My thoughts on complete foods in general

I think Huel is probably the best complete food on the market so far. But recently I’ve become sceptical of the whole concept.

Eating a healthy balanced diet is difficult. But there don’t seem that many benefits over a semi-healthy diet and a cheap multivitamin and mineral supplement (MVM). With the exceptions of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chloride, sodium and potassium, which I can also supplement a bit as needed to be sure, a MVM can provide me with 100% of all my micro-nutrients.[1] Additionally, I don’t think it’s that hard to get enough omega-3 and 6 fatty acids or protein. So a fairly healthy diet enriched with a MVM+ doesn’t seem a bad option.

Huel is ethical, healthy, modestly priced, very convenient but has downsides. Shakes make me miss chewing. Flavours can only be sweet and become sickly after a while. Okay, yes, I have heard about savoury Huel, but I doubt it’s convenient, easy, readily available or tasty. Huel becomes samey after a while. 100% Huel diets could conceivably miss a yet-unknown nutrient. Huel also has more than the upper tolerable intake of manganese if you eat 2,400kcal a day.

If a fairly healthy diet and a MVM+ is almost as healthy, almost as cheap, almost as convenient but far more exciting why should I use Huel? Few will be motivated to majorly change their lifestyle for ethical reasons. Huel isn’t as easy as spending 50p extra on free-range eggs.

At the moment the complete food market seems to be mainly nerds, particularly the programmer kinds into futurology. I’ve heard of some uptake by dieters, bodybuilders and lifestyle bloggers, the latter jumping on anything that’s novel or aspirational. But until complete foods are cheaper and tastier than regular junk food, I don’t see it going mainstream.

Is there really much point to current complete foods?


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Thanks for opening up a discussion on this. I’ve been wanting to express similar thoughts myself. Your observations are impressive. I agree with everything you said!

Something that I’ve also observed is that the complete foods thing holds a HUGE appeal to people who mostly grew up in [or as adults, currently live in] households that have practiced very unhealthy eating habits for years and years.

In my opinion, a lot of the complete food zealotry is by those who simply don’t know what healthy real food looks like.

Healthy food is an alien concept to a lot of people. To people with a less-than-ideal family mealtime history, healthy food seems like rocket science to them.

I’ve observed that the people who are not wowed by the idea of complete foods, tend to be people whose parents brought them up from birth eating healthy nutritious normal food.

People in that demographic grow up learning enough about real food, that putting together affordable, nutritious real food comes second nature to them, because they’ve been eating healthily all their lives.

People for whom the complete foods ideal is as good as a religion, MRPs are the healthiest thing that they can think of, because it is the healthiest thing they’ve ever come across in their entire lives.

People to whom complete food MRPs are less-than ideal meal choices on the other hand, tend to be people who have a long history of eating healthy, completely nutritious normal food. They are aware of other options that simply not on the radar of your “complete food nerds”.

One of the major selling points of complete foods, is that putting together a perfectly nutritious meal takes too much time and effort [the rocket science principle again]. But anybody of average aptitude, who grew up in a household where perfectly nutritious meals were an everyday occurence, could put together a completely nutritious meal relatively quickly.

What boggles my mind is, the kind of stuff the complete food nerds are spending their time-savings on. More gaming! More time to watch TV! More time to FaceBook! Real profound, earth-shattering, humanity-advancing stuff right?

I’m glad you bring that up, because that is a particular bugbear of mine for professional reasons.

And here’s why. In software engineering, there is a best practice known as “Work Smarter, Not Harder”.

The Rob Rhinhart-type programmers are renown for being so time-poor that they need to spend every single God-given second of an 8-, 10-, or 12-hour day, feverishly banging out code. They’re only prepared to “sacrifice” 10 minutes a day to come up for air to sip on their MRP shake.

I’m speaking from experience as a programmer here. Spending 99% of an 8-hour workday, at your desk typing program code, is a classic picture of a programmer who is working Harder, not Smarter. That is the definition of an inexperienced software engineer.

Non-stop coding is not smart under any software development methodology that I’m aware of. Such an approach has been proven to be not only an inefficient use of time, it has also been proven that the number of programming defects introduced by the inefficient programmer, increases, as the duration of the non-stop hackathon increases.

A software engineer with such piss-poor time-management skills that they can only spare 10 minutes for a nutritious meal, is a red flag that they are more than likely struggling at their job.

