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For this review, I have compared the top 8 vegan meal replacement shakes on the market, including Ambronite, Ample, Huel, Soylent, Super Body Fuel and more.
While I am not vegan, I often consume meal replacement drinks when I don’t have time for a proper meal. That’s usually when I’m traveling and don’t have access to healthy sources of food. Others may leverage such products to lose weight or if they are on a special diet, such as Keto. Whatever your reasons might be, meal replacement shakes can offer a convenient alternative to solid food or food delivery services.
Manufacturers have saturated the market with mostly unhealthy products. So when you look for healthy meal replacement options, make sure to check the label for the following ingredients:
|Garden of Life||(3/5)|
|Super Body Fuel||(4/5)|
If you would like to give Ambronite a try, make sure to use code MK and get 25% off your purchase.
Ambronite is a plant-based meal that consists entirely of organic, whole food ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, digestive enzymes, and other superfoods. Ambronite is also relatively Paleo-friendly and contains oats and guar gum as the only non-Paleo ingredients.
While Ambronite delivers the right amount of protein per serving, it’s a little light on fat. As a result, you need 2.5 servings to get sufficient calories and fat out of it to replace a meal. That’s perfectly fine, but keep in mind that it increases the cost per serving by the same factor, making it the most expensive product in this review.
|Cost per 100kcal||$4.25|
After I published this review, Ambronite was so kind to send me some samples to try and taste. While Ambronite tastes entirely different from most of the other meal replacement drinks I have tried, I liked it. When I mixed a single serving of Ambronite with water, I noticed that it was not as thick as Ample, Huel or Super Body Fuel.
That makes sense because a single meal has 2.5x fewer calories and is thus less dense. From a taste perspective, imagine Ambronite to taste like a mix of oatmeal with fruits, finished with water instead of milk. Of course, you can always use coconut milk, almond milk or something else to tweak the taste and thickness of Ambronite.
I like Ambronite because it can be both a snack or a full meal, depending on how much powder you use. The single serving packs are incredibly practical for traveling, just don’t forget to bring a shaker bottle to mix it.
To save an additional 15%, you can use discount code MK15 upon checkout. You can combine my code with Ample’s subscription option, which saves you an additional 10%.
|Cost per 100kcal||$1.75 ($1.42)|
I’m not a Vegan, but I recently had the chance to try Ample V 2.1, and while the taste was OK, I prefer the Ample Original or Ample K. The major difference between Ample V and the original formula is the source of protein. The human body absorbs plant-based protein, including Pea protein slower than animal protein. Plus, plant-based protein has, on average, a weaker amino acid profile than Whey or egg white protein. That said, Pea and Brown Rice protein are viable choices, and they are certainly healthier than Soy.
Update: Since publishing this roundup, Ample Foods has released version 3.0 of its vegan formula. Check out what’s new in this article.
I’m a fan of Garden of Life products, especially their probiotics they developed together with Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers. As far as their Organic Shake & Meal Replacement powder is concerned, I think it’s a good protein shake, but it doesn’t replace a meal due to lack of calories and fat. You’d have to consume five servings to get the same amount of fat than other meal replacement shakes. To work around that issue, you can certainly add a few teaspoons of olive- or avocado oil. That will increase both the fat and calories to acceptable levels.
|Sugar||Less than 1g|
|Irritating ingredients||Erythirtol (Sugar Alcohol)|
|Cost per 100kcal||$1.10|
With 500 calories per serving, Huel, one of the primary Soylent competitors, offers filling meal replacement drink that is vegan-friendly and doesn’t contain lactose. Huel also provides a gluten-free formula, which is the one I reviewed. The primary sources of protein in Huel are oats, peas, flaxseed and brown rice, which reduces its Paleo score slightly.
If mixed with water, the unflavored version of Huel tastes like oatmeal (made with water). I consider the taste of oats to be somewhat neutral, but I appreciate that others may want to add some flavor by blending Huel with fruits or cocoa powder. You could also use nut milk instead of water, but, of course, that decreases the convenience factor of using Huel while traveling. The Starter Kit comes with a booklet that some a couple of recipes on how to add different tastes to Huel.
