Are you getting tired of having to choose between eating out or spending time and energy cooking your own food?
On the one hand, you could save yourself time and energy while enjoying the luxury of a professionally cooked meal. The only downside is you’re going to take a hit to your wallet and you might not be getting the healthiest option out there.
On the other hand, you could save yourself some cash by cooking your own meal. The only problem is you’re not sure what to make, you might not have the ingredients at home, and you might not have enough time to fit shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning into your schedule with all the other stuff you need to take care of.
This dilemma is where Huel steps in. Huel is a complete meal that you can get ready simply by mixing a couple scoops of powder with water. Apparently, it’s pretty popular with over 100+ million meals sold to 100+ countries around the world.
But does Huel live up to all the hype? Is this all just due to clever marketing? In this post, I hope to give you my honest perspective about that as someone who’s been drinking Huel for about half a year.
Here’s a summary of what I think: Overall, Huel is a fantastic way to save time and money on meals that you need just to get yourself through the day. While the experience of drinking Huel could be better, I don’t regret buying my first bags of Huel and I plan to stay a customer for the long run. My overall recommendation for those who are at least somewhat interested is to buy a few bags just to try it out.
Order through my link and get $15 off your first purchase. It also comes with a free shirt and shaker.
Update 2021: Since writing this article, they’ve come out with Huel V3. Most of the points in this article are still valid and I’m still drinking Huel since I wrote this in Oct 2020. The only updates I might say are that Huel powder seems smoother, doesn’t form as many chunks, and has several additional flavors compared to V2 (what I based this review on).
What is Huel?
If you’ve heard of Soylent, Huel (Human + Fuel) is basically Soylent, but with a little bit more protein and fibre and less fat and sugar. If you don’t know what Soylent is, it’s basically a powder that you mix with water to get a complete meal.
Compared to Soylent, Huel doesn’t have soy, but has MCT (medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat that helps you lose weight and gives you energy). If you’re curious, Huel did a comparison of Huel vs. Soylent on their site.
There’s also a few other meal replacement products out there including Owyn, Ample V, Ambronite, Plenny Shake, Lean Body, Sated Keto, Superbodyfuel, Orgain, and more. I haven’t looked into all of them, but you can also check those out as well if you’re interested in alternative meal replacements.
Huel is made from sustainable, vegan ingredients including oats, peas, rice, flaxseed, coconut, sunflower, and some other supplements. It’s formula was designed and approved by a series of registered nutritionists and dietitian experts. The focus is on generating minimal waste, optimizing for nutrition, and leaving a minimal carbon footprint.
Huel was founded in 2015 with a mission:
To make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment.Julian Hearn – Huel Founder and Chief Marketing Officer
Featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Insider, Time, and CNBC, Huel is valued at over $300 million with revenues upward of $72 million per year, selling 100+ million meals to customers in 100+ countries around the world.
For us Americans, yes it is a “meal replacement” (in the sense that you can use it to replace your meals). It’s a complete meal that comes in the form of a powder. You can mix this powder with water to get a shake you can drink for a complete breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It’s designed for people on the go who don’t have time to cook their own meal but want to get something cheaper and healthier than fast food.
The Huel website says it’s not a meal replacement, but I think that’s just a term for the UK folks to classify food under 300 calories. If you live in the UK, then no, Huel is not a meal replacement.
Huel’s website has a few different meal products you can browse. Some of them are powders, one is basically an instant-meal, and others are ready-to-eat or ready-to-drink snacks/meals. Their food products include:
- Huel Hot and Savory: a plant-based meal made from rice, quinoa, vegetables, herbs, and spices. All you have to do is add boiling water or heat it up with water in the microwave and it’s ready to eat. It comes in two flavors, but they are looking to add more: Tomato & Herb and Thai Green Curry.
- Huel Powder: The original Huel powder product made from sustainable, plant-based ingredients. Just mix it with water and it’s ready to drink. It comes in three flavors: Vanilla, Berry, and Unflavored.
- Huel Black Edition: Similar to Huel Powder, but with more protein and less carbs. It comes in four flavors: Vanilla, Coffee Caramel, Chocolate, and Unflavored.
- Huel Ready-to-drink: A complete meal stored in a bottle. No prep needed, just start drinking it. It comes in three flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, and Berry.
- Huel Bar: A nutritionally complete snack. Each bar is 200 calories and can come in one of six flavors: Raspberry & White Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee Caramel, and Chocolate Orange.
My experience has only been with the original Huel powder and will be the focus of the rest of this review, although I may look to try their other products in the future.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into all the pros and cons.
The convenience is the number one reason I love drinking Huel. The convenience is such a huge plus that just this alone outweighs all the cons in my eyes. Everything from getting water, pouring the scoops, shaking, drinking, and cleaning takes roughly 10-20 minutes. That’s faster than it takes me just to eat my usual $1 bean and lentil meals.
