TLDR: Nothing wrong with consuming Huel every now and then, but there are probably downsides to replacing every meal with it.
I have historically been against having Huel as food. For people who don’t know, Huel is a meal replacement shake. It started in the UK, but now it has a global presence. The company sells itself on healthy, nutritious food with low carbon footprint and minimum packaging.
I enjoy my food and I believe as an adult you should be able to find 30 minutes in your day to cook 2 or 3 basic meals for yourself.
This changed when I broke my femur back in January 2022. I became completely dependent on my partner and my family. I could not even go down the stairs in our house to make myself a coffee.
I went from being fairly active, to lying down 24 hours a day.
That’s when Huel started to make sense to me. It takes pressure off my family and makes me feel less guilty about depending on them 24/7.
I had a little look around and ended up ordering a couple of packs of Huel Black Edition. Black edition has more protein and less carbs compared to the standard version. My thinking being that I already get enough carbs from eating no so healthily most of the time, so this will probably balance the scale a bit more.
Moreover, I have been experimenting with Vegan and Low FODMAP diets, and Huel claimed to be compatible with both.
- Vegan and Low FODMAP compatible.
- High protein, low in carbs.
- Easy to make.
What did I actually do? How did it go?
I started having huel 6 or 7 times a week, so basically replacing one meal a day with Huel.
For the first couple of weeks, my stomach was not happy. I went from being reasonably happy with my tummy to feeling bloated, and having very irregular bowl movements.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have always had some stomach problems, but the Huel Black Edition put me on a fast track to feeling ill.
I actually heard something similar from a friend of mine who had also experimented with Huel in the past, so I was starting to think it was just not going to work out for me.
But here is the good part
The stomach problems went away after a few weeks. Maybe the bacteria in my gut started figuring out how to deal with it? Maybe I needed time to get used to the coconut/MCT oil? I am not sure how long it took, but as of April 2022, I don’t find myself having stomach issues the day or two after I have consumed Huel.
So reasonably healthy food that I can easily make, instead of having to resort to junk food, such as crisps and sweets, which are my go to’s!
I also found that it had no negative impact on my HRV or sleep. I generally felt great having it – I found it a bit too sweet, and my partner who tried it found it a bit too “papery” and “grainy”, but I didn’t really mind that.
Now the downside
It’s just not as tasty or filling as proper food. Sometimes I just want something to bite into! Sometimes I want something salty, sometimes I want something sweeter. Huel, unsurprisingly, does not fulfil any of those desires.
Moreover, I do eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and I just cannot imagine Huel having a similar “benefit” (or can it?) – quick search throws up a bunch of articles – e.g. this one.
In addition, having read Breath by James Nestor recently, I am now convinced that you need to chew and that drinking all your calories is terrible for your well-being (you can also see similar ideas discussed here.)
I cannot imagine a downside to replacing a handful of meals a week with Huel. It’s easy to make, and healthier than junk food alternatives that a lot of us reach for these days.
Huel really should not replace a healthy diet of fresh, colourful vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, and so on. Moreover, chewing and its impact on good breathing and long-term health should not be forgotten.
My second delivery of Huel arrived last week. I will continue to enjoy my Huel when I am in a rush or on the road, but I’ll stick to proper food the rest of the time. Thank you very much.