Speaking of traveling – I’d highly recommend bringing the shaker (or something similar) you get as part of the Huel Starter Kit on trips. I had Huel this morning in my hotel in Zurich and tried to funnel the powder into a regular water bottle using a sheet of paper. It was a bit of a mess, and I’ll bring a shaker or container with a wider mouth next time.
Huel is also available with flavors, but I prefer the unflavored and unsweetened version of Huel because the flavored versions have Sucralose. Both flavored and unflavored versions also have:
I can swallow the artificial ingredients and gums (pun intended), but I have an aversion against artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose. Unlike public opinion and previous research, sucralose may change how the body reacts to glucose, for example after eating carbohydrates. I have written about that already in my in-depth review of artificial sweeteners, so check it out to learn more.
As a result, I have based my review and rating on the unflavored, unsweetened, and gluten-free formula of Huel. To see how Huel vs. Soylent compares at the bottom of this review.
It’s worth noting that Huel launched a ready-t0-drink version to complement its powder cousin. I haven’t tried that yet and I probably won’t because, much like the flavored Huel powder, the pre-bottled drink has Sucralose.
Huel is transparent about the fact that they use conventionally grown, as opposed to organic, ingredients. The primary reason why the company decided to go the conventional route is cost. Huel’s goal is to deliver a nutritious meal at a low price. By using only organic ingredients, Huel would have to charge more for their product. I appreciate that not everyone can afford pasture-raised meats and organic produce and, thus, consider Huel an excellent alternative. It’s also worth noting that Huel is non-GMO, even if they don’t advertise it as such.
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.53|
The mission of Soylent is to expand access to quality nutrition through food system innovation.
It’s hard to maintain a healthy diet. Everyone eats, but everyone feels like they could be eating better. If you’ve ever wasted time and energy trying to decide what to eat for lunch, or have been too busy to eat a proper meal – Soylent is for you.
Soylent offers its meal replacement drink in liquid or powdered form. Plus, Soylent is available in three different flavors and a caffeinated version:
The powder comes either in resealable pouches and contains five 400-calorie servings or in a tub that includes twelve 400-calorie servings. For traveling by plane, the powder would be my first choice as I could not bring liquids in my carry-on luggage. But for other types of travel, I could comfortably bring the bottled version of Soylent as it doesn’t have to be refrigerated before opening it. For this comparison, I have tried only the Original formula.
Soylent is very transparent when it comes up their labeling. Soylent spells out what rules and regulations its ingredients are compatible with and which ones aren’t.
Soylent is not:
Unfortunately, and despite all their transparency, Soylent is not a health product as you can read here.
Soylent includes a balanced mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates with too much added sugar in my opinion. A bottle of Soylent Original contains 9 gram of added sugar.
Looking at the label, Soylent contains the following sources of protein, fat, and carbs:
Other Ingredients: Filtered Water, Natural & Artificial Flavors, Salt
Soylent has a complete and potent blend of vitamins. Each bottle delivers 20% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamins.
Soylent contains some ingredients that are not Paleo-compatible, including:
Despite what the food industry wants to make you believe, soy is not healthy food. It contains lectins that negatively influence your body’s leptin sensitivity. That, in turn, confuses your body’s hunger and energy expenditure signals. PaleoLeap has an excellent article about the disadvantages of soy. A more scientific explanation is available on thepaleodiet.com. Also, nearly all of Soylent’s sources of carbs are Paleo-incompatible.
Soylent is relatively inexpensive because its ingredients are inexpensive. Soy is one of the cheapest sources of protein, and it is comparatively simple to process. The Original 400-calorie formula of Soylent costs $2.66 per bottle. The Café, Strawberry and Cacao flavors cost $3.09 per bottle, regardless of how many bottles you order, and seven pouches of the Soylent powder cost $60.80. If you subscribe, you get an additional 5% off.
