There is no shortage of contenders for the answer to the question “What will we be eating in 20 years?” Lab-grown meat has plenty of advocates, as does algae and thus far under-utilised edible resources such as insects and jellyfish.
However, the answer could be less dramatic than a jellyfish and cricket stir-fry or a plant-meat burger. Powdered food is already widely available, cheap and provides nutritionally balanced quick meals. In the UK, Huel launched last year and found itself in high demand, selling out three times in the first month. People are clearly excited by the prospects of powder.
First off, we take at look at what Huel actually is, and then wonder if we could exist on Huel alone. Writer Matt Huckle takes the plunge and consumes nothing but Huel shakes for 48 hours. Read on to find out what the effects were and whether he missed eating.
Is Huel The Future Of Food?
What is Huel?
Huel is a powder made up of real food (ultra-fine oats, rice protein, flaxseed and the like) that is mixed with water to make meals and snacks. It’s best used to replace the odd meal, but provides everything you need in your diet if you only want to eat Huel.
It might not satisfy like a full English, but as Huel founder Julian Hearn explains, there’s a raft of benefits to consider. “At first the benefits I was looking for were complete nutrition, convenience and a reduction in the amount of animal protein I was eating. As a population we eat too much and production is inefficient, often inhumane and unsustainable. But we realised Huel had other benefits. It uses minimal packaging and has a 12-month shelf-life, so no food waste – in the UK, we throw away 30%-plus of all food.
“It can help reduce obesity – it’s low in sugar, high in fibre and protein, satiating and it’s easy to count calories. Also it can save money: a 500-calorie Huel meal costs from £1.34.”
Huel can provide a worry- and work-free meal, and can support almost any lifestyle. It’s a useful breakfast or afternoon snack, but you might struggle to find it a fulfilling dinner unless you’re really in a pinch.
The taste of the unflavoured Huel can charitably be described as underwhelming, but the vanilla is far better, and Huel also offers flavour pouches (Rhubarb & Custard, Mocha) and flavouring tips on its website. Living on Huel alone is not an attractive idea, but using it for a few planning-free meals a week is fine.
£45 for 28 meals, £84 for 56 meals or £162 for 112 meals. huel.com
48 Hours Eating Nothing But Huel
10am Breakfast: Arrive at my desk, make the first Huel of the day (three scoops, half a litre of water) and down it. It smells like Play-doh but the taste isn’t unpleasant.
12pm: Starting to feel slightly faint.
1pm Lunch: Definitely flagging. Another Huel helps.
4pm Mid-afternoon shake: Normally this would be biscuit time. Instead, it’s more Huel. It’s dispiriting, frankly.
7.30pm Dinner: After my fourth Huel I go for a 3km run with some mini-sprints. Surviving on Huel since this morning hasn’t had a noticeable effect on my performance. I end the day craving real food, though.
10am Breakfast: The first Huel of the day goes down surprisingly easily.
12pm: It seems I’ve avoided yesterday’s weak feeling. I had a bit more than three scoops in my morning shake, and sipped it a bit more slowly, so perhaps that helped – or perhaps I’m just getting used to it.
1pm Lunch: I’d forgotten about Huel and made a plan to go out to eat. Now I remember. Now I feel grumpy.
4pm Mid-afternoon shake: I lethargically measure out and drink another Huel, giving my Jammie Dodger-munching colleagues the stink-eye.
7.30pm Dinner: After eight shakes in two days, my energy levels have stayed consistent and I feel fine – but, as I realise when I walk past a Burger King, I’ve missed eating. While Huel seems to do the job, I wouldn’t recommend living on it.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.