Soylent: Is it Really Food?

Meals. They are necessary, can be fun and nutritious at times, and sometimes enjoyable even. But they can also be a pain in the neck, messy, time consuming, expensive and not very tasty. I am one of those folks who likes to lean toward fast and convenient when it come to my meals, but for me fast and convenient usually means unhealthy, which is why I set out to find a solution. Of course, I had an ulterior motive to disrupting my dietary routine. I was traveling East to visit family in New York and waned to drop 7 - 10 pounds before I went. I needed a sustainable crash diet without adding too much to my exercise routine, so I decided to give Soylent a try.Soylent

First a little background. I tried Soylent a few years ago when it first came out. It was pretty simple: you made up a batch of the mixture, using the Soylent powder along with a small vial vegetable oil ( I guess this was to satisfy the human body's fat requirement). I was provided a nifty plastic jug that help roughly a day's worth of the mixture. That jug sat in the fridge waiting for consumption. Easy, convenient and no mess. The Soylent guys had accidentally invented a replaceable nutrient formula while working on a software start-up. They were running low on their initial seed round cash and needed sustenance to get them through the last few months of their product development. Very Silicon Valley. Anyway, they researched what exactly the human body needed, and engineered a powdered formula, that when mixed with water (and a little oil) yielded a complete dietary supplement. I imagined it to be a hi-tech version of astronaut food or camping food: freeze dried and yucky. But is wasn't yucky, it just wasn't very tasty and I didn't make it through my fist box of around 35 meals. But, in the last year I have been keeping tabs on Soylent and saw that they were offering up new products (pre-mixed 8 ounce bottles) and new flavors like Cacao and Strawberry. It was time for a second attempt.

Days 1 - 5

For the first few days I carefully measured out each one of my 'meals', which was 1/3 a cup of powder mixed with 3/4 a cup of water. There is no vial of oil for formula version 1.9. At 400 calories per serving, I was able to maintain a pretty manageable program of 2 cups of black coffee in the early morning, followed by meals at 10am, 2pm and 6pm. Sometimes I had a 4th meal during the course of a day, depending on hunger and exercise, and ate a handful of protein (chopped up chicken breast) a few times. All told, these first 5 days went fine and I had dropped three pounds. I consumed no alcohol during these first 5 days, and began to feel the onset of ketosis around day 5.

Days 6 - 10

I began dispensing with the careful measurements and just started eyeballing the mix. Dump some powder in a glass, fill it with water, stir in some ice (it tastes better chilled), and drink. A meal in about 3 minutes. I was starting to notice that I felt less bloated during this time. I was eating no real food, so I was consuming no extra sodium, which meant I drank less water. My total weight loss by the end of day 10 was about six pounds. As with any diet, much of the success depends on the dieter's ability to fight through the hunger pangs, which I did by staying busy with writing and other work related projects. So far I was pleased with my efforts.

Soylent Ingredients

Day 11 - 14

While consistently fighting off the hunger, I felt good toward the end of my experiment. I had on 'cheated' a few times and had lost some weight. I had four meals a day during these last few days and felt like I could sustain this new diet I had conceived. I drank almost no alcohol during the 14 days, maybe 2 glasses of wine, and I suspect drinking more would mess things up. I believe this won't work for people who drink a glass of a wine a day or even 5 drinks a week.


A Soylent meal contains 20 grams of plant-based protein and I think this works even thought is strays from the dietary guidelines suggested by the US Government. I would recommend at least considering this diet if you don't have the time or patience to prepare healthy meals in your kitchen. I found Soylent to be functional, and even good tasting. As always, do your research and check with your doctor.





Slim-Down Summer Foods

Summer is a great time to diet, because when the mercury rises, your appetite tends to crash. (And of course, seeing yourself in a swimsuit can be all the motivation you need!) Still, at this time of year ice cream cones call your name and BBQs beckon; overdo it with either of these -- or other seasonal treats -- and you’ll enter fall a little, um, fuller-figured. The good news? Plenty of the foods that are prevalent this time of year tantalize your taste buds, offer important nutrients, and help you shed pounds. Here, seven to keep you slim and satisfied.

