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Too lazy to cook? Have a meal in a shake

Sunny Singh writes about his newfound meal crush HUEL!

Facebook dropped an advert in my feed a couple weeks ago which claimed to adhere to my natural, cultivated and revered sense of laziness. It promised a healthy meal; something I haven’t been familiar with in a while, containing everything my body needed – 100% of my RDA for all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. I thought – great! A full meal, delivered to me, at £1.34 a portion. I’d, assumingly, only have to throw it into the oven or microwave it and wait.

Only, I didn’t even have to do any of those things. I had to simply put it in a shaker bottle, and shake! That’s a level of laziness that hadn’t been introduced to me before. It was a level which even I hadn’t, in my years of mastering the art of slothfulness, dared to master. I was intrigued by this wizardry – I had to harness its power.

Huel believes it’s the future of food, being 100% vegan and claiming to be a solution to the 30% of food that is wasted in the UK each year. With no waste and a year-long shelf life, Huel is everything I’m looking for on paper – a meal which pretty much prepares itself, and doesn’t go off by the time I’m back home, and that isn’t McDonalds.

Mother doesn’t approve of my constant visits to GBK; nor my addiction to calzones; Zizzi’s being my dealer. Nor the MSG ridden Chinese joints found across Canterbury’s high-street and beyond. Would she approve of a powdered meal? It was time to find out:

Me: So, I’m going to try out this new thing when it comes to eating

Mother: Vegetables?

Me: No, it’s the next best thing.

Mother: Fruit?

Me: A shake that has everything I need to survive.

Mother: Sounds good, but have some pasta too.

So there we have it. I had permission to switch to a shake for part of my meals at university, destined to save me many culinary screw-ups and several SLC pounds. I had decided to be selective as to when I drink it, only having it when it just felt right to replicate how it’s intended to be used – not as a full meal replacement tool, but as something in place of something unhealthy that definitely fills you up.

Photo by Sunny Singh

Week 1 had me in glee, as I was faced with a nice-looking package of something which, on the surface, was indistinguishable from a protein shake. It was time for the real test – taste. If I’m going to be using this shake for at least a couple times a week, it better taste good. I put the water in, then the powder (there’s no argument here, water goes in first – this isn’t squash), and started shaking. I found that a good 20 seconds of shaking made it into a smooth but gritty, peanut-butter-milkshake-esque texture that I really did enjoy. Seriously. It tasted very earthy – but the taste of vanilla (variety I opted for) was good, not too overpowering and didn’t feel artificial.

Following the initial tasting, I found Huel fantastic for breakfast considering I always used to skip it. The walk up the dreaded hill on an empty stomach was not fun, but I had grown accustomed to it. That was until I did it with a shake in my stomach, fully primed and ready to go. How long did it take to prepare? 45 seconds, and I had it on the walk.

At the start of the second week, I began to notice a couple things. See, the problem with a liquid diet is the clunky feeling you get afterwards. After drinking 600ml of the mixture, you can definitely feel it inside you unless you wait 10-15mins before doing any kind of movement. Whilst not a deal-breaker at breakfast, it is something you just have to get used to. It seems Huel is aware of this issue, working on creating a bar version. They also have a recipe book where you can use Huel in place of flour, if baking’s something you’re into.

I found myself more inclined to drinking Huel at dinner in week 2, after late nights at the library and just before going out, rather than the traditional burger and chips – or even the old frozen pizza. This was out of pure laziness, rather than a need for the taste. It was a quick meal, ready to prepare me for a drink or two. I missed the taste of real food, however. Proper food. A variety of food. Yes, Huel offers different ‘flavour systems’ like Mocha, Strawberry and Pineapple – but it simply doesn’t come close to the variety you get when you eat proper food. That said, Huel is constantly trying to improve its product. In the second version, they’ve added further elements to improve its nutritional value. They do, I believe, need to invest more in taste if it’s going to come even close to the appeal of fast food. I was excited to try Huel out as a substitute for the post-night-out McDonalds. But, when you’re drunk, you really just want McDonalds.

Late nights at the library, however, is where Huel comes into its element at university. Tim Urch, Huel representative, couldn’t have put it better: “on the days where I was in the library for 12 hours straight, I would have been significantly better off [with Huel].” During assignment period, this shake will be my saviour – saving me the time required to go out, eat, and come back and allowing me to get my work done much quicker.

Come week 3, Huel was simply a breakfast meal. And that’s what it remained. Do I think there’s anything wrong with that? No. Breakfast is the time of day that I don’t have time to eat solid food, and I find myself skipping the meal all-together.

With Huel? I don’t skip that meal.

Do I think it’s revolutionary in the Western world? No. But I do feel it’s a step in the right direction, food that’s not wasteful and plentiful to all whilst stopping you from missing meals. I’ll be sure to keep a bag in my cupboard for such occasions.

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