise recommendations, you’ll be supported to lose weight sustainably and improve your overall wellbeing. To find out more and to get signed up, please take our health quiz here


27 February, 2021

I’m unsure what to put re food choices as I need lower fat diet re sphincter of oddi dysfunction and gerd and hiatus hernia but have also fybromelga and high bp.Food intolerance dont include high fats .and health issues dont include gerd and hiatus hernia that’s not responding to meds ,may be due to weight.

Claire Louise Welsh

13 October, 2020

i am 45 heavy with fibromialgia and greater trochanteric pain syndrome i need to shift some weight but need help

Amy Groome

30 November, 2020

Hi Claire, thanks for your interest in the programme! Second Nature is a 12-week digital programme that helps you build healthier lifestyle habits around the way you eat, move, and think. We designed our programme to cater for people of many different abilities. To find out more about how Second Nature can help you achieve your goals, please take our health quiz here


20 September, 2020

I would like to try this

Jennifer Cairns

12 September, 2020

I am 72 disabled and weigh 16st 12lbs far too heavy playing havoc with my knees

Merrial Elliott

12 September, 2020

I’m 68 and 14st 4lbs I have arthrits in my feet, knees, hips, hand and upper back. Got back to the gym last week. My right knee is now like a balloon and agony I can barely walk and have to come down the stairs om my behind. Walking stick doesn’t really help. Hard to loose weight when I can now barely move.😢


20 May, 2021

I am 71 year old woman. Have under active thyroid high blood pressure pre diabetic and just recently found out that renal GRD factor is 53. I weigh 73 kilos. Would this diet suit me

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