Soylent Orange - Whole food open source soylent

post by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-26T21:20:40.981Z · score: 25 (28 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 104 comments

Update: John Maxwell and I have a startup making nutritionally complete food, MealSquares (which is likely better for weightloss see below)

 

This came up at a meetup a while back.  Several people, myself included, expressed frustration with the time, cost, stress, of preparing reasonably healthy and tasty meals.  I suspect this frustration is widespread among people who do work that requires a lot of focus.  Leaving flow because your body needs maintenance is annoying.  So I'm sharing a strategy that has helped me.

I was encouraged by the success of Soylent.  I had been playing around with ingredients for post workout shakes for months. But reading the Soylent blog posts inspired me to do a full micronutrient breakdown of what I had been drinking and optimize in a more rigorous fashion. Why not copy the soylent recipe?

1. I'm not realistically going to source all of those ingredients

2. He risks (and has already had problems with) misdosing himself to deleterious effect, this problem doesn't exist with whole foods

3. The absorption of powders vs whole foods is contentious

4. I don't agree with his criteria for inclusion

In comparison, my recipe is extremely easy and cheap to source, due to the small number of ingredients.

There is an immediate problem with meal replacement shakes in that liquid calories tend to have a significantly smaller satiety effect than solid foods.  So this will probably not be a good solution for you if have difficulties keeping your overall caloric intake down.

[EDIT: Removed the link to the recipe, John and I are planning to commercialize this in addition to MealSquares at some point.  Get in touch with me if you really need the recipe and won't spread it around.]

This is a work in progress and I am looking for further ideas for improvement.  Subjectively I can say I find this recipe delicious, and hugely prefer it post-workout to even the best junk food (pizza, etc.).  The combination of milk, vanilla, banana, and orange juice tastes kind of like an orange julius. It has also been a major stress relief and time saver.  I don't worry so much about nutrient deficiencies anymore as this shake in addition to a meat or egg based meal has me pretty well covered.

I am due for another blood panel and will report any anomalies as I've been drinking a similar concoction for around 6-8 months.

I am open to debating the merits of my ingredient choices (as well as the overall wisdom of this scheme) in the comments. Also please share any other strategies you have for making food less of a chore.

 

Edit: I finally got my blood panel back and everything is looking good. Triglycerides unchanged, HDL up, LDL slightly down.  All other numbers within the healthy range.  I'm a little concerned about my iron level (what is considered normal may not be optimal for longevity), and plan on giving blood to lower it, but this is orthogonal to the use of a dietary shake I believe.

Edit: Kefir is expensive but highly recommended for lactose intolerant individuals. It is also delicious.

104 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-26T21:44:23.907Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I mentioned to Critch (Academician on LW) awhile back that I was considering learning how to cook, and he responded that it's not worth my time. I blinked, remembered approximately how much I valued my time, and more or less had to agree. This is a time/money tradeoff that many people whose time is valuable may not be navigating sensibly. There are lots of ways to pay other people to prepare food for you - restaurants, hiring a personal chef, meal delivery programs, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a social network of some kind where people offered to cook for other people, and if there isn't someone should make it.

(I currently obtain food partially through restaurants and partially through a combination of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and whey protein.)

comment by gjm · 2013-03-27T00:45:13.844Z · score: 34 (36 votes) · LW · GW

A few words of possible dissent.

  1. If you enjoy cooking, then time spent doing it isn't a pure cost. Many people enjoy cooking. I happen to be one. You might turn out to be one too.

  2. If you pay money for food, all the money is gone. If you spend time cooking, you can do other things with some of the same time -- if there is someone else around, you can talk to them; you can listen to the radio or (intermittently) read; etc. So beware of simplistic time/money tradeoff analyses.

  3. Cooking is a useful social skill as well as a way of getting edible food for yourself. (You can invite people over for meals, which is by no means socially equivalent to inviting them out for meals.)

  4. Good restaurant food is quite expensive. (Admittedly less so in the US, where I think you live, than in the UK, where I live.) If your tastes aren't cheap, eating out a lot may not be such a great tradeoff even if you regard your time as very valuable.

  5. The time-cost of eating out is not zero. Depending on where you eat, it may be distinctly more than the time-cost of cooking for yourself. (Though, again, you can do other things while you wait for your food.)

  6. I am not accusing you or Academian (or anyone in particular) of making this mistake, but: Beware of simple-minded time/money tradeoff analysis where you assume the value of your time equals (or even is well approximated by) the amount you are paid. That's a safe assumption if you actually have the option of adjusting your working hours ad lib and your behaviour is perfectly consistent, but not otherwise. (I could save myself some time by not cooking. I am paid quite well. But since I'm paid an annual salary rather than an hourly wage, I can't simply spend less time cooking and more time working and get more money at the same rate as I'm paid at.)

  7. Cooking for yourself may well get you a healthier diet; you need to consider how you value your health as well as how you value your time.

I'm quite sure there are plenty of people for whom cooking isn't a good use of their time, but I suspect there are fewer such people than a simple comparison of costs with pay rates would suggest.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-27T01:30:30.574Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you enjoy cooking, then time spent doing it isn't a pure cost. Many people enjoy cooking. I happen to be one. You might turn out to be one too.