I tried eating a massive variety of vegetables and lean beef, all cooked together in a big pot, portioned off and frozen, so I only had to bother with cooking once every 10 days or so. For breakfast every day I had muesli with a variety of nuts thrown in too and a small handful of dates. You would have thought that was adequate nutrition, but because I only eat twice a day and my portions are small, I got malnutrition, especially vit D deficiency (among others). I was shocked, as you can understand. So I started to add vitamin tablets, expensive good ones, and a strong calcium vit D huge tablet twice daily, which was very expensive. Nothing worked.

Then I discovered Huel. Miracle! I have been in peak health ever since. I can’t explain it, I’m just reporting on the facts. Huel feeds me so well that I am not deficient in anything at all, my bloods are normal and all my symptoms have gone. I still only eat twice a day, sometimes Huel only both meals, but more often I have Huel for breakfast only and anything handy for dinner, healthy or not. So I’m having 3 or 4 scoops of Huel most days and 6 or 8 scoops on the occasion, and even though that is supposed to be far less than I should have in terms of nutrients (we supposed to have 2000 calories worth of Huel, not 600), Huel is in any case keeping me in peak health.


Maybe spell out the concept? I’m not sure what the concept is so I’m not sure if I should be skeptical. If the concept is eating complete food 100%, 24/7 then, absolutely, count me in as a skeptic. But I haven’t seen that written down anywhere. You will absolutely find people using Huel in that way. I would categorise my use as meal replacement rather than diet replacement. I have it for breakfast.

Just going to chirp back at you there. I grew up in a household where nutrition was everything. Every night after school there’d be a hot meal at the table with the whole kit and caboodle - Veg, protein, perhaps a bit of fruit for pudding. I grew up with so much exotic cooking and healthy meals that they were simply the norm to me, to be honest, they still are.

When people waffle on to me about how they have no time to cook a meal on an evening because they have to look after their kids or whatever I look back in amazement - It’s funny how both of my parents managed with full time jobs! But hey ho, I digress. What I’m saying is, your assumption that people who support whole ready foods such as Huel are nutritionally inept or perhaps lack cooking knowledge is a bit condescending to many.

There are a lot of people here who use Huel for other reasons, not for laziness. I use Huel for the purpose of bodybuilding and adding a complete nutritional profile. Sure, at work I have my brocolli, chicken, rice, curry etc for my lunch, but I also have to top up my calories with Huel or I struggle to hit the target during bulk season. Hitting 3500 calories with solid foods alone can be quite a chore.

I agree with what you’re saying when it comes to some people being lazy. I mean yeah, it’s terrible that people would prefer to whip up a Huel than cook a proper dinner so that they get extra time on social media or whatever, but spare a thought for us folk who get home at 17:30, hit the gym at 18:00 and arrive home at 20:30 absolutely knackered and go on to do the housework etc.

Not all Huel users are lazy slobs!


For me, the monotony of Huel is not a bug but a feature. I want to not think about food for most of the day. Drinking Huel on the bus for breakfast saves me valuable time in the morning. I work out during lunch hour so having a shake at my desk is ideal. For dinner I have a regular meal with the family. I look forward to my shakes, but at the same time I appreciate cooked food even more.

It’s been three months now. I suppose I might get tired of it further on, but so far it’s been a boon.

I would assume that most people consuming Huel would be more like me, where we simply use Huel as a drop in replacement for junk food. Since I always have Huel on hand, I never have any reason to eat junk.


Maybe spell out the concept?

Instead of eating Huel, why not take a MVM+ and make a fairly healthy, more enjoyable sandwich?

If you remove what a multivitamin and mineral supplement provides, Huel doesn’t really provide anything special.

As with all things, there are lots of different reasons people get interested in this kind of concept.

Me, I love food. I cook a lot, and I’m firmly of the opinion that food is a vital part of our social and emotional landscapes. I hate the idea that it’s simply fuel, and I’m known in my circle of friends for being a good cook and a bit of a ‘feeder’. I work from home, I’m not time-starved and I take a multivitamin every morning with no trouble (there’s another pill I take every morning, so I just put the vitamin in my pill organiser with that one).

But in 2015 I set out to lose 100lbs. I actually lost 75lbs, then stalled and have recently noticed a few pounds creeping back on. I also have periodic trouble with comfort eating and binge eating that has recently resurfaced alongside my depression, and as a mostly-recovered bulimic I find that periods of such lead to relapses sometimes.

