I think personal experience is a really important and valuable indicator in regards to this.
My diet has varied massively over the last 15 years and so I know how various diets affect me personally.
-For 4 years I had a super clean, healthy, whole food diet that consisted of only home made Dahl, organic brown rice, quinoa, fresh organic steamed vegetables and eggs, and healthy oils ie coconut, olive, hemp, avocado. No dairy, no meat, no wheat or gluten, no sugar, no processed or tinned food, no alcohol. I also supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
I felt AMAZING - physically, mentally, emotionally. Only downside was if I deviated from this diet, the difference was so noticeable that it really put me off ever having a social meal out or at someone’s house. It really limited my options when out and meant I had to take my own food everywhere I went and always be prepared.
-Prior to this super healthy wholefood diet I ate whatever I felt like and noticed that if I ate processed food: tinned, ready meals, takeaways, bakery, frozen food (other than frozen whole food or veg), processed meat etc, I would feel terrible. Headaches, lethargy, fatigue, poor concentration, joint pain, emotional mood swings, to name just a few really debilitating symptoms.
-Now my diet consists of a combination of healthy whole food (vegetables, fruit, eggs, very occasional organic high welfare unprocessed meat or fish, beans, pulses, rice, quinoa, corn etc), some minimally processed food (e.g tinned beans, pulses, tomatoes, frozen veg, plant milks), and Huel.
I feel almost as good as I did on my purely whole food diet, but with the advantage that my lifestyle doesn’t seem so restrictive anymore and I don’t have to spend all my free time cooking and freezing my dinners for the week, and don’t have to be so prepared when I go out (I now can grab a huel or a huel bar and stick it in my bag).
So… although I personally would consider Huel ‘processed’, it is at least minimally processed in my opinion, and it does consist of whole food and doesn’t have added salt, sugar, msg, and preservatives which is what makes most processed foods unhealthy. Plus, most processed food has been so processed it has very little nutritional value, but Huel is the opposite and actually has very high nutrition for it’s calorie content.
Also, from personal experience, Huel is very satiating and I don’t feel the need to over-eat (either in terms of extra huel or other food).
Meal replacement drinks or protein shakes have the same effect on me as eating ready-meals or processed foods.
Huel seems to have the same effect on me as whole foods.
Proof is in the pudding I guess