Slim-down summer food: Watermelon. “Not only is watermelon sweet and refreshing, but it's also low in calories at only 45 per cup of diced melon,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Fassberg, president and founder of EAT FOOD, a food and nutrition consultancy. Because it's mostly water, this juicy summer treat is also very filling. An added bonus? It's a good source of vitamins C and A, lycopene, and the water it contains is hydrating -- something that’s important on sweltering days.

Slim-down summer food: Gazpacho. This tomato-based, vegetable soup is served cold so it’s very refreshing. “Because it’s chock full of vegetables, gazpacho is filling but not high in calories,” says Fassberg. “It’s also full of flavor -- especially when the tomatoes are local and tasting sweet as sugar.” On top of this, it’s packed with different vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Slim-down summer food: Summer lettuce. “When it’s fresh from the farmer's market it has so much flavor that you'll want to make salads instead of rich, heavy foods,” says Fassberg. “Also, lettuce has almost no calories because of its high water content and depending on the type you choose, can contain vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and fiber to help fill you up!” Just watch the dressings since that's where the majority of calories come from. Steer clear of those that are cream-based.

Slim-down summer food: Whole grains like bulgur, barley, quinoa or millet used in cold salads. “Whole grains have more fiber and more nutrients than plain grains like pasta and white rice,” says Fassberg. “Because they're rich in fiber, you'll only need a small portion to feel satisfied.” They also have a lot more flavor than their less healthy counterparts. Enjoy them mixed with roasted beets and a bit of goat cheese or on top of your favorite green salad.

Slim-down summer food: Homemade herbal iced tea. “Our bodies give us the same cue for hunger that they do for thirst,” explains Fassberg. In other words, often when you think you’re hungry, you may just be dehydrated and need a good, long drink. Having a jug of iced tea all chilled in the fridge and ready to grab can help stave off the urge to devour the calorie-heavy snacks in the pantry. Simply steep your favorite flavor herbal tea bags in hot water, let this cool at room temperature, and then pour into a pitcher and chill in the fridge.

Slim-down summer food: Fish on the grill. Summertime is synonymous with grilling time. And it’s a good thing because this form of outdoor cooking can be a low-calorie way of making delicious meals. “There’s lots of flavor without needing to add too much fat which means the foods you grill typically have fewer calories,” says Fassberg. Fish is an ideal BBQ choice because it’s lean protein, doesn’t have a ton of calories and is very satisfying.

Slim-down summer food: Corn on the cob. This sweet, seasonal staple is ideal when you get it local from the farmer’s market. “It’s also very filling, because of the fiber, fun to eat and takes some time to eat,” says Fassberg. “Often, we eat so fast we don’t realize we are actually full before we stop eating. If we slow down, our bodies and brains have a chance to work together and we stop eating before we are overly full.”  Fresh corn on the cob also contains antioxidants, manganese, vitamin C, B3 and B5.

Cuisine That’s Lusciously Lean

I’ve been busy at work on my next cookbook. It’s all about low-calorie cuisine. My secret is making the recipes taste so luscious that you’ll never believe they’re light. After all, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have absolutely grin-worthy fare when trying to stay fit.

So what are some of my taste-tempting secrets? Lucky for you, I don’t know how to stay mum when it comes to clever tricks that can truly make a difference for your health.

1. Use Un-milk. Plain almond milk averages just 50 calories a cup. Replace regular milk with this nutty-flavored drink in recipes; it provides a good texture and doesn’t separate easily like fat-free milk.

2. Go Grecian. Zero-fat Greek yogurt is super thick, providing lots of nutritious creaminess for few calories. Whip some into eggs to create deceivingly rich scrambled eggs. Or, make a tangy condiment by combining equal parts yogurt and mayo.

3. Add Sass. Splash dark, leafy greens with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. The acidic nature cuts the bitterness and balances taste, as well as satisfaction.

4. Turn up the Heat. When reducing fat or salt, you’re also reducing flavor. Add depth to the taste by bringing on the heat. Add a few drops of hot sauce or a touch of curry paste to your favorite meals.

5. Experiment With Extracts.
For the essence of deliciously rich cuisine without the calories, add extracts. The tiny flavorful punches go way beyond vanilla with options including pure coconut, almond and chocolate.