Sure, but the OP, at least, doesn't sound like one of these people, and I doubt he's alone.

Cooking is a useful social skill as well as a way of getting edible food for yourself. (You can invite people over for meals, which is by no means socially equivalent to inviting them out for meals.)

Even if I learned how to cook, it's unlikely that I would end up being the best cook in my social circle. If I want eating-at-people's-houses events to happen in general, I can subsidize the best cook in my social circle instead of cooking myself. If I personally want to be the cook to win friendship points with my friends, that might be a good strategy, but it's probably worth thinking about whether I have other strategies that play better to my comparative advantages for winning friendship points.

Beware of simple-minded time/money tradeoff analysis where you assume the value of your time equals (or even is well approximated by) the amount you are paid. That's a safe assumption if you actually have the option of adjusting your working hours ad lib and your behaviour is perfectly consistent, but not otherwise.

Agreed. I'm basing my current conversion rate on approximately the hourly rate I can get tutoring, and I have substantial leeway to adjust how many hours I spend tutoring. (LWers looking for extra cash who have good academic credentials and haven't considered this possibility should do so; with good credentials and in a reasonably well-off area you can safely charge $60 an hour if not more, and you can use a service like WyzAnt to minimize the time cost of advertising your services.)

Cooking for yourself may well get you a healthier diet; you need to consider how you value your health as well as how you value your time.

Sure. This is why I no longer eat at restaurants for all of my meals; again, for health reasons, half of them consist of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and whey protein (none of which require cooking, really; hard-boiled eggs are very easy to prepare).

comment by Xachariah · 2013-03-27T03:43:08.327Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Even if I learned how to cook, it's unlikely that I would end up being the best cook in my social circle.

Most people resolve this by specializing in certain dishes. You could probably never be a better general cook than your friend's wife who really loves cooking, but you could learn to make a single night's dinner better than her with a small amount of practice. Just keep repeating the same appetizer, the same entree, the same two sides, and the same desert.

I have a friend who can only make Eggplant Parmesian, bacon-deviled-eggs, and chocolate covered strawberries. As long as he doesn't host more than twice a month, nobody notices this lack of variety because each of the dishes exceeds restaurant quality. He can't cook outside of that, but he's still considered amazing at cooking because that's how people's memory works.

comment by D_Alex · 2013-03-28T03:18:27.179Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If I want eating-at-people's-houses events to happen in general, I can subsidize the best cook in my social circle instead of cooking myself.

You know, this seems socially naive to me, in a way characteristic of ideallistic young introverts. People do not usually respond well if you offer to pay for stuff they would otherwise enjoy doing for free, under the right circumstances (such as reciprocal dinner invites).

But I may be wrong, give it a try and report on the results, one of us will probably learn something.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-03-28T03:53:23.031Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

People do not usually respond well if you offer to pay for stuff they would otherwise enjoy doing for free, under the right circumstances

I think you're right, and I think the reason you're right is that paying a friend to cook for you introduces a social relation -- and, importantly, an implicit power relation -- that wasn't there before, and that people tend to be cautious about adopting those sorts of things. If you want to pay the best cook in your social circle to cook for group events, all of a sudden that person is no longer some random friend; they've become your employee. Which is, among other things, a status move and one that creates asymmetric obligations.

There are ways of exchanging goods and services in most social circles without creating status implications or inflexible long-term obligations, but they're usually somewhat less conducive to ongoing arrangements. Probably the best in this situation would be to create some sort of regular social event that requires expenditure on your part, and ask your friend to do the cooking as part of a general division of resources. For example: "Want to start going fishing every couple of weeks? I'll drive if you cook." Usually you'd want to do a trial run first, of course.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-28T04:36:30.032Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Instead of subsidizing I can offer to take care of logistics if they take care of cooking.

comment by coffeespoons · 2013-03-28T15:01:55.941Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would invite people over and pay for takeout rather than cooking, if I couldn't cook.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T21:01:44.031Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I may be wrong, give it a try and report on the results, one of us will probably learn something.

Qiaochu_Yuan's social circle and your social circle may (or may not) be too different for what one will learn to apply to the other.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T20:54:44.864Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(You can invite people over for meals, which is by no means socially equivalent to inviting them out for meals.)

In average; but it also depends on what you cook for them or where you take them.

comment by Xachariah · 2013-03-27T03:19:58.174Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

How are you calculating time cost?

I can cook crockpot dinners with 15 minutes total time (prep, check time, washing/cleanup), even though it takes hours to cook. This will prepare ~5 meals for both myself and my girlfriend that cost maybe 1.5 mins each to reheat later. At a total time of 30 mins input for 10 meals worth 5 dollars of saving each, that's a cost of $100/hr.

That's a ridiculously efficient use of time. Even if you're a third as efficient and take 45 minutes prep (the 15 mins to reheat should be constant), you're still running $50/hr, which is still excellent. The initial learning cost for crockpot cooking is very low as well.

Do you calculate this as 4 hours spent (fire time) or 30 minutes (your time spent)?

