Photo: Maiysha Kai

I am not a breakfast person. I readily accept that it’s the most important meal of the day (because Michelle Obama told me so), but it’s rarely one I’m inclined to eat first thing in the morning (which the celebrity-endorsed nutritionist I used to see told me is exactly when I should get my metabolism recharged). I know I’m not a breakfast person because I began this post while eating my now-perfunctory bowl of overnight oats—and by lunchtime, half of it was still sitting there. It’s a dish I consumed with enthusiasm when I started this challenge weeks ago. Now, regardless of 29 variations of toppings suggested by 22 Days, it’s just become gruel I have to slog through each morning; not exactly inspiring.

The same goes for the 72 smoothie recipes in the 22 Days Nutrition meal planner; somehow, I’ve never quite gotten on board with pre-macerating fruits and vegetables instead of eating them as intended. (Because, fiber? Whole foods?) So, I never felt compelled to expend bundles of my very expensive organic groceries on 8 to 12-ounce beverages—though God knows, I’ve tried.

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Ironically, what I am into—and what 22 Days allows and even sells—is a meal replacement powder or “nutraceutical” formula, which was instrumental the first time I attempted significant weight loss, over a decade ago. (No, it wasn’t SlimFast, but there was a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner involved—plus 2-3 healthy snacks.) In the interim, I’ve become something of a connoisseur of brands; in addition to the self-branded tubs my nutritionist initially accustomed me to, I’ve tried a number of formulas over the years, including black-owned brand VeganSmart, my go-to meal replacement, as of late. But having plugged several brands’ nutritional info into my Weight Watchers app, I gotta say, they’re pretty much all created equal.

Since I had plenty of VeganSmart on hand when I started this challenge, I opted not to buy tubs of 22 Days Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder, instead intending to cook my meals, for the optimal wholesome effect. But we see how that worked out, so when the good folks at cult-favorite meal replacement brand Huel made an offer for me to try their vegan-friendly, nutritionally complete food in a bottle, I jumped at the chance. Breakfast solved!

Photo: Maiysha Kai

A ridiculously generous box arrived in my mailroom days later, including 24 bottles of Huel’s readymade formula in vanilla and chocolate, two large pouches of the brand’s powder mixture in the same flavors (a welcome departure from the prototypical tub), and a packet of eight Flavor Boosts, which can modify the taste of their vanilla, chocolate, berry or unflavored powders or ready-to-drink mixes, which their website describes as:

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“A delicious, complete, and affordable meal in a handy bottle, containing all 27 essential vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber and phytonutrients. Perfect when time is short or you’re away from the kitchen.”

Well, if you’ve been following along, you already know time is rarely on my side, and that I could likely use more nutrients, after all the processed foods that have snuck into my three-week-long attempt at veganism. Since you can count the hours I’ve spent in the kitchen each of those weeks on one hand, I figured a little help couldn’t hurt.

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But this ain’t your mama’s protein powder; this is for real a meal. Fairly high in calories, fat, carbs and protein (at least, higher than your average meal replacement shake), the brand explains its composition thusly:

The principal macronutrients through which we obtain energy from food are carbohydrate, fat, protein and fiber. In Huel Powder we’ve set them at the ratio of 37:30:30:3 respectively; 37% of the energy comes from carbohydrate, 30% from fat, 30% from protein, and 3% from fiber...in Huel Ready-to-drink, their ratio is 35:42:20:3, respectively; i.e. 35% of the energy comes from carbohydrate, 42% from fat, 20% from protein, and 3% from fiber.

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But you want to know how it tastes and performs, don’t you? Well, it’s thick, creamy, and sweet—as you likely expect meal replacement shakes to be, with so many on the market. But this one has distinctively more heft, and while I can’t say it tastes like anything organic, it’s definitely filling—which it should be, considering that it takes up more Weight Watcher points (10-12!) than any other I’ve tried. Though devotees of Huel say they’re actually leaner using this product, to be on the safe side, I’ve been splitting it into half portions throughout the day and still getting a satisfactorily filling effect. In fact, I’m sipping a half-bottle of ready-made vanilla with a banana flavor boost right now...and should probably throw that now-cold and coagulated bowl of oatmeal out, because, gross.

I also love that the brand offers both ready-to-drink and powdered options—those pouches will be easily packable when I head to New York City for 10 days next week; a healthy time and money-saving bonus I hadn’t anticipated when agreeing to review this product. All in all, I’m pretty sold on Huel, but should you choose to use it, I advise adding it to a food diary and really following your hunger cues. But real talk: Should the zombie apocalypse come, this is the complete meal in a bottle we’ll all need.

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So yes, breakfast solved. Maybe lunch, too. And then, a sensible dinner.