Huel review by a Dietitian
You may have heard of Huel and wondered what is it and can it help me reach my goals? Read on to find out the benefits and drawbacks of Huel products, and how they may potentially help or hinder your progress.
What is Huel?
Essentially, Huel is a nutritionally complete meal replacement (Hu-man Fu-el). Huel products come in a variety of forms, including powders, ready to drink shakes, bars, and dried meals (the Hot & Savoury range). They claim that it is a cheaper and easier option than eating meals, especially for people on the go or who are time poor.
Although Huel is not designed as a weight loss product, their products can be used as a part of a fat loss diet. But how good are they for you, and can they actually help with weight loss?
What is in Huel?
Main ingredients of the Huel Essential include oats & tapioca for carbohydrates, flaxseeds & coconut for fats, pea & rice proteins and a huge range of vitamins & minerals (26 to be precise) in their post popular drink product. They also contain all the essential amino acids, are low in sugar & salt, contain fibre (from the oats & flaxseeds), added probiotics and are completely vegan. The sweetener used is Sucralose.
The Huel Black edition places emphasis on protein with lower carbohydrate than the original Huel powder. Whilst not containing oats (so can be labelled as completely gluten free), still marketing itself as a ‘nutritionally complete meal’. The Black edition uses steviol glycosides as the sweetener combined with coconut sugar, and also contains green tea extract, kombucha powder and probiotics (bacillus coagulans). Both options sound great, right?
Can this be good for me?
We think for those who are looking for a convenient meal replacement when they find it difficult to prioritise opting to cook a balanced meal, or are time poor, this can be a good option. Instead of choosing something an alternative which may be less nutrient dense with higher fats, salts and sugars, this does seem like a great alternative.
Because Huel products are fortified will all of the essential vitamins, minerals and contains omega 3 fatty acids in moderate doses. This means you are less likely to develop nutritional deficiencies. It is also great for those with allergens(Huel products are nut and lactose free). Per meal or shake, each Huel contains 400 calories – which for some may seem adequate, though for others, this can be smaller than their needs for an average meal.
From research, we know that micronutrients (in this case the vitamins & minerals) when added to a product are not equivalent to whole food sources. If people are already obtaining a balanced and varied diet, there may be no need for the extra supplementation found in Huel products.
Huel products also contain sweeteners such as sucralose and steviol. Chronic intake of sweeteners can lead to changes in glucose and insulin response in healthy people. Therefore, generally it is not something we would want to consume very frequently in large amounts. However, there are unflavoured and unsweetened options of Huel, which would be a better choice regarding this.
Can I substitute my meals for Huel?
Before you do this, ask yourself why you may want to? If you find it difficult to find the time to prepare or eat a balanced breakfast or lunch due to busy schedules or little resources available, this can be an option. This can make sure you are choosing something that provides you with a good basis of nutrients and is advertised to keep you full, reducing the likelihood of mindless snacking or poor food choices. However, we would always recommend choosing whole food first. Even if you are time poor, can you prepare overnight oats the night before, or make a smoothie in the morning before leaving for work? For an easy lunch, can you prepare extra of your evening meal and pack this up as leftovers to enjoy the next day? Although Huel products are fortified, it is best to try to get our nutrients from food first, before relying on those products which have added nutrients.
Another big part is taste, enjoyment and satisfaction. Huel claims their ‘Huel Powder v3.0’ has a delicious oaty flavour, whilst the ‘Huel Hot & Savoury’ options are a non-sweet option, made from whole foods such as pasta, grains and vegetables, with recipes containing real herbs and spices.
The Hot & Savoury range may be a nicer option for lunch, with options including ‘Cajun Pasta’ & ‘Thai Green Curry’ – all you need to do is add boiling water and wait 5 minutes for the meal to be rehydrated.
Huel also produces protein bars, which are advertised as a practical 200 calorie snack choice on the go. These can be an option for when you may have large gaps between meals, or when you need to have something to eat before/after exercise, and it isn’t time yet for a main meal.
Can Huel help me to lose or gain weight?
If you are aiming to lose weight, consuming Huel products can help you achieve a caloric deficit, that will then lead to weight loss. Keep in mind that Huel is not designed as a weight loss product. However because the carbohydrates, fats and proteins are well controlled for each product, it can be easy for those who track calories or macros. Ask yourself if this is something you feel is realistic for the long term, replacing your meals with Huel products. Do you enjoy them, and do you feel satisfied? If the answer is no, then perhaps Huel may not be the option for long term successful weight loss.
Huel can be used as a supplement to add extra calories & protein in the diet, if you are looking to gain weight. Again, you can get these extra nutrients through food itself. However, Huel products may be a convenient and quick way to boost intake for many people. For example, adding in 1 Huel drink per day will provide an extra 400 calories. This can help someone slowly increase weight overtime, particularly if you struggle to eat a larger volume of food.
Our final view on Huel, from a dietitian’s perspective!
As a summary, Huel products could have a place in the life of someone who may be busy, time poor or wants to help support weight loss/ gain, amongst eating whole foods and balanced meals. We would not recommend it as a complete meal replacement for a long period of time. Huel products can certainly have a role to make convenient choices more nutritious when needed, compared to other products available. This can come down to the individual circumstances.
If you are not sure Huel is right for you, reach out to our sports nutritionist so we can provide personalised and bespoke advice, to help meet your health goals in the most sustainable way.
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