6. Love Umami.
Umami is the fifth sense of taste. It’s associated with a savory taste due in part to an amino acid, called glutamate, in foods. When you can, embrace the ingredients that boast high amounts -- fully ripened tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, naturally brewed soy sauce and green tea -- to add appeal to healthful meals.

Better Nutrition: 6 Healthy Pizza Recipes

Pizza is delicious, though not always kind to your waistline -- or your ticker. After all, cheese is the number-one source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet.  And if you pile on pepperoni and sausage, you’re looking at 400 calories per slice.  Still, pizza doesn’t have to be a diet disaster, says renal dietitian specialist and consultant Susan Weil Ernst, RD, CSR of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s important to include comfort-type foods in your diet so you don’t feel deprived,” she says.

Homemade pies can have plenty of nutritional value if you’re willing to go beyond the usual meat-lover toppings. In fact, according to Tad Brown, pizzaiolo and owner of Fired Up Pizzeria in Durango, Co., unprocessed, whole foods and fresh ingredients are the backbone of traditional Naples-style pizza.

Here are six healthier pizza recipes that you can sink your teeth into, guilt-free. But, first, a few rules to bake by:

To cut down on fat intake, Ernst suggests using a moderate amount (roughly 1/4 cup) of low-fat or nonfat cheese, which has calcium to strengthen teeth and bones, and protein to fill you up. Go heavy on vitamin- and phytonutrient-rich vegetables. Lean meats like low-sodium turkey sausage or grilled chicken will keep carnivores happy without the salt and saturated fat.

Look for whole-wheat or gluten-free crusts in your supermarket’s freezer section. If you’re short on time, use whole-grain pita bread, tortillas, or even a portobello mushroom as the crust, Ernst says.

Lemon Rucola: Top your crust with tomato sauce (Brown makes his own using only San Marzano tomatoes, a little salt and fresh basil), and fresh mozzarella cheese. The higher quality the cheese, the more flavor it’s going to have, so you don’t have to use as much of it (and hydrogenated oils won’t pool on top). Bake at 350°F until the cheese starts to melt at the edges (about 15 minutes). Top with arugula, fresh lemon juice, cracked pepper and a touch of shaved parmesan. Serve immediately.

Bianca Prosciutto: Instead of cream sauce, this white pizza uses heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil; its monounsaturated oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Drizzle less than a tablespoon of oil over your dough, then top with fresh mozzarella and bake at 350 until the cheese starts to melt at the edges. Top with arugula, fresh chopped tomato and less than an ounce of prosciutto (about two paper-thin 8-inch strips). Because prosciutto can be high in salt, we recommend using it sparingly. Luckily, a little goes a long way, and it still has less saturated fat than other typical meat toppings.

Santa Barbara Style: Evelyn Jacob, co-author of The Schwarzbein Principle Vegetarian Cookbook, recommends this flavorful pesto and poblano pizza. First, make the pesto sauce by blending 2 cups of packed fresh sorrel leaves or spinach, ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil, 3 Tb. lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts, 1/3 cup pure-pressed extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and salt and pepper in a food processor. Spread over the crust, then top with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, roasted poblano chiles and goat cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned on top and crust is crispy. Top with lightly toasted pine nuts.

To make roasted poblanos: With tongs, hold the pepper over a burning flame, such as your stovetop or grill. Turn the chiles regularly to ensure that all sides get evenly blackened. Remove from heat and put in a bowl with a lid to allow the steam to permeate the peppers.  Put on rubber gloves and peel the thin almost transparent looking skin, discarding the seeds. Do not hold under water to peel since that dissipates much of the smoked flavor of the chiles. Slice as desired.

Mediterranean: A Mediterranean diet is high in plant foods and monounsaturated fats and may help prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For Jacob’s Mediterranean pizza, peel an eggplant (a source of heart-healthy fiber) and slice, brushing both sides with a little olive oil, and bake at 350°F about 20 minutes until soft, turning once. Cut into cubes. Top crust with tomato sauce, eggplant, chopped kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and grated Manchego and pecorino cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese browns.

