Some of the flavours lack punch, but these quick lunchtime meal options are great for sticking to calorie intake and are an improvement on meal-replacement shakes.
- Nutritionally complete vegan meal
- More satisfying than meal-replacement shakes
- Great for calorie counting
- Milder spiced options lack flavour
- Expensive minimum purchase – over £62
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There’s no doubt meal-replacement shakes have certain advantages. They save time, and sometimes money depending on how expensive your normal diet is. They can also help you avoid unhealthy quick-fix meals like takeaways and ready meals. If you’re trying to manage the amount of calories you consume, it’s also easier to be precise with a shake.
However, meal-replacement shakes have many downsides too. Chief among them is that, for all the nutritionally complete labels, no meal-replacement shake can match the health-boosting properties of a balanced diet. And in terms of enjoyment, nearly all are either sweet or simply neutral-flavoured, and drinking a meal simply isn’t as satisfying as eating something,
Huel, one of the biggest players in the meal-replacement shake market, seems to have realised this, because its new instant meal product is both savoury and requires a bit of chewing to get it down.
It’s called Huel Hot & Savoury and there are currently 10 flavours available, with options like a spicy Madras, creamy Mac and Cheeze, and a sweet and sour, well, Sweet and Sour.
Whatever flavour you choose, you’re getting a nutritionally complete vegan meal that’s ready in five minutes. You buy sacks of the stuff and it works out to around £2.95 a meal, with seven meals in each pouch. You have to buy a minimum of three pouches though, which is £62.01 for a single purchase, although savings are available if you subscribe.
A Huel Hot & Savoury meal contains 400 calories, 24g of plant protein and 26 vitamins and minerals, and is high in fibre. It has the essential nutrients you need from a meal, worked out as a percentage of your recommended daily intake, which does make it a convenient option if undoubtedly a bit mechanical.
The savoury flavours definitely make the meals stand out from the rest of the meal-replacement crowd and I much prefer the Hot & Savoury approach. You make the meals much like you would instant noodles, adding boiling water to a couple of scoops of the stuff, stirring and then waiting five minutes. You can add more or less water depending on how soupy you want your meal to be, and you can wait longer if you want more water to be absorbed by the dried grains, rice or pasta in the mix.
Having tried the entire range I’d say that none of them are exactly delicious. The consistency is generally a little mushy and sloppy, even if you wait longer than five minutes, but all of the flavours are pleasant enough to eat fairly regularly.
The Cajun Pasta and Thai Green Curry flavours have been my favourites, and generally it’s the spicier the better because the milder options can lack flavour. While the entire range does a solid job of approximating the meals they aim to emulate, I’d advise not going in with sky-high expectations.
The meals are more satisfying than a meal-replacement shake and on relatively sedentary days they were enough to eat for lunch or dinner. If I’d been more active that day, I found that using one of the meals with a pack of quick-cook rice made for a fast, hearty and reasonably healthy meal.
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.