Niall’s virtual diary archives – Saturday 1st August 2015

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Saturday 1st August 2015: 3.22pm. A review of European powdered food substitutes I posted to Reddit earlier today (https://www.reddit.com/r/soylent/comments/3fel1z/my_review_of_european_options_joylent_vs_queal_20/):

Been meaning to write up a quick review of my experiences with the European powdered meal replacements Joylent, Queal and Nutrilent. Joylent is the non-oil flaxseed version, Queal was the 2.0 still with oil bottle version, Nutrilent well they just started, so it's their original version.

Why turn to powdered meal replacements?

After a high cholesterol warning found in blood testing for a sudden onset of RSI last year, I needed to replace the high saturated fat diet I was on (cheese sandwiches!) plus I needed to control my calorie intake as I work from home as an IT Consultant in a rural Irish location, and therefore opportunities for exercise are nil with the obvious problems with that.

I still eat normal dinner with the family each night, but for about six months now my breakfast and lunch during a six day work week are the powdered meals. I generally mix up half a bag (~1100 calories) with 600 ml of bottled water (tap water is a bit icky) and try to pace out its consumption during the day. I reckon my sitting in front of a computer all day energy consumption is probably about 1700 calories, either way my weight has thankfully stopped rising since the change and it's been slowing rising for three years despite multiple attempts to stop it until now. In that sense alone the powdered meal replacements have been a great success.

Benefits I've observed

* You get a lot more time during lunch hour to play with the children and talk to the wife. The fact you can slurp your shake whilst playing with children is enormous.
* Energy levels are dramatically improved - I can sustain a 70 hour week (6 days working 9.30am to 3am stopping for lunch and dinner and a nap) without issue and without that "everything feels heavy" problem you normally have.
* Poo problems, not unknown in IT, are not an issue thanks to the fiber intake.
* On the very rare occasions I drink much alcohol which is between contracts, I've noticed powdered meals are both great for avoiding drunk snacking and in the morning after. Just make sure to increase your water intake else you'll be parched!
* Cholesterol dropped from 6.4 to less than 4.0 in six months. Nice.

Problems I've observed

* I'm sensitive to maltodextrin, and it gives me mild heart palpitations during breakfast which are uncomfortable. Some of the formulations above are much worse than the others due to a large difference in maltodextrin content.
* The shakes aren't particularly digestible. About 20% of the time I get some heartburn, even when consuming small amounts in four or five sittings. Some of that is workload though, if I work less in a week there is noticeably less heartburn.
* I find myself eating a lot more oranges, usually two or three per night after dinner, and they taste a lot yummier than usual. I think these powdered meals lack vitamin C and other "fresh" content. I'm probably also a bit low on vitamins and minerals given I only consume a half bag daily.
* The meals do get boring, though that makes your home cooked dinner no matter what it is far more enjoyable. The wife on occasion has burned or wrecked dinner and it genuinely did not bother me in the slightest. Takeaway or even McDonalds becomes amazing.
* All these powdered meal replacements are expensive relative to food from a shop. As I work from home, I don't have the problem of store bought sandwiches and snacking like with on-site contracting - equally, that makes these meal replacements more expensive than normal food by a good margin.

Costs

The real thing which kills me is the P&P from Holland to Ireland which is expensive. Last three orders:

* Joylent 30 meals Strawberry €55 + €15 P&P = €70. That's €3.50/day for me.
* Queal 30 meals Apple Pie €65 + €7.50 P&P = €72.50. That's €3.62/day for me.
* Nutrilent 30 Strawberry + 30 Banana + 6 Vanilla meals = €110 free shipping (over €100 product has free shipping). That's €2.50/day for me which is a big saving.

Nutrilent are a lot cheaper than the other two, at least when shipping to Ireland. I suppose I could order 90 meals at a time, but right now money is tight (working from home does not pay well and we have a single income).

Customer service

All three have been absolutely fine. All orders from all three arrived in about seven working days which is normal for anything coming from Europe to Ireland. There were no problems with payment or wrong order or anything like that.

Product

Product consistency was generally good. I've noticed the powder has a huge variation in density due to clumping, and hence the bags don't get a consistent weight. This matters most to Nutrilent who supply each meal in its own bag unlike Queal and Joylent who supply three meals per bag. Nutrilent's meal weight is slightly lower than the other two for some reason at 165g versus 175g.

For flavouring, taste and texture Joylent was a hands down winner for me. Nutrilent was next best, though it tastes too much of protein and its flavourings are of an inferior quality, though not as inferior as Queal by any stretch. I found the Queal tasted quite artificial and fake-sweet and similarly too much protein, though I know Queal 3.0 is supposed to fix the flavouring problem. Nutrilent did beat Joylent though on not having a sort of sharp acrid bite to the aftertaste and not leaving so much residue in the mouth.

Joylent and Queal seemed to cause the most heart palpitations for me and Nutrilent the least. I suspect the latter has less maltodextrin. Queal tended to clump in the shaker unless given six hours in the fridge - the other two were better at mix and go. 

The shakers supplied by the companies all had the feature that the custom printed logo rubbed off almost immediately, mostly coming off on your fingers which is annoying until it's all rubbed off.

All in all, especially given the price differential, I'd choose Nutrilent before the others personally. It isn't as tasty as Joylent, but the difference isn't worth 40% more cost to me and the relative lack of heart palpitations is nice.

Final Thoughts

I must admit curiosity about US Soylent to see if a more fats based recipe is superior on balance, particularly on the heartburn and the heart palpitations. I think it would be very exciting if Soylent opened a European manufacturing and distribution hub, though personally speaking I prefer pre-flavoured powdered foods and between the four big powdered foods suppliers in Europe, I reckon their total shipping product well exceeds Soylent's total shipping product and for less cost to the customer which is unusual for a continent with such high taxes and costs.

Overall I'm pleased with the powdered food diet, it ticks all the boxes I want. However, a bit like Samsung Smart TVs, you get the feeling that the product is still far from what it really ought to be, but it's good enough it's better than the alternatives. I'm not familiar with the chemistry involved, but a bit like when the iPhone came along I get the feeling there is still a future iPhone moment coming for these powdered foods when someone releases a product which is way better than anything anybody has seen before. I look forward to that - and I hope it's a European company that does it first!

#joylent   #queal   #nutrilent  

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