If you love convenience, hate cooking, or lost all your motivation for self-care to crippling depression, Huel is an amazing option to save money from getting delivery/takeout and eating something that’s actually good for you.
All you have to do is take two scoops, some water, some vigorous shaking, and you’re good to go. It takes just a couple of minutes, but I personally prefer refrigerating overnight to make my Huel shake a little more smooth and to get a cool, refreshing drink.
The cleanup is super easy as well. In my experience, a thorough rinse is all you need to get 95% cleanliness, which for me is good enough to reuse the bottle for my next Huel meal. If you’re making multiple Huel shakes a day, you could probably get away with just loading in your next Huel meals right away without washing the bottle.
Just one warning: make sure you cleanup soon after you’re done. I haven’t experienced this, but from what I’ve read on different forums, not cleaning up the bottle soon can lead to a hard, smelly crust that’s difficult to clean out.
Another plus on the convenience side: it has a super long shelf life of 12 months. That’s plenty of time to get through their huge bulk orders of 270 meals before they start going bad.
Pro: Low Cost
They say it costs $1.51 per meal, but that’s if you buy in bulk (a $410 commitment to going all in with Huel for the next half year at least) and count 400 calories as a meal. I take 3 scoops per meal to get 600 calories, which ends up costing me $2.27 per meal. That’s not bad, especially if you’re considering the extra plus of convenience and time savings.
I personally chose to try it out first with an order of just a couple of bags. If you just want to try it out or can only afford small payments per order, that’s going to be about $1.91 per 400 calorie meal (not including the $15 discount you would get ordering through my link).
Compared to the average cost of $3-4 per home-cooked meal, drinking Huel is a great way to cut your spending on food (especially when compared to eating out).
However, if you’re already someone who’s extremely frugal with their meals or a college student who lives off of instant ramen, Huel might bring your meal expenses up by about a dollar. Even then, you would still be getting a great bang for your buck considering the nutritional benefits. Essentially, you would be paying just a few cents per meal to get the extra convenience with additional nutritional value.
Pro: Health & Nutrition
If you’re wondering if this is healthy or not, that’s a whole other set of articles that are out of the scope of this review. I’m not sure I’m even qualified to talk about this. You could probably find many dietitian and/or nutritionist’s reviews on Huel with a quick Google search.
But here’s a short summary of my thoughts on this: I was a little reluctant to try out a man-made powder as a meal replacement (aside from my protein powder). So I did some research, checked dietitian reviews, snooped around for any critic’s reviews, and didn’t find anything seriously wrong with the health/nutrition aspects.
The only caution I can think of is that there haven’t been any long term studies that have evaluated whether this will have long term consequences to your health. In light of this, I’ve seen some dieticians recommend limiting your intake to just on occasion or just as an alternative to eating something unhealthy.
The Huel website has all sorts of info you can read on the health and nutrition side of things. They’ve even done a study where they had people live off of Huel only for a month and didn’t find any negative side effects or any weird signs in their blood tests.
Long story short, you won’t die or get seriously sick if you try it. Although I did experience slight stomach agitation (nothing painful, not quite a stomach ache), some gas, and slight heartburn for a few days while drinking a bottle of Huel for lunch each day. Apparently that’s a pretty common experience.
Some of that could be due to the high levels of fibre that my body hasn’t adjusted to yet. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve experienced worse eating some sketchy tacos in San Diego.
So far, after about 5 months of drinking Huel about 5-7 times per week for lunch, I haven’t experienced any weird side effects or felt anything was “off”. If anything, I feel as good as I’ve ever been health-wise.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being my healthy, in-shape “normal” state prior to drinking Huel), I would mark myself at a solid 10. Maybe a 10.5. Although, I haven’t had any blood tests or been examined by a medical professional since starting Huel to validate my experience.
One thing to note: I didn’t feel like my health was taken to the next level after starting to drink Huel. Health-wise, I felt pretty much the same as before. But, I imagine that this would be a lot different for someone who’s only eaten trash their whole life and suddenly made a major switch to drinking Huel. In that case, I could see someone feeling like their body’s been resurrected from the dead.
Con: The Drinking Experience
In my honest opinion, the experience of drinking a Huel shake takes some getting used to (to put it nicely). If you’ve done some Googling about this, you’ve probably seen similar comments in other reviews. I can’t imagine anyone would be actually looking forward to drinking a Huel shake like they would for drinking boba, soda, or a smoothie once the novelty factor wore off.
I wasn’t a fan of the vanilla flavor, but apparently it’s their most popular choice. I found that if I just put 3 scoops of one of their flavors (vanilla, berry, or unflavored), the flavors (which I don’t quite like to begin with) were a bit too strong for my liking.