I’ve recently moved from vegetarian to vegan, meaning that “just grabbing dinner” when out and about is a lot harder than it used to be. On top of all that my partner is a picky eater and a big fan of meat, meaning that fitting our respective culinary desires in with each other can be a pain.

I’m hoping that Huel will help me lose the remaining weight, stop binge eating and not need to stress about how to eat vegan when I’m not at home. It’s also a great choice for those days when an appointment or other engagement runs over a mealtime, making it tricky to know when to eat.


I new to huel but the reason I decided to use it is because it easy, convenient and accurate. While I appreciate the social side of eating and the enjoyment you can gain from it you have to realise that the majority of our meals are not social, and they don’t need to provide great joy from them. As the name is created; Human Fuel is exactly what nutrients and foods are. They are simply to ensure you have enough of everything to go about your day and hopefully live a healthy life.

I will add that I’m a developer and Analyst which is why Huel probably attracts me more than others, but I’m capable of adding up ingredients and working out my macros. I only cook in the evenings (used to meal prep for the next day as well as dinner), I eat alone for breakfast or at my desk, the same for lunch. So using Huel for those two meals and then occasionally eating dinner with my partner (if she’s back from work) is fine for me. I will always engage in social situations, but the desire to create and occasion from nothing just so I can grab a curry with the boys has already left my mind.

There is no one correct answer, there is no perfect solution to any elements of life. But there is the choice; which is exactly why Huel and other complete foods do deserve their place in the market and why they are helping so many people manage this part of their life.

If you don’t like the Huel then don’t use it. Some life decisions are that simple.


You sir, hit the nail on the head! no likey no drinky lol!
Conveniance, accuracy, and people seem to forget to mention the overall feeling of wellbeing…which a sandwich and a multivitamin would never give me.

We all have our reasons for using it, I know from when I made the effort to work out a varied clean diet that it takes a surprising amount of healthy food to hit macros and calorie goals.
The fact is for me I can blitz up a couple of huels and clean up within max 10 mins with all my added extras in there and know that until dinner I don’t have to think about food, and also that I will have mental clarity and I won’t suddenly get sluggish as I am constantly sipping throughout the day.

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That isn’t ‘the concept’. That is your reason the concept isn’t needed. You’re skeptical about the concept. What is the concept that you are skeptical about?

The concept I’m sceptical about is that complete foods serve a legitimate purpose outside of some niches. Multivitamin and mineral supplements and good nutritional understanding make Huel largely pointless for most people.

My last input on this because it really is each to their own, but surely spreading your vitamin intake across the day as opposed to all in one go is more effective? Different vitamins and minerals are used for different reasons by the body so they do not all need topping up in the morning


So what interested you in Huel in the first place and what changed?

@Monkeydave Doubt that matters much.

@AllAboutTheVeg I didn’t know much about nutrition. I’ve learned a lot thanks to complete foods.

That’s great. Seems like you’ve made a really positive change. I think that is a benefit of Huel - it can be a way to break bad habits or just make a healthy diet change. I think there are quite a few people who would benefit from the same kind of thing.

Timing matters hugely. The body can’t absorb, for example, large doses (>500mg) of calcium in one go, so taking a day’s worth at once wastes most of the supplement. This is true of a number of other vitamins and minerals too, though certainly not all.


Multivitamin and mineral supplements don’t provide much calcium, magnesium, etc anyway. B12 is limited to 1.5-2mcg per meal (except with very large doses).[1] Is there anything else that is significantly limited?


I use Huel because I commute on the train every day and try to avoid gluten (not been diagnosed coeliac but definite issue with bread etc). It’s amazing how hard it is to find something suitable in the middle of a city centre!

The cost of pre-prepared GF lunches was too much and I was buying lots of Chicken breast. After seeing Cowspiracy I decided to cut back on meat.

I have one or two 100g shakes a day for my lunch and afternoon snack/meal. I know for a fact that this shake will be healthier than most other options I could go for.

I definitely agree with the chewing comment, that’s why I like the shake to be lumpy/thick, so that its a bit more satisfying. Some days its a struggle to have just Huel for lunch though. I like my food and I like enjoying a nice meal. I don’t think I could ever go 100% huel for that reason.