We are a generation fascinated by food. We spend hours a day growing, buying, preparing and eating, and even longer obsessing over how we’re going to do it.
Thousands in more developed countries require extra-wide plane seats and hospital beds, with their excessive consumption evident in the amount of “X’s” before the “L” in the waistband of their jeans. Others compulsively measure out their morning chia seeds ready for their weekly detox, convinced that only unprocessed, unsweetened, unbleached whole foods will fuel their bodies efficiently.
And they could well be right. But who has the time or volition to source and prepare these foods, especially when mere metres way there are always those who don’t have the means to eat enough to survive?
Our inefficiency in consuming food inspired James Collier to create Huel, a plant-based food replacement powder that literally fuels humans. Each scoop, when mixed with water as a protein-shake style drink, gives you a certain amount of energy in calories, plus 100% of your recommended daily allowance of all carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and essential nutrients. In short, you can entirely replace eating and lead a perfectly healthy life – in fact, probably healthier than if you ate “normally.”
As a student, I was naturally curious as to whether or not this could replace Pot Noodles as a major food group in my life. Perhaps, by drinking Huel, I could even eradicate those weird 4pm headaches, or 2am carb binges that I tell myself are probably due to that run I went on. Three weeks ago. So I asked Huel for a sample, opened the weird, space-food package and waited to become Gwyneth Paltrow.
I tried the vanilla-flavoured powder, which looked and smelt a lot like butterscotch Angel Delight, only with little seeds in. I stuck 500 calories worth of Huel and some water into the blender I bought during my last foray into the world of protein shakes, but that gets more use now in blending Yorkshire pudding mix. Which is the consistency of the tasty little concoction that came out of it, only the taste was much, much sweeter.
I’ve tried a wealth of different protein and meal replacement shakes, some with names such as “double chocolate fudge” and “toffee delight” but Huel was sweet on a whole new level – cloying, grainy and synthetic tasting, reminiscent of “the Stevia phase,” when I tried to convince myself that the plant-based sweetener could be used in anything and everything, despite the fact that it tasted like a Nurofen that you suck for too long. I powered on through the first 500 calories worth, focusing on consuming the liquid without tasting it, like only a student can. It did fill me up, in the same bloat-y way a thick milkshake does, and I think the consistency makes it seem more of a meal. But by just the second mealtime, I was starting to pine for some real food, and the prospect of another meal of Huel was seeming increasingly unappetising. I took a shaker of Huel to the library with me in an attempt to convince myself that I was sporty and in dire need of refuelling my body, and proceeded to sup the sickly concoction for the next three hours. In fairness, I wasn’t hungry in the slightest, but I was also gagging by the time I got to the bottom of the bottle.
But it’s not a resounding “no” for Huel. My thieving housemate got his hands on the sack of Huel powder and, naturally, decided to try it. Existing on a diet of Thai Sweet Chili Sensations and Skittles, his taste buds are perhaps a little more attuned to student life, and his body a little more wanting of nutrients. But perhaps more importantly, my housemate (let’s call him Joe) is not a fan of eating. Eating food is a chore to Joe. When Joe gets home from a night out, his first thought is not food. We frequently have to remind Joe to eat meals. Sometimes Joe has some ice cream and – get this – he does not finish the pot. Joe then, seems a perfect candidate for Huel. Upon reflection, Joe didn’t think that Huel was too sweet – in fact he found it bland, but continued to consume it on the grounds that it was quick, easy, and filled him up until his next meal, which is pretty impressive considering he regularly goes 24 hours without eating. He even said that he would choose Huel over a Pot Noodle ” ‘cos healthy,” although could not report any changes in his energy or sleeping patterns, as is sometimes reported from long-term users of Huel.
Given that Huel costs £45.00 a week to live purely on, it’s not a cheap option, but perhaps could be valuable to subsidise other meals if you’re busy and on the go. If you’re the sort of persona that lives on cereal bars, never has second breakfast, and goes to restaurants saying things like “I’ll only have a starter” or “I don’t think I need any sides with that,” then this could be ideal for you. Everyone else might just have to stick to their flawed, unbalanced diet and keep procrasti-eating Quality Street sandwiches.