I Ate Soylent for a Day: 'Food' Special

When I hit the road to attend and write about an industry events such as Light Reading's Big Telecom Event or the recent Open Networking Summit, I start with the best intentions to eat healthily. I often grab a healthy lunch from an airport concession stand and wash it down with black coffee.

But after a day or two of mind-bending discussion about the latest developments in software networking and DevOps, my will power collapses. Soon I'm making the late-night walk of shame to the candy counter in the hotel gift shop. I wake up the next morning surrounded by empty M&M bags, like a binge-eating Lenny Bruce.

A big part of the problem is that when you travel on business, unhealthy food is all around -- at buffets, fast food stalls and business meals in restaurants -- and healthy food is often hard to find.

What if I could bring healthy food with me? I'd still face temptation from all those conference buffet tables and restaurant meals. But it would be easier to eat healthy if healthy food was always at my fingertips.

Bringing meals with me would add to my luggage, but it's not like I travel light. (See Staying Productive With My Office-in-a-Bag.)

With that in mind, I started looking into several food products that have been engineered to deliver complete nutritional needs. The granddaddy of these, announced more than two years ago, is Soylent. Marketed as "a full day of balanced nutrition made in 3 minutes for $3/meal," Soylent is a bag of mixed nutrient powders that you blend with water and drink. The manufacturers and enthusiasts say you can survive on nothing but Soylent all day -- and some do for months -- though most Soylent users live on a mixed diet of Soylent for some meals and snacks, and regular food for others.

I decided to try Soylent to see how I liked it, and whether I could use it for a few meals or snacks on the road to channel my unhealthy eating into healthy patterns.

Click on the photo below for a slideshow of my Soylent experience.

You Sure There's No Cat in There?
Sammy dubiously examines a jug of Soylent.
Sammy dubiously examines a jug of Soylent.

I also tried MealSquares, a square cake or muffin roughly twice the size of a deck of cards, which also supposedly contains all the nutrients you need to live on.

I'll tell you about my Soylent experience today, and then we'll talk about MealSquares another time.

Probably not made of people...
Say the name Soylent and everybody thinks of the 1973 Charlton Heston movie that ends with the revelation "Soylent Green is people!"

The real-life product Soylent isn't made of people -- or so the manufacturers tell us!

Soylent is made from a publicly available recipe which includes such mouth-watering ingredients as waxy maize starch, maltodextrin, and potassium gluconate. It won't exactly remind you of your grandma's home cooking, unless grandma was an organic chemist.

You can make your own Soylent. There are variants from other companies, with names like Schmoylent, Queal and Joylent.

Soylent was conceived in 2012 by Rob Rhinehart, then a Silicon Valley engineer. He and his roommates were the founders of a failed telecom startup, developing inexpensive cell phone towers, when he conceived the idea of a simple, cheap, convenient, healthy food source. "They had been living mostly on ramen, corn dogs and Costco frozen quesadillas -- supplemented by Vitamin C tablets, to stave off scurvy -- but the grocery bills were still adding up. [Rhinehart] began to resent the fact that he had to eat at all."

Find out more about working practices on Light Reading's business/employment channel.

Reddit user Xiuhtec explains the philosophy of Soylent:

"Soylent isn't here to replace dinner dates, lunch with coworkers, or family get-togethers," he says. "It's meant to replace the sandwich you eat alone at your desk, or the McDonald's you pick up on the way home from a 13 hour shift, or the potato chips you grab out of the vending machine because your stomach is growling at 3pm. It replaces the mundane meal-as-necessity, not the social meal-as-bonding-ritual."

I've been meaning to try Soylent since it first became commercially available more than a year ago, but was put off by the price. The smallest available shipment from the Soylent website is a weekly quantity, 28+ meals, priced at $70. Seems like a lot for something I might take one mouthful of, hate, and spit out.

Next page: Like a Prop from Scarface

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Susan Fourtané 8/2/2015 | 7:14:58 PM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Indeed, Mike. Nothing more powerful than your will. 

MikeP688 8/2/2015 | 5:17:29 PM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Happy August to all throughout our Community!!!

Beyond a Doubt M'aam :-)   I have been fascinated also by the likes of Blue Apron that has some very interesting meals at $ 9/Box :-)   We can always be enterprising and creative.   I have been reading Michael Chang's Biography and he reflects upon how his mother cooked rice in the rice cooker while they stayed at the Sofitel in Paris during the French Open--that he won.    It goes to your implicit message:  When there is will, there is a way.   

Susan Fourtané 8/2/2015 | 7:35:33 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Mike, remember any of these is a food replacement, You still need to cook and eat. :D There are some simple recipes to cook, or prepare healthy meals in just a few minutes. -Susan
MikeP688 7/29/2015 | 5:47:50 AM
Re: Follow-up (Thank You!!) I just signed up for their newsletter and will be on the "Hunt" for them to assess it.   Some very interesting ideas to think about and reflect upon.     
MikeP688 7/29/2015 | 5:42:57 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version As someone who is a bit "Lazy" to cook, I will be on the hunt to get these and test them out.   As the saying goes, "You are What you eat".     
Susan Fourtané 7/29/2015 | 5:24:55 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Kruz, yes, I try to do the same. I also get smoothies and fruit juice (not from concentrate) to carry in my bag along the day. That's why I thought either Ambronite or Soylent would be good to carry in my bag in the same way, they could be even mixed with the juice. I love a good breakfast. :) -Susan
Kruz 7/29/2015 | 4:55:00 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Another thing I do whenever I travel is I try to go to the groceries my first night there and buy what I need for the week(yogurt snacks, fruits etc). This way I ll have fruits for snacks(replacing the buttery snacks). I also focus on having a good brekfast to be able to withstand the hunger. Breakfast is your most essential meal, and you have to have it like a king.
Susan Fourtané 7/29/2015 | 4:18:51 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version Kruz, your two last lines sound like the recommendations you read all over the supplements, and other stuff. :D I am now consuming surimi fish protein sticks as protein snacks. I already mentioned the cherries below. But, as the discussion goes here, the problem is to keep your healthy snacking up when you travel. I have to say that this topic here is being of great help in triggering thoughts about finding ways of keeping your own healthy habits when you travel. -Susan
Kruz 7/27/2015 | 5:03:58 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version It is a real pain having to mess up your diet whenever you travel. It is an issue I deal with all the time. I haven't tried Soylent, but will do after this article (hoping this ships to where I am), but I have a good solution for this and at a cheaper price. As an athelete, I use some types of protein to be able to sustain the workout. I would suggest trying a good caseine shake. This are delicious, instant with great mixability, and can help you feel full for at leats 12 hours without upsetting your stomach(when dealing with a good brand).

Nothing replaces the realy meal and the nutrient absorption rate is the highest in this case. These will remain supplement and should be used for a limited time period.
Susan Fourtané 7/27/2015 | 3:55:36 AM
Re: Ambronite - organic real-food version The product is great, it tastes great, and I would love to replace all my snacks with it. Don't you think it's a little too expensive, though? :( Is it a limit of how much you can drink of it per day? I am now snacking on cherries. I may not get all the nutrients that come in Ambronite, but cherries are also healthy. I thought that maybe I could use the shake when I travel only, sort of what Mitch was thinking. -Susan
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