You can do similar things with stews, rice+stock dishes (gumbo/jambalaya/etouffee/paella), sous vide, and roasts/loafs. These are the easiest. Once you get better at cooking, you can expand and cook other dishes a similar way. As you get better, you spend a smaller and smaller fraction of time actually attending to fire.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-27T03:41:19.720Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Preparing meals in bulk definitely seems like a much better investment of time than cooking individual meals. I'll have to look into this.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T21:14:17.976Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fridged-and-reheated food tastes so bad to me, I'd rather just eat low-end microwave-ready dishes.

comment by Alicorn · 2013-07-29T06:37:11.446Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is sufficiently bizarre that I wonder if your fridge is inhabited by mold or something.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-07-29T19:29:19.515Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think it's bizzare? I don' t hate reheated food, but the difference between food that's just been prepared and food that was cooked, refrigerated, and reheated is really obvious to me. It's huge.

comment by Alicorn · 2013-07-29T20:48:40.716Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that bizarre that a preference would exist, but that it would put leftovers of nice food below "low-end microwave-ready dishes" surprised me.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-29T13:47:44.166Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think so -- it happens with any fridge. What bothers me is that the food is drier (though that probably might be fixed by pouring water into it and stirring when reheating it), and the noodles/beans/grains of rice/whatever stick together (which I'm not sure it's possible to undo even in principle).

comment by Alicorn · 2013-07-29T19:14:21.102Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So do you have this problem with things like soup or curry - wet stuff that doesn't lose that much of its water content?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-29T19:28:15.357Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not with soup, I don't. And I've never tried to store curry in a fridge for later reheating.

comment by shminux · 2013-07-29T07:27:50.593Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or maybe he is a supertaster of some sort. After all, some people can't drink pop :)

comment by drethelin · 2013-03-27T00:41:20.444Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

hiring a personal chef is pretty fucking expensive. How much is your time worth?

In general, eating out is at least as if not more time consuming than eating at home, and costs way more. Cooking is easy. Anyone who can reasonably think their time is worth so much they can't cook should be able to learn to cook well within a few hours.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-27T01:21:30.688Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some random Google hits suggest that you can hire a personal chef for something like $13 a meal if you shop around. That's certainly in the right ballpark for someone to reevaluate how they're navigating this particular time/money tradeoff.

In general, eating out is at least as if not more time consuming than eating at home, and costs way more.

I currently live a few blocks away from various restaurants. It takes me at most half an hour to eat out (from the time I head out to the time I come back), and I pay an average of $8 per meal I eat this way. How long does it take you to prepare a meal, how much money do the ingredients cost per meal, and how long do you spend eating it?

comment by jooyous · 2013-03-27T01:56:36.850Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of food do you get at restaurants?

I've found huge pot types of food like curry/chili/soup get pretty cheap. The ingredients are usually $30 or under and they take 2-3 hours to make and last you most of the week. Although there's a weird balance between the comfort of having food and the tendency to get sick of food after eating it for a week. But I think you can freeze them also. And you'd need to figure out how much you hate chopping things, but you can listen to music or podcasts while you do it.

I'm pretty surprised by the hostility of some of the comments on this thread. This works for me only because I grew up chopping veggies and eating these types of food my whole life. There's a ton of restaurant food I wouldn't try to make.

comment by coffeespoons · 2013-03-28T14:57:42.544Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While might they take 2-3 hours in total to make, IME for most of that time they can be left in the oven/on the hob, and you can do other things.

In the UK at least you can buy already chopped vegetables quite cheaply. I don't mind chopping veg these days, but when I used to hate it they were brilliant!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-03-27T03:04:25.216Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Home cooking includes shopping and clean-up. It would be hard to figure out the exact average time costs per meal, but it isn't nothing. When you're waiting at a restaurant, you can read.

comment by taelor · 2013-03-27T04:45:08.779Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At least some of these costs can be reddemed by listening to podcasts. I often find myself going on hour long walks while listening to podcasts for the sole reason that walking around listening to podcasts is more enjoyable than sitting down while listening to podcasts; more productive uses of my time (for example cooking) might be able to increase value.

comment by Randy_M · 2013-03-27T15:28:06.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not needing to do the cleaning up is pretty much the only reason for going out other than variety, for me.

comment by philh · 2013-03-28T23:40:17.929Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How long does it take you to prepare a meal, how much money do the ingredients cost per meal, and how long do you spend eating it?

The meal I make most often (pasta, bacon, frozen veg, pasta sauce): about half an hour to cook and clean, maybe £2, and variable time (probably 10-20 minutes) eating at my desk (which time is less valuable than time spent not eating at my desk, but not that much less valuable). I make two meals at a time, or sometimes three when I estimate quantities poorly.

comment by drethelin · 2013-03-27T02:34:13.818Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

it generally takes me about half an hour to 45 minutes to make and eat food, and the cost is usually something like 5-8 dollars.

Almost any place I go to for food would take half an hour to get and eat food before you count travel time, so I guess your choices are a lot faster and closer than anything to me, as well as being cheaper (I generally pay 13 or so dollars when eating out). Are you counting places like mcdonalds?

I guess I don't view it as having a personal chef if they make meals and then freeze them, but that's still cheaper than I would've assumed.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-03-27T02:43:49.142Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I live in Berkeley and there are various relatively cheap and fast restaurants (not chains) catering to the university crowd here, so I might be in a relatively good situation in that regard.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-03-27T14:11:20.835Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are you in a position where you can convert your time to money freely as-desired?

