How often do you throw food away? From not finishing the food on your plate to throwing out food that’s gone bad, if you waste more than you’d like, you’re not alone.
Around 1.3 billion tons of food produced in the world for human consumption ends up thrown away. According to the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this food waste does more than just throw money away — it also needlessly produces greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
If you’d like to cut down on your food waste while also eating healthier, a company called Huel has developed a meal replacement powder designed to do just that. Not only is Huel vegan and environmentally friendly, but it’s also convenient, balanced and nutritionally complete. While it’s high in protein and fiber, it’s low in sugar and provides at least 100 percent of the FDA’s Daily Values of all 27 essential vitamins and minerals.
Made from oats, peas, rice, flaxseed, sunflower and coconut, all you do is add the powder to water and Huel becomes a complete meal, containing all the proteins, carbs and fats you need.
One serving of Huel, or three scoops, is 500 calories and costs around $2.36 cents — not including water or anything you add to the drink, like milk or fruit if you want to make a smoothie instead. To get a sense for how this might compare to your usual food intake, 1 scoop of Huel is around the same amount of calories as a small bag of chips, two scoops is equal to a candy bar and three scoops can be loosely compared to a sandwich.
As an everyday vegetarian and most days vegan, I am 100 percent on board with anything that gives me the nutrition I need while not harming animals or the environment. So when Huel offered a taste test, I was more than willing to give it a shot!
I chose the plain powder instead of vanilla, as I wanted to experiment with different flavors, and I picked cappuccino as a flavor boost because, well, cappuccino. I made two different drinks on two different days.
Taste Test #1
First, I followed the suggestion of water, Huel powder, flavor boost and ice. It was incredibly easy to make — you literally just put the ingredients in the Huel cup and shake it up! The entire process took less than a minute.
The taste is hard to describe and definitely not like anything I’ve had before, but “nutty” and “oat-like” come to mind. Without the flavor boost, the plain Huel likely would not have had a ton of flavor, but with the added flavor, it was easy to drink. I won’t go so far as to say it was delicious, but this is a meal alternative powder that’s loaded with vitamins and minerals — not a cupcake — so I was actually expecting even less flavor. Also interesting to me — there was no chalky aftertaste like most other powders I’ve tried. It was completely smooth when shaken.
Taste Test #2
Because I wasn’t blown away by the flavor, I decided to go another route and blend it into a smoothie. I did three scoops of Huel, some almond milk, ice and frozen blueberries and strawberries. This time — delicious. Again, not at all chalky and the added thickness definitely helped, as I didn’t feel like I was just drinking flavored water. It seemed more like breakfast, which I think helped me think of it more as a meal replacement instead of a drink.
While I’ve not yet tried Huel for anything other than a drink, it can also be used in place of flour, so you can add it to baked goods for an added nutrition boost! Three scoops of Huel is equal to one cup, so it would be easy to use in pancakes, bread, muffins, desserts and more. You can also use it for dairy-free ice cream — which I will be doing ASAP.
My conclusion? This is an amazing idea for vegans, or for anyone who worries about the environment. It could even be a good option for busy people, travelers, campers or anyone who just wants to eat healthier. Because of its year-long shelf life, it would also be handy to have during a natural disaster or power outage. I’m already thinking of a ton of uses for it, as it goes beyond the standard protein powder I usually drink.
Two bags of Huel, which is 28 meals, is $66, not including any flavor boosts you might want to add. You’ll receive a shaker and a T-shirt with your first order and can subscribe to the powder and save 10 percent. You can adjust the frequency of the deliveries and cancel anytime. There is also a gluten-free option.
OK, so this sounds good and all, but is it really a good idea to replace your meals with a powder? Sharon Akabas, associate director of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, told CNN that for the average, healthy adult, meal replacement bars and shakes seem to be beneficial only when you’re using them to replace an unhealthy food item in your diet.
“The question is, what would the person do if they didn’t eat the bar or drink the shake? Would they go to a fast food place and have a burger, fries and sweet beverage instead of the shake? In that case, any health specialist would say, go for the shake,” Akabas said.
Charles Mueller, clinical associate professor of nutrition at New York University, argues, however, that solid food is an important part of your daily diet because it stimulates the movement of muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
“Your gastrointestinal tract is a big muscle that likes to work out, and it likes to push and pull food, and when it doesn’t get to do that all the time on a constant basis, it’s not as healthy, just like a person who stops exercising,” he said. “There’s a place for meal replacements when people are really having trouble eating for one reason or another, but for healthy, free-living people of any age, they should be eating whole food, and they should be taking the time and the effort to do so.”
Otherwise, Mueller says, “you’re missing out on the healthy bacteria; you’re missing out on all the nutrients contained in food; you’re missing out on the dietary fiber, which are what we call prebiotics, and literally, the roughage in the diet stimulates the gastrointestinal lining,” he said. “Most meal replacements kind of don’t do much for any of that.”
Huel, however, says that because the drink is 100 percent nutritionally balanced, it can be used as your sole nutritional source. It also offers 125 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber, so you’re definitely not missing out in that department.
Most people don’t only drink Huel, however, as the company says the most popular approach is to replace weekday meals like breakfast and lunch and then sit down for a traditional dinner.
Ultimately, the choice of incorporating meal replacement shakes into your diet once a day, for every meal or not at all is up to you. If you do decide to give it a try, dietitians seem to agree that the best ones will be 100 percent nutritionally balanced, have protein, carbs and fiber and be low in sugar. You can find Huel’s full nutrition guide, as well as allergy information, on their website. Will you be giving Huel a try?