Why Huel Exists (in Five Graphs)

Cheap, convenient and nutritionally complete Huel exists to make life easier for people – but is it doing its job? We wanted to see how our v3.0 powder compared against other meals people might have as part of their everyday diet.

People use Huel as part of their diet in loads of different ways – from an on-the-go breakfast to a quick-and-easy lunch. But we know that there’s more than one way to eat cheaply and conveniently – after all, who wants to put thought or time into finding the perfect lunch when the boss has filled your calendar with meetings, right? We’ve all been there.

We’ve always seen Huel as a healthy alternative to everyday grab-and-go meals, and – with the help of our customers – we’ve identified the types of meal that they’ve since switched in favour of Huel.

But is it doing its job? Is our powder solving the problems we wanted – affordability, convenience, sustainability and nutritional completeness – when we first brought it into the world? We thought we’d put Huel to the test against a few other everyday meals to see how we stacked up.

Our standard Huel Powder (v3.0) Vanilla was compared to:

  • Porridge (rolled oats with semi-skimmed cow’s milk, banana and honey)
  • Chicken and bacon sandwich (of the pre-packaged variety – you know the ones)
  • Cheeseburger (from well-known fast-food chains that we can’t mention here)
  • A home-cooked meal (for omnivores – chicken, baked sweet potato wedges and steamed broccoli)
  • A home-cooked meal (for vegans – a mixed bean chilli with brown rice)

You can check out which ingredients made up these meals and find more information on how each graph was made here.

Food Label Comparison

So what are we looking at here? The headline stat for a Huel Powder meal is that it has the lowest amount of sugar – even against the savoury meals – and it’s in the top three for fibre and protein content. Sweet potato is the driver of the sugar content for the omnivore home-cooked meal; it’s important to remember that the fibre of sweet potato slows the absorption of sugar into the body, unlike free sugars from confectionary.

The cheeseburger contains nearly 6g of saturated fat, which puts you over a quarter of the way to the recommended daily limit. The reference intake for salt is 6g but this is an upper limit and not a target you want to be hitting. Both the sandwich and cheeseburger – shocker! – contain at least 1.6g of salt, which is around double the amount found in the other meals. Pre-prepared convenience foods often have high “hidden” salt contents.

Fats, carbs, protein, fibre & Salt - what do we need?

Vitamin and Minerals Comparison


 

*UK RNI for females aged 18+

The seven vitamins and minerals compared here tend to be the ones that people in the developed world could be getting more of. In other words, they can be lacking in a typical diet (learn more about vitamin and mineral deficiencies here). Both of the home-cooked meals provide large amounts of vitamin C because of the vegetables included, something which the sandwich and burger lack. Vitamin D can be hard to get in most diets and vitamin B12 is all but absent from plant-based foods. As a result, nutritionally complete Huel contains ample amounts of both. 

Magnesium and potassium can be found in high amounts in whole grains, vegetables and legumes so they are relatively easy to consume from a majority wholefood diet.

About the vitamins and minerals in Huel

Carbon Footprint Comparison

No surprises here. Meat from cows, sheep and goats has by far the largest carbon footprint because ruminant animals produce significantly more methane than other animalss, which is why the cheeseburger sticks out like a sore thumb. Generally, poultry, fish and dairy are the second-highest contributors, and plant-based sources have the lowest carbon footprint, something Huel’s long shelf-life helps to minimise. For tips on introducing more plant-based food to your diet, read on.

The carbon footprint is based on an average, and there are large variations for the same food for several reasons. 6% of a food’s total carbon footprint comes from food miles and this figure only fluctuates a little even if food is flown halfway around the world (1). We waste a third of all the food we produce and in the developed world the majority of this occurs at the consumer level (2). Food waste is not taken into account in the graph above.

How to eat well & cut your carbon footprint

Price Comparison

The prices used here are based on an average of the largest four supermarkets in the UK. Where multiple ingredients were required, meals were based on cooking for two people where possible. Home-cooked meals can vary a lot in price, so the above provides just two examples. The sandwich and cheeseburger are good illustrations of the trade-off between price, nutrition, convenience, and quality.

Getting the most food for your money

Convenience Comparison

The graph can’t take into account if the meal can be eaten on the go or the time taken to travel and purchase the food/s. If you don’t have the time to make a nice home-cooked meal, what do you choose, a shop-bought sandwich, a takeaway cheeseburger or Huel Powder?

What’s the Verdict?

The total score of meals compared on nutrition, sustainability, price and convenience

So what happens when you rank these meals for all of these things? We did just that, giving the meals a score from six to one, with the best-in-category meal scoring six, and the worst-scoring receiving one point.

The porridge is sitting pretty here because of its low carbon footprint and cost even though it’s relatively low in vitamins and minerals. The omnivore and vegan home-cooked meals are the best in terms of nutrition but the vegan meal edges ahead because of sustainability and price.

… which brings us to our champion.

Huel Powder (v3.0) Vanilla comes out on top because it has one of the lower carbon footprints, takes little time to make, and has a great nutritional profile. We’re not about to suggest you swap every meal for Huel, but when you’re short on time or on-the-go and a lovely home-cooked meal is the last thing on your mind, think Huel.

Shop Huel

References

  1. Ritchie H. Our World in Data. You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local. Date Accessed: 27/10/20. [Available from https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local
  2. Searchinger T, et al. Creating a Sustainable Food Future. 2019. Available from: https://wrr-food.wri.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/WRR_Food_Full_Report_0.pdf

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