I expect that people on Less Wrong are demographically more likely than most to be able to do this, but most people have jobs which take up a certain amount of their time, beyond which they are not at liberty to convert more time into more money at a comparable rate should they so choose. So time/money tradeoffs which fail to account for whether the time being traded off is actually employment time, and thus valuable at that rate, will tend to be misleading.

Edit: I missed the fact that gjm has already noted this in another comment.

comment by Alicorn · 2013-03-27T06:26:01.875Z · score: 1 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Note that learning to cook - if you plan to ever actually do any cooking - will make me less interested in accepting you as a housemate because I am bad at sharing.

comment by katydee · 2013-04-18T21:32:31.387Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Could some of the downvoters please explain what they found wrong with this comment?

comment by 9eB1 · 2013-05-12T18:19:24.637Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't downvote it, but I'm not sure I understand the comment. The only plausible reason why being bad at sharing + someone else cooking = unhappiness seems to be that Alicorn herself enjoys cooking, and so wouldn't want to share cooking space and food storage with someone else who cooks. But this is a very odd statement, because generally people enjoy spending time with others who share their interests. Also, I had to spend a couple minutes coming up with that explanation, the first draft of this comment just said I had no plausible explanation.

comment by Alicorn · 2013-05-12T18:58:58.129Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I hate sharing a kitchen; the more I have to do it, the less I know where all my stuff is and the less I can expect to find it available for my use whenever I like. (A lot of my skills turn off when there is another human in the room with me, so working around another person isn't usually an option). I guess my comment wasn't right for a public setting; I was mostly addressing Qiaochu, who knows about my kitchen thing and is planning to move in with me and Mike later this year.

comment by D_Alex · 2013-03-28T03:07:21.959Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(I currently obtain food partially through restaurants and partially through a combination of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and whey protein.)

You poor bastard.... Life is too short to eat whey protein.

I recommend you do learn how to cook, you may well find you enjoy it.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-03-27T05:21:21.423Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Several people, myself included, expressed frustration with the time, cost, stress, of preparing reasonably healthy and tasty meals.

I struggled with this problem for years. A few months ago I hit upon what is, to me, the ideal solution. I pay someone to come to my place twice per week and prepare all my meals. I live in Argentina so the cost of hiring this person, which is about USD 80 per month, is unlikely to reflect what you'd have to pay for a similar service in your own country. The fact that I only eat salads (including fruit salads) also lowers the costs considerably, so you'd very likely have to pay more than I do if you are located in Europe or North America.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-03-27T21:17:07.148Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I live in Argentina so the cost of hiring this person, which is about USD 80 per month, is unlikely to reflect what you'd have to pay for a similar service in your own country.

I would expect that incomes in a country with a lower cost of living would also tend to be proportionately lower; have you found a way around this?

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-03-28T05:04:35.931Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have debts or dependants, and I live relatively frugally. In any case, before hiring this service I was spending more than an additional USD 80 per month on food (since I was eating out a lot), so I'm actually saving money relative to the relevant counterfactual.

comment by khafra · 2013-03-27T11:42:22.998Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

2-week-old salad doesn't sound at all appetizing. Does that really work?

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-03-27T11:53:40.543Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I found the source of contention. Magnify!

I pay someone to come to my place twice per week and prepare all my meals.

come to my place twice per week

twice per week

The ploth thickenth. Contrast with

2-week-old salad

Or has the evidence been doctored with?

comment by khafra · 2013-03-27T13:56:55.999Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hrm. There's a star on benthamite's post, but I usually fail my perception rolls. I'll bet the misreading was mine, and he never exceeds a four-day-old salad. Not ideal, but not revolting.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-29T18:48:13.028Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's tantalizing idea, but I think cooking and eating 'regular' solid food is here to stay for the time being.

There has actually been quite a lot of research in modified food intake, because there are many conditions which cause people to need parental nutrition and TPN -- cancer, surgery, improper digestion, etc. There is even an official society -- called A.S.P.E.N. (https://www.nutritioncare.org) -- and they offer certifications, because the field is really incredibly complicated. People have survived on total parental nutrition for years, even decades, but most develop complications. Administering engineered nutrition is still an art, because we still don't know exactly how to give patients the nutrients they need while maximizing their absorption. Also, though our knowledge of the human body's nutritional needs is quite advanced, it is far from perfect. Grants for GI research are not plentiful (in the US, at least).

If you would really like to try a kind of 'liquid food' diet, I highly recommend that you speak with a certified nutrition specialist. Finding a good pharmacist or doctor (depending on state and hospital) in a prestigious cancer/research hospital would be ideal (especially if they have multiple certifications so that they could apply multidisciplinary knowledge), I think. It would be interesting to see what they would say, because usually TPNs are administered intravenously, which is obviously not applicable to your case. I think that at the very least they would be able to give you some official guidelines with which you can refer to as you experiment.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-29T21:33:39.545Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The soylent guy spoke with a nutritionist and got a greenlight. Given that I am making mine from whole foods, and am not completely replacing my diet with it I doubt I'll run into any problems. As I said, I've been doing this for 6 months now. Don't most problems with administered nutrition stem from the lack of digestion?

comment by gwern · 2015-02-05T22:01:58.832Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(For those confused, this comment misspells 'Parenteral', and is referring to "Parenteral nutrition, also known as intravenous feeding, is a method of getting nutrition into the body through the veins. While it is most commonly referred to as total parenteral nutrition (TPN), some patients need to get only certain types of nutrients intravenously.")

comment by shminux · 2013-03-26T21:33:49.200Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Several people, myself included, expressed frustration with the time, cost, stress, of preparing reasonably healthy and tasty meals.

