Original question: “Are “nutritionally complete” meal replacements like Soylent or Huel a good place to start or are they missing something important?”, asked by Matt

There are lots of “nutritionally complete” meal replacement products like Huel (in the UK) and Soylent (in the US) around, which promise not having to worry about preparing food whilst still having a healthy, satisfying diet. The catch is that you drink only an off-white liquid. I was initially skeptical of these but looking at their nutrition they are actually quite well balanced. However there are a few potential problems:

Firstly they are only “complete” for the “average adult” (all average adults please raise your hands) according to current science. These products may lack some nutrient which we need to stay healthy but don’t know about yet. Also, we’re all different, so we all have different needs and a “1 size fits all” approach might not suit everyone. Even the manufacturers don’t expect people to live off their stuff exclusively. So, in my opinion, a very varied diet will still be better for you nutritionally.

Secondly these products are for people who don’t have the time or energy to think too much about feeding themselves and don’t care if they don’t enjoy the experience (though apparently some products are surprisingly tasty). I would personally recommend to the manufacturers that the UK version taste of tea. Most of us are probably not that Spartan and will not want to subsist on beige gloop, so a varied diet is likely to be just as healthy but much more appealing.

These products might be good at replacing rushed meals such as breakfast (where people often eat sugary convenience foods or skip altogether) but I think that eating a variety of other things as well would be a good idea.

References and Further Reading:

Powdered food: is this the terrifying future of dining?

Soylent gets tested, scores a surprisingly wholesome nutritional label.

You can earn £35,000 by not eating anything (except beige liquid) for a year.

Soylent survivor: one month living on lab-made liquid nourishment.