Drinking 3 scoops of unflavored Huel was even less enjoyable, but drinking a 2:1 ratio of berry or vanilla to unflavored was just right to dull the flavor just enough for my liking. I also like to cool it overnight in my minifridge to dull the flavors even more. At this point, the flavors are so muted that it’s possible to make myself imagine that I’m drinking a meh smoothie.
My 2:1 berry to unflavored ratio kind of tastes like a smoothie, but with the texture of oatmeal. There’s also chunks that you can’t completely get rid of despite using a protein blender and some serious shaking.
It’s also important to get the ratio of Huel to water just right. The size of the free shaker they give you is a little too small to get the smooth texture I’m aiming for with a 3 scoop meal. Not enough water and your Huel will become this unappetizing goop rather than a smoothie-like drink.
Overall, I wouldn’t call this a pleasant experience (like drinking a smoothie or eating ice cream), but it wasn’t like I had to push myself or do any sort of mental gymnastics to get myself to drink this stuff. It’s more like I can tolerate drinking Huel for the convenience it gives me.
Con: The Huel Shaker
I didn’t really like the shaker they give you that comes with your first order. I found that the cap for the lid is basically a small catapult that will launch a dab of Huel straight onto your favorite shirt. The way it’s designed, you basically have to pull the cap out of the way to drink from the shaker, but every time you do, there’s a chance you could release the loaded catapult and launch a dab of Huel right on your chest.
So there’s always that tiny mental burden of keeping the catapult at bay sitting in the back of your mind. Kind of like that spider that sits in the corner of your room.
The width of the shaker also felt a little too large to get the firm grip that I’ve been accustomed to with my protein shake bottles. But if you’ve never had to shake up a protein shake, you might not even notice.
At the same time, the shaker was a little too small to fit 3 scoops of Huel in to reach my target of 600 calories. At 3 scoops, there’s just barely not enough room to add enough water to avoid creating an unappetizing goop with your Huel shake.
After dealing with a few goop-like Huel shakes, I decided to purchase a 1L bottle to replace the Huel shaker. Now I like to use the old shaker’s lid as a funnel to get the powder into my bigger 1L bottle.
I also wasn’t a fan of the extreme shaking needed to get reasonable smoothness in my shakes. Even after some vigorous shaking, there were still big chunks of powder in my drink and clumps of powder stuck to the cap. In the beginning, I could feel like my brain was bouncing around in my skull from all that shaking. Maybe that was just from bad shaking form. These days, I don’t experience that anymore.
Who is Huel Good For?
I’m going to be honest, Huel isn’t for everyone. There’s definitely a certain subset of people that I could see becoming Huel customers. I don’t want to manipulate you or “sell” you on Huel if I think you would regret your purchase.
It’s primarily for people who value convenience over experience. If you’re someone who just wants to get breakfast, lunch, or dinner out of the way so you can get on with the more important things in life, then Huel would be a good fit for you.
It’s also for people who value cost savings over experience. If you’re someone who gets a lot of takeout or is spending over $150 a month on groceries just for yourself, Huel is an easy way you can cut down on your expenses without compromising your health.
It’s also for people who value their health and want to eat something better than takeout everyday. If you want to eat healthy, but don’t have the patience to do all the research necessary to optimize your meals for nutrition, then Huel is a great option for you. It’s most definitely better than getting fast food or microwaving an instant meal.
It’s not for foodies or anyone who cares a lot about enjoying their meals. I’m going to be honest here, drinking Huel is nowhere near restaurant-level quality when it comes to taste or enjoyment. If your sole purpose in life is to enjoy the pleasures of eating good food, then you are probably not going to have a good time drinking Huel. That is, unless you think you can consistently handle getting through Huel to free up your schedule or save money.
It’s not for people who are totally broke or are hyper frugal. If you’re someone who only has one or two digits in their bank account, this is not for you. If you’re someone that’s obsessed with scraping together every last penny, this is not for you. At $1.51 per meal with Huel, I think you could find cheaper alternatives with very frugal home cooked meals or instant ramen. You can check out my $1 meal plan for more info about that.
While the experience of drinking Huel isn’t the greatest, that’s easily outmatched by the extreme convenience and low cost per meal in my opinion. Compared to eating out, Huel is much less expensive and takes up even less time than getting takeout. Compared to cooking at home, Huel saves you so much time on shopping, meal prep, and cleanup while still keeping costs low.
Try Huel out for yourself through my link to get $15 off your first order. While it might “cost” you some money upfront, that’s going to be offset by replacing money you would have spent on future meals. In reality, it might not “cost” you anything to try (unless it’s so unbearable that you throw out all your Huel). You might even end up saving some money by incorporating Huel into your meal plan.
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