Steaming fish and veggies is trivial and takes little time. Throw it in, wait 15-20 min and serve with a choice of dressing. And you don't have to worry about not eating "real food". Of course, for someone who is used to fast food, they won't appear tasty. You can also blend veggies (even kale) and fruits together, with or without milk, if you invest in a decent blender. You can fry mushrooms in a non-stick pan while waiting for the steamer, takes very little effort and no skill.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-03-27T03:02:09.987Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I recently discovered that poaching fish (simmer in liquid at a low temperature) is astonishingly fast. I'm not sure that it's faster than steaming, which I haven't explored, but it seems as though I hardly turn away and the fish is done.

Those blocks of soup are quick and tasty for poaching fish.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-03-27T06:08:27.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Second thoughts: It seems reasonable that liquid will transfer heat faster than gas, which would be a win for poaching. On the other hand, it's necessary to heat a larger volume of liquid to get the process started, so that's a countervailing factor.

I have this sort of steamer-- interleaved pieces of metal which are somewhat difficult to clean, so I don't use it much.

Now I'm looking at a microwave steamer, a flat metal steamer that fits in a pot, and bamboo steamers.

comment by shminux · 2013-03-27T19:32:15.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having tried all kinds, this standalone stainless-steel one seems to work best, if you have space for it.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-06-02T15:13:49.172Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or you can just throw these in the microwave.

comment by elharo · 2013-03-27T17:50:17.199Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The more restrictive your dietary preferences (kosher, paleo, vegan, low-carb, pick your food fetish) the more benefit there is to learning how to cook and spending time cooking. Almost any restaurant, and almost exclusively any restaurant that prepares food quickly, uses massive amounts of corn starch, vegetable oils, sugar, flour, grain fed meat, milk, farmed fish, Crisco, and other ingredients I no longer want to consume. If you're not averse to eating fast food, then you may well save time by eating at Wendy's, Popeyes, and Au Bon Pain.

For me, although I live in the largest city in the United States, I know of zero public restaurants that are truly appropriate for someone following a low-carb diet. It's mostly a question of how many substitutions can I get away with, and how many of the menu items are plausible. If I were really serious about grass-fed meat there'd be almost nowhere I could eat anything.

Once you've decided to cook, it does pay off to learn a few dishes that you can cook well and quickly that you're happy with. If you can cook them in mass quantities and store them for later, so much the better. For breakfast, I can whip up eggs or omelets (several styles) far faster than I can get the same from the nearest diner, cleanup time included. I'm still working on figuring out lunch and dinner.

Cooking also benefits from economies of scale. Cooking for 2, or 4, or 17 is cheaper and faster per person than cooking for 1. Eating out, by contrast scales linearly in cost.

comment by 9eB1 · 2013-05-12T18:25:58.521Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cuban restaurants pretty consistently have low-carb menu items, if that is your only restriction. The next best alternative in my experience is Mexican restaurants with careful ordering (e.g. Chipotle burrito bowl, no beans, no rice). Indian (and Thai and others I assume) curries are often low-carb, but are not nearly as good without naan or rice.

comment by coffeespoons · 2013-03-28T12:47:19.304Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also please share any other strategies you have for making food less of a chore.

I don't hate cooking, but when I'm living on my own I really don't feel like spending half an hour preparing food, 10 mins eating and 20 mins washing up every night. My solution has been to make a big pot of healthy stew at the beginning of the week (eg, vegetables, lentils (or sometimes meat), tinned tomatoes, stock cube, spices). Total cooking time is about 2 hours, but after the 30 mins of preparing I can leave it on the hob/in the oven and get on with other things. I leave a portion for the next day and freeze the rest of it for later in the week.

comment by coffeespoons · 2013-03-28T13:45:28.104Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Also, before I learned to cook, I used to eat microwavable ready meals (which are really pretty good in the UK). I'd boil some pre-chopped* veg to go with them for vitamins etc. I also made sure I ate plenty of fruit.

*In the UK, a lot of supermarkets will sell already chopped vegetables at a slightly higher price. Buying them can improve your life (and save time) if you don't like chopping vegetables!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-09-09T11:31:17.207Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Chopped vegetables and fruit are available in the US. I see them in Philadelphia, but I don't know if they're commonly available.

comment by troll · 2013-03-27T15:34:15.954Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've had an identical project for a few months now.

A spreadsheet (under Edward) for ingredients and supplements for my shake which is missing potassium and fiber. (which are provided for with KCl salt and oats) RDAs are also not fixed for 1.5x caloric intake.

This is designed with weightlifting, preparation time, mobility, and close to 3000 cals/day in mind.

Overall cost is $3.84/day/person.

Tastes like thicker strawberry milk.