Southwest Pizza: Jacob recommends this sweet and spicy pie for meat lovers.
Top crust with 1/4-cup BBQ sauce (preferably one made with agave or organic cane sugar instead of corn syrup), shredded roasted chicken, caramelized onions, and your choice of cheese. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

Dessert pizza: Ernst says fruit is one of her favorite, and often-ignored, healthy pizza toppings. Shave about 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa so it’s packed with potent antioxidants called flavonoids, which keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels) over a crust, spread with nonfat cream cheese, then top with walnuts and fresh berries. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes.  If you’re so inclined, pair with a glass of red wine, which has antioxidants that may prevent heart disease (remember: moderation!). Buon appetito!

Eat to Lose Weight

Do you run out the door in the morning with just coffee in your stomach -- or maybe nothing at all? We’re a country of breakfast skippers: Although 93 percent of adults agree that a morning meal is an important part of a healthy diet, more than half of us don’t practice what we preach, according to a recent survey by the International Food Information Council.

What’s your excuse? Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs, makes toast out of every reason to avoid starting the day off right.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I’m trying to lose weight.” 

Wake-up Call: Eating in the morning actually helps you slim down. When you’re sleeping, your metabolism -- how you burn calories and fat -- slows to practically a crawl. But a meal revs up your body’s fat-burning ability, says Blatner. Besides the metabolism boost, breakfast gives you willpower. “I think of it as the prevention meal,” she says. “When you eat in the morning, you’ll be less likely to take second helpings at lunch and dinner, and have a better chance of resisting temptations throughout the day, like the bowl of candy at work.”

In fact, four in five successful dieters -- those who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off on average for six years -- make time for breakfast every day, according to the National Weight Control Registry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. And don’t let your kids out of the house on an empty stomach either. A recent study of more than 4,000 British schoolchildren found that those who skipped breakfast were 62 to 92 percent more likely to be obese than students who had a morning meal.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I don’t feel like eating in the morning.”

Wake-up Call: Skipping breakfast will leave you sluggish all morning long. By the time you wake up, your body has used up most of its fuel for energy overnight, and your blood sugar is low. If you don’t raise it with food, you’re dooming yourself to feeling fatigued and unfocused for hours. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast improves performance on brainy tasks for both children and adults.

If you’re not hungry shortly after you wake up, you’re probably eating too much at night, says Blatner. Cut back on after-supper snacks and eat less at dinner. “It just takes a couple of days to re-adjust your body to the new schedule,” she says.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I’m running late.”

Wake-up Call: Whether you’ve got to get to work or your workout, there are many good options you can make in five minutes and eat on the run. Blatner’s equation for a balanced breakfast: one whole-grain food (toast, cereal, English muffin) and one protein-rich food (milk, yogurt, nut butter, eggs, turkey bacon), plus at least one serving of produce (any fruit or veggie). According to a recent study at the University of Nottingham, eating a whole-grain breakfast with fruit can help you burn more fat at the gym than chowing down on refined carbs like white bread and doughnuts.

Eating this way is easy and delicious. Try these quick and easy morning fixes:

  • 1 toasted frozen whole-grain waffle topped with fruit sauce made by pureeing ½ cup berries and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. “I’ve got a lot of the Cub players eating this,” says Blatner.
  • Yogurt, cereal and chopped fruit layered in a bowl for a breakfast sundae. “Use low-fat, protein-rich Greek yogurt because it’s thicker and won’t get the cereal soggy,” she suggests.
  • Instant oatmeal with nuts and apples.
  • Sliced hard-boiled eggs (made the night before) on English muffins with a side of fruit.

For kids, Blatner suggests:

  • A peanut butter and strawberry sandwich on whole-wheat bread.
  • Scrambled eggs rolled into a whole-grain tortilla with orange slices on the side.

Breakfast Blow-off: “I don’t like breakfast food.”

Wake-up Call: If you’re not a fan of typical breakfast fare, eat something else that contains the aforementioned three important breakfast components. Dinner leftovers like veggie pizza on whole-grain crust, brown rice with dried fruit and nuts, and even creamy tomato soup with whole-grain croutons all count as a nutritious breakfast. Blatner’s own favorite creation: “I whip low-fat cottage cheese with chives and lemon, and spread that on my whole-grain toast. Then I put a couple of tomato slices on top. It reminds me of Italy.”