More information about Soylent is available via the following links:
|Irritating ingredients||Soy, Sucralose|
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.81|
|Irritating ingredients||Soy, Sucralose, Canola Oil|
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.81|
|Irritating ingredients||Soy, Sucralose, Canola Oil|
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.43|
Super Fuel contains both oats and brown rice as its primary source of protein. To bump up the calories and to increase the amount of protein it contains, you have to add two tablespoons of olive or avocado oil, before mixing it with water. The nutritional information below assumes two tablespoons of olive oil, the cost of which I did not reflect in the cost per serving.
|Cost per 100kcal||$0.50 (without added oil)|
Given the size of the table and the available screen space, especially on mobile devices, I decided to create a more detailed PDF that you can request via email using the form below. If you prefer the on-screen version instead, you’ll have to scroll horizontally to see the full table.
|Ambronite||Ample Foods||Garden of Life||Huel||Soylent Drink||Soylent Café||Soylent Powder||Super Body Fuel|
|Formula||Meal Replacement||Ample V (400)||Meal Replacement||Unflavored/Gluten-free||Original||Café||Pouches||Super Fuel|
|Ready to drink||With Water||With Water||With Water||With Water||Yes||Yes||With Water||With 2 Tablespoons of Oil and Water|
|Sugar||12.5g||4g||Less than 1g||1g||9g||9g||15g||0g|
|Irritating Ingredients||None||None||Erythirtol (Sugar Alcohol)||None||Soy, Sucralose||Soy, Sucralose, Canola Oil||Soy, Sucralose, Canola Oil||None|
|Protein Source||Oats, Almonds||Pea, Rice||Various (plant-based)||Brown Rice, Pea||Soy||Soy||Soy||Oats, Brown Rice|
|Fat Source||Sea-buckthorn, Flax Seed, Almonds||Coconut Oil, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Sunflower Lecithin||Various (plant-based)||Sunflower Lecithin, MCTs from Coconut, Flax Seed||Sunflower Oil||Sunflower Oil, Canola Oil||Canola Oil||Added oil|
|Cost per 100 kcal||$4.25||$1.75||$1.10||$0.53||$0.81||$0.81||$0.43||$0.50|
Comparing Ample vs. Soylent is like comparing a grass-fed burger using a lettuce wrap instead of a bun with a Hamburger from McDonald’s. Both products are similar but not the same. Ample Meal makes an effort to use only healthy ingredients that are expensive to source and process.
Soylent tries to achieve the same goals with cheaper ingredients, such as soy. When it comes to diet, cheap ingredients are often not healthy, and Soylent is no exception. From a cost perspective, a 400-calorie serving of Ample Original is more than twice as expensive than Soylent. But for the higher price, you get healthy ingredients.
I like the earthy taste of Ample, but Soylent arguably tastes better. That is most likely due to the extra sugar that I would rather not drink. On the bright side, Soylent comes in various flavors and even has a caffeinated version.
When I travel, I usually do so by plane. So I like the fact that Ample’s powder is pre-bottled and I can easily take it through airport security in my carry-on luggage. My good friend Felipe, who initially introduced me to Soylent has a slightly different travel pattern. For him, the ready-to-drink option Soylent offers is quick and easy. Ultimately, it depends on your circumstances what delivery option is more convenient: Powder or ready-to-drink.
Before I started writing this comparison, I had a slight preference for Ample. That was mainly due to its Paleo-compatibility and the convenience of having the pre-bottled powder I could throw into my carry-on suitcase.
The lower price of Soylent is very enticing, and I considered ordering a case. But after having refreshed my memory about how bad soy is, I decided against it. As a result, I would recommend Ample over Soylent. That said, there are indeed much unhealthier breakfast options, like a sugar-loaded bowl of cereal. In those cases, I would pick Soylent if Ample was not an option.
Huel vs. Soylent makes for an interesting comparison because they both offer vegan meal replacements. But their similarities are only superficial.
The unflavored and unsweetened version of Huel beats Soylent from a health perspective because Huel uses oats, pea protein, and brown rice protein instead of Soy. Even if you are on a Paleo diet, you can likely get away with Huel’s protein sources for the benefit of getting an otherwise clean product.
