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What is Huel and are meal replacement products healthy?

Huel has emerged as one of the most popular and respected meal replacement brands for its focus on cost, convenience and sustainability. But do shakes, bars and powders really offer a viable, or even superior, to real foods when you’re too busy or stressed to cook or eat?

In today’s hectic world prioritising your health and wellbeing is a near-constant battle of juggling time, money and effort to make the best dietary decisions to lead the fittest, healthiest and happiest life possible. All too often the first thing to slip at the first sign of a stressful day is your decision-making ability around what to eat and when. Sure, we all start the day with the best intention to lunch on a nutrient-rich salad packed with a wide variety of veg and protein.

But a frantic start to the day trying to wrestle the kids out the door meant you ran out of time to make the lunch you really wanted. Or maybe a morning meeting overran, giving you five minutes to grab something to eat before the next one begins.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It’s why Greencore, the UK’s largest maker of pre-packaged sandwiches, supplying almost all major supermarkets and convenience stores, sells a barely-believeable 700 million sarnies in the country every year.

Yet a supermarket meal deal with sandwich, crisps and a Coke is not the lunch you know you should be having, or even the one you want to eat, if you care about improving your health and fitness.

And that’s where rapidly-growing companies such as AG1, Nocco drinks, Huel, Bulk Powders and Applied Nutrition hope to change your life as a quick, tasty and convenient option for busy or active people seeking balanced nutrition on the go during the non-stop hustle of daily life.

The meal replacement revolution

Huel, which started life as a meal replacement powder and has since expanded into ready-to-drink bottles, bars and more recently savoury dishes that can be heated for lunch or dinner, is marketed on three key pillars – convenience, nutritional balance, and sustainability – and is aimed a wide range of consumers, from busy professionals to fitness fans.

But can meal replacement powders, drinks and bars like Huel really be equal or even superior subtitles for real food and drink? Here’s everything you need to know about Huel and its ranges of products to make the most informed decision top optimise your health and performance.

Huel’s popularity has soared thanks to the convenience and nutritional profile of its meal-replacement products and through relationships with respected fitness influencers, such as endurance athlete William Goodge (above)

What is Huel?

Huel is a brand of meal replacement products designed to provide all the essential nutrients required for a healthy diet. The brand name is a portmanteau of “Human Fuel” and Huel is available in various forms, including powders, ready-to-drink shakes and bars. Each product is designed to offer a balanced macronutrient profile with a high protein content, low sugar levels, and a blend of fibre, alongside 26 essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health.

What Huel products are there?

Huel offers a variety of products for different dietary preferences and needs. The range includes Huel Powder, which can be mixed with water to create a shake; Huel Ready-to-drink, found in chiller cabinets for convenience on the go; Huel Bars, for a solid meal replacement or snack option; and Huel Hot & Savoury, which includes rice, quinoa, and vegetables for those who prefer a warm meal. Each product line is designed to deliver complete nutrition and comes in various flavours.

Is Huel vegan?

All Huel products are vegan, making them suitable for those on a plant-based diet, and are designed to support sustained energy release and overall health. They are formulated with a blend of pea protein, flaxseed, brown rice protein, sunflower and coconut for a balanced macro and micronutrient profile. They are high in protein and fibre, low in sugar, and contain a mix of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, iron, and calcium.

Huel’s ready-to-drink range comes in three flavours, chocolate, vanilla and banana, and provides 20g of protein and 400 calories in a 500ml serving

What’s in Huel products?

Each product has a different nutrient profile but Huel its entire product range offers balanced nutrition without any animal-derived products.

As an example, here’s what’s in a 500ml bottle of Huel’s ready-to-drink chocolate flavoured shake that the company claims is carefully formulated to offer a balance meal replacement. You can find nutritional information for all Huel products on its website.

Calories and Macronutrients
Each bottle contains approximately 400 calories. This makes it an adequate meal replacement that can fit into a variety of dietary requirements, whether you’re looking to maintain, lose, or gain weight in a controlled manner.

Protein: 20g
The protein in Huel comes from peas and rice, providing all essential amino acids and making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Carbohydrates: 45g
Carbohydrates in Huel are derived from oats and tapioca, which are sources of slow-releasing energy that helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Fats: 19g
The fat content includes a balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (including essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), and a low level of saturated fats.

Vitamins and Minerals
Huel Ready To Drink provides at least 20% of the Reference Intake (RI) for all essential vitamins and minerals. This includes vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and all B vitamins (including B6 and B12, which are crucial for energy metabolism and neurological health); and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium, which are vital for bone health, muscle function, oxygen transport, immune system function, and overall cellular health.

Other Nutrients
There’s approximately 5g per bottle, aiding in digestion and providing a feeling of fullness, and phytonutrients from plant-based ingredients, contributing to antioxidant properties and overall health benefits.

Is Huel healthy?

Huel is designed to be as healthy as a meal replacement can be and the company claims every product is formulated based on the latest scientific research to ensure that it meets daily nutritional requirements. However, while Huel can complement a healthy diet, it’s generally recommended that it be used in conjunction with whole foods to ensure a varied intake of natural nutrients. As always, and with any form of meal replacement product or dietary supplement, moderation is key.

Is Huel tasty?

As with all foods and drinks, or anything you put in your mouth for that matter, personal preference is everything and what is one person’s yum is another one’s yuck. The chocolate and vanilla ready-to-drink shakes are pretty good, in my humble opinion, although I’d always choose to have them chilled rather than room temperature. Some users have mentioned finding the texture a bit gritty or the flavours bland and lacking depth, but that’s not been my experience.

The powders, like all forms of powdered product, are better mixed with milk or added to smoothies than just with water. If just mixing with water make sure it’s ice cold or add ice cubes, because the colder the better.

Huel is the brainchild of co-founder Julian Hearn who wanted to create a convenient, affordable and nutritionally complete food option that would make health eating easier

Is Huel made for people like me?

Huel is made for anyone looking for an easy, quick, nutritionally complete meal. It’s marketed towards busy professionals, athletes, and those with dietary restrictions who might find it challenging to prepare balanced meals consistently. So it can offer practical solution for maintaining a nutritious diet without extensive meal preparation time if you’re often short of time or have more pressing priorities than cooking and eating.

How much does Huel cost?

The cost depends on the product, the quantity and where you buy from. Powder direct from the Huel website starts at around £45 for two bags, with each bag providing 17 meals or drinks, depending on your terminology. This places the cost per meal at approximately £1.33, making it a cost-effective option compared to many prepared meals or eating out.

Bottles of the ready-to-drink product are cheapest bought in bulk direct from Huel or retailers such as Amazon, because the cost per bottle on the high street can be north of £3.50.

What are Huel’s environmental credentials?

The company prides itself on its environmental credentials, emphasising sustainable sourcing and production practices. The products are vegan, reducing the environmental impact associated with animal farming. Packaging is minimal and recyclable where possible, and the company actively works to reduce its carbon footprint across its supply chain, making Huel an appealing option for environmentally conscious consumers.

Who invented Huel?

Huel was invented in 2015 by Julian Hearn who wanted to create a convenient, affordable and nutritionally complete food option that would simplify healthy eating. His background in nutrition and marketing helped him develop Huel as a brand that aligns with the needs of those seeking quick yet nutritious meal solutions. Huel has grown rapidly since and significantly expanded its product range, reflecting its popularity and the growing demand for meal replacement products.

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