Updated spreadsheet with price distribution and complete RDAs (except phosphorous/pantathenic acid). $4.36/day/person

I expect the price to go down once the ingredients stabilize and I start buying in bulk.

comment by VAuroch · 2013-12-04T01:35:46.632Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your spreadsheet for the updated version is in your trash folder. Is there a newer version?

comment by troll · 2013-12-05T04:57:52.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not in trash anymore. However, there is a never version in the form of a bread recipe here.

comment by cursed · 2013-03-31T06:35:49.987Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome, I'm creating my own recipe based off of yours.

Do you mix all of your ingredients together, including the chicken and the supplements?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-26T22:33:55.706Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

When someone says "I hate doing X", they can either a) stop doing X, or b) learn to like X. In this case, I suggest option b).

For me, learning how to cook a few simple, healthy, tasty meals has been one of the most useful skills I've acquired. I suppose it depends on your income, lifestyle and taste, but I prefer to know exactly what I'm putting in my body rather than taking my chances with restaurant food. At this point, I like my own cooking better than almost any restaurant, and it actually saves me time and trouble (and lots of money). Besides, there is an art and a Zen pleasure to cooking that I highly recommend. I see no downside to learning how to cook.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-03-27T03:07:55.757Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This probably doesn't apply to RomeoStevens, but I know one person who hated cooking, and it turned that at least part of the problem was that she got backaches. She was tall, and the solution was raising her work surfaces.

Sometimes it isn't a matter of learning to like something, it takes rearranging matters so that it's more likable.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-03-27T05:14:40.042Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I see no downside to learning how to cook.

I'm very surprised if you see no downsides at all, especially for someone with RomeoStevens' revealed preferences.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-26T22:56:49.864Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I did learn to cook a few healthy tasty meals. I still do prepare them as this (shake) isn't a total diet replacement. I still hate it.

comment by BrassLion · 2013-03-27T01:31:46.595Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

While lots of people (myself among them) enjoy cooking - to the point where I'd cook even if it was more expensive than buying equivalent food, at least from time to time - RomeoStevens clearly isn't one of them.

The time it takes for a basic meal goes down the more you cook, though. Back in the day I could do a whole meal with about 20-30 minutes of actual work for certain meals, as little as 10 minutes for really easy things like pasta. The trick is to either get really, really good at making one meal, or do meals that need little prep. Salad with pre-cooked protein - cold cuts, for example - takes about 5 minutes to prepare even if you have to cut up vegetables, pasta takes about 15 minutes but only 3 of those involve you and not just the stove, fruit takes 30 seconds to wash. If you hate cooking but still have to cook, it might actually be worth taking time to learn to cook quicker.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-27T02:02:19.905Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and if you hate cooking but still have to cook, by getting good at it you may find that you start to enjoy it. This is a very general principle, applicable to many things we dislike but must nevertheless do.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T07:41:30.358Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Using meal replacements has improved my cooking affect. Only having to worry about 1 prepared meal per day means I have more time and attention to pay to it.

comment by VAuroch · 2013-12-04T03:25:13.126Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you continued this, and have you updated it in the last months?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-12-05T03:08:10.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes and yes, I now do 2 bananas instead of adding potassium powder

comment by tadrinth · 2013-04-17T01:14:37.348Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just made my first batch of this and it was pretty decent. Not amazing, but definitely palatable. I had one big cup in place of dinner; I expected to want more but it was surprisingly filling. I started with the base recipe and added a scoop of vanilla whey protein, plus about a quarter cup of frozen chopped spinach.

I was expecting to have more issues with storing or measuring out the frozen OJ concentrate, but I just opened it, scooped some out with a spoon, put the lid back on, and stood it up in my freezer.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-04-17T02:10:53.358Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the review. My impression of the taste is biased since I drink it following fasted training.

comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2013-03-31T08:24:54.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While I'm intrigued by these and similar attempts and want people to do them so I can see what hapens, I would be leery of trying this on myself because I suspect nutrition goes beyond the micro/macro nutrients we currently understand. In particular, I'm not sure we can treat "carbs", "proteins" and "fats" as wholesale categories. Not that I know enough about the topic yet to make that statement...that's just the assumption my priors are telling me to go with until I educate myself further.

I'm not good at planning ahead of time, so the cooking in bulk thing doesn't really happen for me. If I'm really in a hurry, I find the fastest way to eat is to steam-cook veggies and meats (fish/seafood turn out well steamed, not sure how other meats work) in the microwave. If you don't have a steamer, just toss things in a bowl and cover the bowl with a plate. Ta-da, you just made a steam cooker! It takes less than a minute to set it up and turn on the microwave - certainly equal or less time than it takes to set up a soylent-type meal. Sprinkle on spice mix, sauce, etc if you are a flavor junkie.

In addition to that, I always keep fruits on hand. They can be eaten without preparation and provide energy quickly. It's mostly sugar, but you can turn to starchy bananas for something a bit more substantial. Also, avocados and coconuts are excellent sources of fat, which is especially helpful if you wish to cut back on animal products.

I get really lethargic after eating certain grains so I'm currently tending towards the Paleo philosophy on diet, but if you also eat bread you can save even more time, since you've added a food group which is filling and sold ready-made.

