(Apologies for the long post!)
I recently found out that one of my best friends has wanted to try a complete meal replacement product ever since he heard about them years ago, but he was worried he wouldn’t like it. At the time he was a broke student living at home, so all the lents seemed too pricey in comparison, and now he just didn’t want to take the risk of paying for something only to throw it out.
I really wanted to try one too, so I decided to be our guinea pig.
I bought a bag of vanilla and a bag of unflavoured Huel, with the intention of buying more as needed if I ended up liking it. This was the plan:
Week 1: use it occasionally to get used to the taste and learn how to flavour it. Maybe have it for breakfast or when convenient.
Week 2: replace breakfast with Huel.
Week 3: replace breakfast and lunch with Huel.
Week 4: do 100% Huel for the week (I’d already booked this week off to use up my annual leave).
As soon as I told my boyfriend about the order, he got interested in trying it too.
I work a typical office job. I have an hour long lunch break which I like to spend reading, but normal meals require planning, are messy and take too much time out of my lovely reading time.
I’ve always had a fairly good vegetarian diet without any known nutritional deficiencies. I officially have IBS but since my diagnosis I’ve found that I mostly react to wheat and a few other things. I don’t react to porridge oats so Huel seemed like a good choice. (Incidentally, when I got my IBS diagnosis my sister was diagnosed with coeliac’s disease. We only decided to get medical help after we both realised that being constantly bloated and in pain wasn’t simply a normal part of being a woman!)
My boyfriend works from home and is often too involved in his daily activities to care about food. For him the option of downing a whole meal and getting good nutrition from it was ideal. He has digestive issues that are currently being investigated. The main suspicion is H. Pylori, but as he was given an endoscopy right after he finished a course of antibiotics for an unrelated issue (which also fixed his stomach problems) the result was officially negative. In any case, some foods cause him a lot of stomach pain. And his diet is pretty bad: erratic, full of sugary snacks, with plenty of ready meals. In the past, he’s been found to be near the lower limits of ‘normal’ for a few nutrients, usually iron.
Both of us are a healthy weight and aren’t bothered about losing or gaining weight, within limits.
As soon as the bags arrived, we each tried a vanilla shake made with 100g Huel and 500ml water. I thought it was palatable. Not too sweet, not too vanilla-y, not too anything really. Somewhat lumpy despite a lot of shaking. I can’t drink thick liquids without a straw and Huel wasn’t an exception. Through a straw and well chilled it was ok, but only just. My boyfriend thought it wasn’t sweet enough but he immediately learnt that he hated the taste of raw oats. I thought this would be his first and last experience with Huel, but I was very wrong.
Over the following days we realised that neither of us had bad digestive reactions to Huel. My boyfriend noticed that he had more energy sustained over the hours after drinking his Huel, free from an initial high followed by a sudden crash, like he would get from his usual bad diet. Whenever he felt hungry he’d make a thick Huel “shake” (actually blended) and drink it quickly so he could go on with his day without having to sit down to eat something unhealthy. To me it looked disgusting when made up so thick, but he loved the feeling of general wellbeing so much that he started replacing most of his meals with it.
I didn’t get any extra energy as my diet was quite good already, but I experienced no pain at all while on Huel: no gas, no loose bowels, none of the things I’d gotten used to. It was glorious. I abandoned the original plan and started having vanilla Huel with instant coffee for breakfast and work lunch straight away. I intended to cook dinner as usual, but I’d have Huel if I craved it or didn’t feel like preparing anything. I had normal food snacks if I felt like. As I haven’t been counting calories, just consuming food/Huel as needed, my weight has remained the exact same every time I’ve hopped on the scales.
Favourite ways to have Huel
We always use a mini blender to make our Huel, a Kenwood Smoothie2Go which we picked up for cheap at Tesco a couple of years ago.
My boyfriend still hates the taste of raw oats, but ever since he noticed that oats are part of lots of his usual food (Cheerios, biscuits, etc) he’s begun to perceive it as a neutral flavour instead of a bad flavour. Still, most of his flavouring choices are those that mask the oaty flavour, and he only ever uses unflavoured Huel. His favourites are:
- Banana flavour, whether in the form of blended banana, banana Flavdrops (from MyProtein), or banana flavour system. He loves those old fashioned banana sweets; banana-flavoured Huel tastes like those to him.
- Mocha flavour system.
- Cacao flavour system with added Green&Black’s cocoa powder.
He uses milk to increase the calories, and sometimes adds sugar.
- Huel (vanilla or unflavoured) with 2 tsp instant coffee and a good squeeze of toffee Flavdrops. After sitting in the fridge overnight it’s absolutely delicious and it’s my favourite breakfast.
- Unflavoured Huel made into a soup, blended with a Cup-a-Soup or half a tin of soup for flavour and warmed up in the microwave. I use 80g of Huel instead of my usual 100g to 500ml liquid, and often add a chunk of cheese, a bit of butter, tomato paste or other seasonings. I then pour it into a large soup mug and eat it with a spoon.
- An apple, vanilla Huel and toffee, either as Flavdrops or toffee flavour system.
- Blueberries or strawberries, vanilla Huel and white chocolate Flavdrops.
- The peanut butter curry from the booklet.
I tried the cacao flavour system but I had to add more cocoa powder to make it nicer, and to me it tasted like the oaty flavour (which I usually like) was a lot stronger than usual. It was palatable, but I’m not sure I’d call it tasty. I also tried mixing vanilla Huel with almond milk for my breakfast but it made it so thick I had to thin it down with water in the morning.
We bought two packs of flavour system samples, one for me and one for him. I haven’t yet tried all of them, but my boyfriend’s liked practically all of them (except custard and rhubarb, which he refuses to touch). His only complaint is that they’re not strong enough.
A random recipe
I’ve started experimenting with ways to make Huel into solid food. Today I tried making it into some sort of (American) pancakey type thing and it worked fairly well:
-1 large egg
-80g vanilla Huel
-80ml whole milk
-A pinch of baking powder
-(Optional) Flavouring. I used a strawberry flavour system sample sachet because I wanted to try it.
-Water, to thin down the batter.
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. In a cup, whisk together the milk and the egg. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in enough water to thin it down to a pancake batter consistency. Fry in butter or oil at medium temperature until it’s golden on the bottom and the top has bubbles. Flip and fry the other side until golden.
It only yields a couple of pancake thingies but it’s just as filling as a standard Huel meal. My batter was a little too thick for actual pancakes so I had to spread it on the pan with a spatula. They came out lighter than I expected, although for proper fluffiness a few tablespoons of wheat flour wouldn’t hurt.
We can’t get over how convenient Huel is despite our very different lifestyles. Or how much better we both feel when we’re our Huel. No digestive issues whatsoever, no negative side effects of any type. My boyfriend might not like the taste of (non-banana flavoured!) Huel all that much, but I actually really like it. And it frees up a surprising amount of time from not having to cook. If there are any downsides, I haven’t found them yet.