From a taste and texture perspective, both products are in different corners of the spectrum. Huel’s texture is influenced by the milled oats, and that’s how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Soylent is available pre-bottled or as a fine powder and thus tastes more like a silky shake than a meal with wholesome ingredients.
I like oatmeal and have no problems with Huel. If you’re not a fan of oats, just add some fruits or, instead of using water, mix Huel with a cashew or almond milk.
The flavored versions of Huel use Sucralose, an artificial sweetener, and so I would recommend against it because, from a health perspective, you drop to the level of Soylent.
Ample V offers the higher-quality ingredients, which you can see reflected in its price. Both products use oats, but the texture of Ample V is smoother than that of Huel, which relies mostly on milled oats.
Honestly, I don’t have a clear preference when it comes to taste and texture between Ample V and Huel, but I’d consider Ample V the overall winner due to its healthier ingredients and the lack of artificial flavors.
Depending on your diet, Ample V has a more favorable ratio of macronutrients, including higher amounts of protein and fat with lower amounts of carbohydrates.
Ambronite and Ample V are entirely different products, even though they use similar sources of protein.
Both products are naturally lactose- and gluten-free and don’t contain any artificial ingredients. In my opinion, Ample V has a slight edge over Ambronite because it has few carbohydrates and sugar, but instead, it offers more fat. On the other hand, you get more fruits and vegetables from Ambronite, which is the primary reason for its higher carb and sugar content.
The taste and texture of both products are as different as day and night. While Ample V has an earthy but smooth texture, Ambronite offers a flavor explosion of all the fruits, nuts and seeds it contains. Ambronite also tends to be more liquid, of course, depending on the amount of water you add.
From a cost perspective, Ambronite is much more expensive from a cost-per-calorie perspective.
In the comparison of Ambronite vs. Soylent, the clear winner in all categories, except for the price, is Ambronite.
Ambronite is more expensive, but otherwise the healthier product because it doesn’t contain soy, and it’s free of artificial ingredients and gluten.
Ambronite comes in powder form, and you have to mix it with water or your favorite nut milk. While the single-serving packs are convenient for traveling, you’ll have to bring a shaker-bottle to mix your drink. Soylent is available as a powder, but also pre-bottled. The latter is convenient for use at home, but you can’t bring the bottles through airport security.
Overall, Ambronite is a better and healthier product, and I would choose it over Soylent every time.
As much as I’m not a fan of Soylent, I think Soylent beats Ensure’s crappy shakes any day of the week. Ensure shakes “shine” through either high-carb or low-fat formulas, and neither one is what you should be looking for. Soylent, on the other hand, provides a right balance of all three macro-nutrients (protein, fat, and carbs) and is overall the “healthier” choice, in my opinion.
In case you are new to the vegan lifestyle, let me clarify what the characteristics of a healthy vegan meal shake are. In a nutshell, vegans don’t use products from animal sources. From the perspective of a plant-based diet, that means, avoiding such things as:
In comparison to traditional meal replacement drinks, vegan meal shakes contain plant-based protein from soybeans, brown rice, or peas, as well as alternative sweeteners, such as maple sugar.
Maintaining a vegan lifestyle can be challenging. Even more so in situations where you don’t have access to healthy food choices that meet your dietary requirements, or when you are trying to count calories for the purpose of losing weight.
In all of those cases, and others, vegan meal replacement shakes can help to keep you nourished and satisfied. While I don’t follow a vegan diet, I often recommend Ample, which it contains premium ingredients at a reasonable price. Ambronite is on the same quality level, but it’s much more expensive.
If you are looking for less expensive options, try Huel or Super Body Fuel. What I can’t recommend are Garden of Life and Soylent. The former doesn’t have sufficient calories to replace a meal, and it contains sugar alcohols, which upset my stomach. Soylent is a combination of unhealthy and cheap ingredients and should have no place in a healthy diet.
If you decide to give some of the products from this review a try, I’d appreciate if you shared your feedback with other readers and me by leaving a comment below.
I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in the greater Atlanta area. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow a Ketogenic Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else. Check out my latest Diet, Fitness, and Technology articles.
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