But, as in years past, there’s a good chance things will get away from us as the year goes on. We get busy, our agendas become crowded and the time required to plan and prepare wholesome, healthy meals is condensed into just the few minutes required to grab some fast food.
It’s a scenario any entrepreneur, employee or just about any human can relate to.
Our desire to compromise neither our time nor our health spawned the rise of a few new startups offering solutions like Soylent, Ka’chava and Huel. All three began by offering powdered smoothie mixes that claim to provide all the nutrition needed to substitute for a full meal. Soylent also introduced ready-to-drink meals in a bottle in several flavors for when even mixing water and powder is just too much time or trouble.
You may want to read sarcasm into that last line, but this bottled Soylent subscriber of two-plus years is enthusiastically earnest about the advantages of slamming a proportioned dose of carbs, fat, protein and a whole suite of nutrients before or after a workout or while powering through an all-consuming post for Inc.
Now, after years of being the main name in the bottled meal game, Soylent has some fresh competition from Huel, which just introduced its own ready-to-drink meal in a bottle last week.
The people at Huel were kind enough to ship me one sample each of their two ready-to-drink flavors, Vanilla and Berry, to see how they stack up to Soylent.
Before diving in, I think it’s worth mentioning that I don’t really believe it’s a good idea to base your regular diet around either of these products. With its original powdered product, Huel encourages trying smoothies based on its product for breakfast and lunch followed by a “traditional” dinner.
That’s just way more powdered pea protein and other processed ingredients than I’m comfortable consuming on a regular basis. I still want to strive to include as many whole, healthy foods in my diet as possible. I see the meals in a bottle rather as a preferable alternative to fast food, microwaved meals and other less-than-ideal quick options when life gets in the way of my dietary ambitions.
Over the past few years, on average I drink one bottle of Soylent every two to three days.
So, on to the important question: which is the best to start stocking your fridge with?
I’ve had a box of ready-to-drink Soylent shipped to me each month for nearly two and a half years now and rotated through most of the different flavors over that period, with strawberry being my favorite.
On the face of it, Soylent and Huel ready-to-drink are very similar – it’s kind of a Coke and Pepsi sort of deal where the differences are relatively subtle or in the details. Both are vegan and more palatable than their more grainy powdered mix siblings. Each provide 400 calories per bottle, which is somewhere around 20 to 25 percent of the calories the average person needs per day.
While Soylent uses soy protein, maltodextrin, sugars, sunflower and canola oils for its base along with a mix of vitamins and minerals, Huel relies on pea protein, tapioca starch, gluten-free oat powder, some brown rice flour, canola and coconut-based oils with added flax, chicory root, vitamins and minerals.
I’m no dietitian, but I find myself drawn to Huel’s ingredient list as an “almost vegetarian” with plenty of soy already in my diet. I’m also not crazy about maltodextrin and who doesn’t like added flax and chicory root?
You can easily go down the rabbit hole of comparing myriad studies on the benefits and drawbacks of the different ingredients in each product. But the most substantive, real-life difference I’ve found after trying both Huel’s powdered and ready-to-drink products is that it seems to be more filling than Soylent and actually feels a bit more like a complete meal in my stomach.
While I have no scientific basis to back this up, it feels to me that the oat powder might be the difference here. Or it could be that Huel delivers its 400 calories in a slightly larger volume of liquid (500 mL to Soylent’s 414 mL). What’s interesting, though, is that the consistency of Huel is slightly thicker than Soylent, which is counter-intuitive given the above ratio of calories to mL. Again, I think this has something to do with the oats.
Regardless of the math, Huel feels just a little bit more like a complete meal.
On taste, it’s a bit of push. I prefer Soylent’s strawberry to Huel’s berry flavor, but Huel’s vanilla is preferable to Soylent’s.
As to price, a subscription through Soylent is around 15 percent less per box of 12 bottles than Huel, but Huel’s bottles are bigger as I mentioned so it’s nearly a push again.
Forced to choose between the two, I give a slight edge to Huel because it seems to do a better job of achieving the goal of actually replacing a meal. Plus: Flax!
So Happy New Year and here’s one last piece of advice for 2019 that might be needed right around now: I’ve found a bottle of Huel or Soylent also come in handy for a hangover.