notes on meal replacements
in the news health
☆: Monday, February 3, 2020. ∆: Sunday, March 15, 2020. Belief: confident.

Over the past few months, I’ve been having unexplained stomach problems, which is really annoying and saddening to me. I’ve been a pretty early follower of Soylent, so I’m trying out different meal replacement systems in an effort to see if any are viable for the long term, from a flavor and health perspective.

Mostly favor though, because let’s be real: I would have to drink this stuff.

Soylent

Soylent is a macro-nutrient rich meal replacement system. Of all of the meal replacement systems, I’d say that Soylent is the most inoffensive in its natural form, but pretty quickly goes straight into left field with some of its more advanced drinks.

Soylent had an early history of shipping expired products, and I’m happy to report that these were all not expired when I tried them.

2.0 “Original”

I first experimented with Soylent in 2016, with Soylent “2.0” which is now called Soylent Drink Original. My impressions of it were “tolerable bland” if a bit on the chemical side. The worst thing about it was always the consistency to me: it always felt like it was just finely ground powder in liquid form. I never felt sated after drinking it, which may or may not be because I wasn’t super devoted to it. Full disclosure: I haven’t drank it since 2016, but the formula has not changed much.

Drink Cacao

In 2020, I purchased a couple of the Soylent Drink Cacao bottles at CVS in January 2020. The earliest versions of 2.0 Cacao that I tried were so bad that I didn’t finish them. Cacao hasn’t improved much: a very distinctly chemical favor that I can’t get out of my mouth when I drink it.

I do not recommend this.

Cafe Mocha

Absolutely disgusting, vile, and terrible, Cafe Mocha wins my vote for something I’d rather never drink again in my life. It’s like a very chemically infused burned coffee. Also purchased at CVS in January 2020. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to pour over, but this stuff was the worst of the worst.

Cafe Vanilla

Better than Cafe Mocha, Cafe Vanilla is still a very chemically infused drink. I was just not very happy with it. It tasted very much like 2.0 bottles, but with a twinge of vanilla that made it better (?) than I would have initially expected. Full disclosure, I tried it after Cafe Mocha, so it might just be that literally anything would be better and I’d be happy. Another CVS January 2020 purchase.

Cafe Chai

Cafe Chai is the first Soylent Cafe product I would recommend. Because they only make a limited selection, it’s also the last!

Maybe it’s because Chai doesn’t have a flavor in my head, or may be it’s because it’s mostly spices, but Cafe Chai actually tastes…good? Yes! Good. Chai tastes good. The consistency still leaves something to be desired, though. Still chalky. But tolerable. Yet another CVS January 2020 purchase.

Food Bar

I purchased Soylent Food Bar in 2016. It was pretty good. Something terrible happened and it was recalled and discontinued. I have not tried the replacement, which is called Soylent squared. I would hazard a guess that the salted caramel tastes like Food Bar a bit, but I am not 100% confident.

Squared

At $0.01 per calorie, it is a very very expensive and impractical full meal replacement. Imagine eating 600 bars each month for $600. Maybe you could mix and match Soylent products and not get bored? Cafe in the morning, Squared for snacks, and Drink for larger meals?

I have not tried Squared.

Ample

I didn’t know much about Ample until recently, so let’s just look at the website:

With three great-tasting formulas to suit a variety of diets, Ample delivers convenient, full meal nutrition on the go. Made from real-food ingredients with premium fats, high-quality proteins, and 4 or less grams of sugar per 400 calorie meal, our meal replacement shakes offer a fast and easy solution for eating well when time is short.

It sure would be awkward if this full meal replacement didn’t include everything you need in your diet.

Original

Continuing to read the Ample website, they say:

Ample Original is a comprehensive, drinkable meal made from premium, real-food ingredients. Packed with healthy fats, complete protein, fiber, probiotics, and organic greens, Ample Original provides the nutrition to keep you fueled, with a delicious vanilla flavor. Ample Original comes as convenient single-serve pre-portioned bottles, or bulk pouches. Just add cold water, and enjoy!

So far, so good, right? Wrong! Unlike Soylent, which is a delightfully balanced chemical cocktail containing every vitamin you’d ever need, Ample is not. The nutrition facts straight up say that it is “not a significant source of vitamins A and C.” This means that unless you want scurvy, you need to eat something else for vitamin C. It’s not a terrible plan, but is a pretty lame one if you think something is a meal replacement. They even call it a “complete meal shake” on the bottle.

On to taste! I ordered one six pack of Ample Original in February 2020, from Amazon. It claims to be Vanilla flavor…and it is. Unlike Soylent’s “drink” variety, it just comes in bottles with powder. Yet after thorough shaking, I felt like Ample came out much smoother than Soylent ever has. Drinking it felt like drinking a shake, which I suppose is accurate, and it actually led me to a weird state of being full. The Vanilla flavoring is either a placebo or the drink is entirely convincing to my body, because about halfway through one of the 600kcal drinks, I was already done. I actually think the Vanilla is a bit too strong, but not intolerable. I feel like I could probably live on this stuff, because it at least makes me feel very very full very very fast. It is very smooth – did I mention that? It’s kind of great.

Again, though: the vanilla is not subtle at all. It really packs a punch in terms of sweetness.

Super Body Fuel

Super Body Fuel is a bit like Soylent in the way that it attempts to cover your entire diet. It’s got a pretty big set of notable differences, though. It doesn’t come in a “ready to drink” variant, and its base is milk. I was optimistic based on this premise: milk has a set consistency, and to me, was more likely to be tolerable than not.

Super Body Fuel requires more prep than I expected. I was expecting something like Ample – a several minute prep time. In contrast, the instructions on the sample packets dictate a minimum of a 2 hour chill time from prep to consumption. For best taste, the instructions suggest preparing it and letting it chill overnight. It’s totally a first world problem, but that means a minimum of four containers each night and a lot of blending to follow the recommended advice.

I purchased three sample packets (they sell sample packets!) on February 1, 2020.

Original

I prepared original using the suggested preparation method for the “best” output. Specifically, that meant that I made the drink at about 21:00 on February 5, 2020 using a blender. I tried it the next day.

Overall, the taste was way better than either Ample or Soylent in all flavors, in terms of what it actually tastes like, consistency, and even smell. It tasted a bit like oatmeal or cereal, which isn’t unpleasant. I sipped it and actually didn’t try to drink it as fast as possible, which is probably a really good thing. I’m very happy with how it tasted, though again, I think the prep time is not as ideal.

Chocolate

I prepared the chocolate variant using the suggested preparation method for the “best” output. This was at the same time I made the Original batch.

My overall impression of chocolate is that it doesn’t taste chemically at all. It tastes the “most normal” of things I’ve tried so far, probably because it’s mostly milk as a base. It tastes remarkably good. Honestly, if you told me this was a shake from some fast food restaurant, I’d probably say it’s the worst shake I’ve ever had, but I’d still think it was a shake.

Huel

Huel is a competitor to Soylent and directly tries to replace all meals.

I tried both “vanilla” and “berry” in ready to drink form and I found both so intolerable I couldn’t continue after the first sip. Very noticeable plastic smell and taste rendered them unedible to me.

I ordered enough of the stuff (I was really confident) that I got a t-shirt. The t-shirt is excellent quality and kinda unique. So there’s that.