So I don't really ever spend more than two minutes per meal actively cooking unless I'm actually in the mood for something particularly tasty (in which case I'll put the effort into stir-frying or something). If you are willing to cut culinary corners and make liberal use of the microwave steam cook method, I find the only time consuming part of this is shopping.

comment by D_Alex · 2013-03-28T03:07:11.334Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I offer the following:

  1. Approach cooking as a hobby, not a chore. Aim for deliciousness every time and take pride in your craft!

  2. Eat with friends and/or family, often. For these ocdasions, make foods that scale well: stews, shepherd's pie, tuna pasta bake, meatloaf etc. Make those, and invite others over.

  3. When you eat on your own: salads and stir-fry dishes are quick, healthy and yummy. A sandwich press (cafe style with flat top and bottom), is great for crispy bacon, fast steak/hamburgers (and toasted sandwiches).

comment by Malenfant · 2013-03-27T18:46:45.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

RDA is based on a 2000 calorie diet, and since the recipe in it's current proportions has only 1156 calories, it might be easier to interpret if you calculated the total nutrient values by (total % of RDA)*(2000 calories)/(number of calories in recipe), to give sort of a "nutrients per calorie" measure.

Wikipedia says plant iron is harder to absorb than meat iron ("heme" iron), so your percentages for iron may be an underestimate.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T20:13:47.972Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you expand on "nutrients per calorie" and why I would use it?

comment by Malenfant · 2013-03-28T21:23:35.386Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My thought was that if I wanted to drink this stuff, I'd need to double the recipe to meet my daily calorie requirements. If I did that, then I would get enough of a lot of things that currently seem too low. So scaling the %RDA for the vitamins and minerals, according to how much you're actually going to drink, would make it easier to use.

But there might also be differences between people. Someone who weighs 50 kg is not going to need as many nutrients as someone who weighs 100 kg. RDA is based on a normal 25-year-old male, so you might be able to scale according to weight based on that. However, what about people who weigh the same, but have very different metabolisms? Should someone who eats 3000 calories a day have more vitamin E than someone who eats 1800 calories a day?If the answer is yes, then my "nutrients per calorie" idea would standardize your table so you could just drink as much of this concoction as you want and you'd have the right nutrient balance. If the answer is no, then there's no reason to use the nutrients per calorie, and if you did use it you might end up overdosing on vitamin A. I tried to find some information to answer that question, but couldn't find anything.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-28T22:54:56.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think if I wanted to make it more useful in that way I would input all the formulas instead of just arbitrary numbers so you could modify the amount of any ingredients and have everything update. I might do that when I have some time.

comment by michaelkeenan · 2013-03-27T18:38:35.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Watch out for the phytic acid in the oats and sunflower seeds. Phytic acid chelates with zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron, making them much less bioavailable. So, looking at the spreadsheet, it looks like you'll need an alternative source of calcium and magnesium; also, eat meat at a different time from the shake to absorb the zinc and iron.

Maybe just have a daily glass of water with Concentrace or something similar to make sure you have enough of those minerals. CFAR supplies Concentrace at its office; they seem persuaded of its worth.

Redacted: Also, be deliberate about the omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio of your diet. The proportion of omega-6 fats is too high in modern diets, which some research suggests causes problems from depression to inflammation. If you use grass-fed milk, you'll be fine. Grain-fed animals have more omega-6 fats relative to omega-3 fats than grass-fed animals.

As AlexSchell points out below, milk contains very little omega-3 or omega-6 fats. Here is a good listing of the fat contents of common foods.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T20:04:46.311Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The combination of whey and vitamin C, each of which reduces the action of phytic acid is good enough for me.

Edit: I found out an easy way to reduce phytic acid is to soak with a spoonful of ground buckwheat overnight in acidic water. I will be trying this.

comment by AlexSchell · 2013-03-27T19:29:26.184Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The omega-3/6 ratios in dairy shouldn't matter, since milkfat barely contains any of either. The contribution of milkfat to the total dietary omega-3/6 ratio will be swamped by things like nuts or mayonnaise.

comment by michaelkeenan · 2013-03-27T19:56:02.746Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good to know, thanks!

comment by jamesf · 2013-03-27T06:07:52.082Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You probably know this, but for those who don't, the person who made Soylent wants to start a Kickstarter for his project in the near future to make it a real product. I have high hopes and only slightly less high expectations that he'll succeed.

Can you go into more detail on your third and fourth points for not copying Soylent?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T07:20:50.331Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

3 is complex (hence the contention). One of the useful outcomes of testing soylent will be providing decent evidence on this. There are definitely some non-trivial issues going on in that several substances cause no problems in high quantities in whole foods but show signs of toxicity in small amounts from supplements (manganese, vitamin A). I am paranoid about not absorbing nutrients or poisoning myself, so I am sticking to whole foods until I see some blood panels.

4: His claim about maltodextrin being slower than sugar to absorb is wrong and can be disproved in 30 seconds with a trip to wikipedia. This does not give me faith in his process.

Protein intake is woefully low for anyone who exercises regularly.

Fat intake is contentious. One camp holds that PUFAs are bad and the other that SFAs are bad. There is little debate that MUFAs are good for you, so olive oil is a good choice. One possible modification to my shake is using skim milk and replacing the lost fat with olive oil, but this eliminates the fat soluble vitamins present in the milk which then complicates the recipe significantly trying to add them back in. I get my MUFAs in the rest of my diet by cooking in coconut milk a lot. I'm not worried about the PUFAs in the sunflower seeds because sunflower seeds have the highest concentration of vitamin E of almost any food by weight. It is highly doubtful the PUFAs are oxidizing in such an environment.

comment by Fadeway · 2013-03-27T11:46:50.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've doubted his process from the start - I remember reading a third person's comment that pointed out he had forgotten to add iron - and his subsequent reply that this mistake was the cause of his feeling bad. I know nothing about nutrition (except that it's not a very good science, if it's science at all), yet iron is obvious even to me. To miss it shows that he didn't really do much double checking, much less cross-referencing or careful deliberation of the ingredient list.

I'm really hopeful about Soylent - I'd even jump in and risk poisoning to test it myself, if I were living alone. If anything, this experiment highlights how untrustworthy and limited our dietary knowledge is (and should motivate us to improve it). If this fails due to a new form of scurvy, the cause can be found and the experiment retried. If it fails due to not having read information that's already out there, well, that's a downer.

comment by jamesf · 2013-03-27T08:15:40.011Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He seems to be responsive to thoughtful feedback, and he may listen to you and end up making something even closer to what you (and now I) want if you tell him that stuff (if you haven't already).

Your mentioning protein intake compelled me to research protein needs and notice that I'm not getting nearly enough of it. 150 g/day for a tall, exercising male; that's the equivalent of 20 oz of steak! So, thank you.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T10:09:35.936Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

of interest: http://mennohenselmans.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/

comment by jamesf · 2013-03-27T10:59:30.893Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

From his recommendation, 148 g/day, or 115 g/day using the .64 g/day/lb figure. The equivalent of 16 oz of steak every day does sound a little more attainable.

By which I mean, I'm going to start taking whey protein rather than spending all of my money on delicious steaks, even if that does sound like a great life.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T20:11:41.342Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I rotate my non shake meals between eggs, fish, shellfish, beef, and chicken.

comment by FourFire · 2013-04-08T19:30:14.770Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Note that on point #4: his exact words are "[...] Short chains get metabolized very quickly, leading to a 'sugar rush', and long chains can be difficult to digest. I use only oligosaccharides, like Maltodextrin, for Carbohydrates. [...]" and from the wikipedia page on maltodextrin "[...]Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose,[...]" However metabolism != absorption and "[...]Maltodextrin is typically composed of a mixture of chains that vary from three to seventeen glucose units long.[2] [...]" Something which tells me that Maltodextrin will take longer to be metabolized than Disaccharides.

comment by erratio · 2013-03-26T22:41:01.333Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone have a good suggestion about what a lactose-intolerant person could potentially replace the milk with?

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-03-27T00:49:23.122Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Lactose-free milk? Where I live, you can find it in most supermarkets.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-26T22:55:08.902Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am lactose intolerant. Lactase is cheap from amazon.

comment by c_edwards · 2015-01-20T15:41:46.075Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Lactase is only there because of your lactose intolerance, right? It's not important for any other reason?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-01-20T22:50:10.435Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, though a lot of people are mildly intolerant and don't realize it.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-03-26T22:54:46.108Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Coconut milk is probably the best bet, but almond milk isn't bad (in small quantities). I would avoid soy milk since it might diminish cognitive abilities.

comment by quiet · 2013-03-27T20:22:10.513Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Has this study been corroborated? 13 years should be enough time for a modest amount of supporting evidence to become known.

comment by gwern · 2013-03-27T21:15:31.214Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you plug 'Brain aging and midlife tofu consumption' into Google Scholar, one of the little links under the first hit points to 'Cited by 176'; if you click on that, you can hit a checkbox for 'Search within citing articles'; then you can search a query like "experiment OR randomized OR blind" which yields 121 results.

The first result shows no negative effect and a trend to a benefit, the second is inaccessible, the second & third are reviews whose abstract suggests it would argue for benefits, and the fourth discusses sleep & mood benefits to soy diets.

Then I got bored and stopped reading. Really, either you or Jayson could (and maybe should) have done this.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-03-26T22:43:27.957Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Soy milk is excellent, as is almond milk.

comment by drewbug · 2015-09-19T13:37:53.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone have the old version of the recipe? It contained Marmite, OJ, sunflower seeds, and a bunch of other things. RomeoStevens doesn't have time to dig it up, so this is a final plea directed at any archivists out there.

comment by VAuroch · 2016-07-09T23:38:42.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/194Y6QoSda6Q6kx-9y9mrmfi3MTQR_KNgejlitB9jiJI/edit?usp=sharing

comment by drewbug · 2016-08-03T16:33:51.828Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I really appreciate it.

comment by wallowinmaya · 2013-03-27T13:02:45.555Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good idea, I thought about trying something similar. But I already need very little time to prepare my meals because I just eat "simple" food like yogurt, eggs, fish like salmon which you don't have to cook, fruits and vegetables.

Regarding the ingredients: I would take flaxseeds instead of sunflower since they have way more omega 3.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-03-27T20:13:00.013Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am dubious of the benefits of omega-3 beyond the amounts I get from a few servings of fish per week.

comment by Nisan · 2013-03-27T02:29:26.382Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't the orange juice curdle the milk?