Cogitating About Food and Soylent - How Much is Enough?


After one week on RFA Soylent, I came to an abrupt realisation that my body likes the stuff. That wasn’t supposed to happen. My jakeleg, bootleg soylent was supposed to be an occasional convenience, an expedient, an I-can-take-it-or-leave-it sometime thing. I had not counted on getting addicted to the stuff in such a short time frame. My soylent wasn’t meant to get in the way of my food.

So much for plans and expectations! Life, as usual, had other ideas. So now I find myself thinking hard, cogitating, trying my best to work things out. I’m not going to just give up regular food; I think that would be extremely rash and imprudent. Anyway, my soylent is made from food ingredients… nevertheless, the body seems to think there’s a difference. My soylent, often half or three-quarters frozen, goes down slowly, smoothly and uneventfully. Now, when I eat regular food, the body usually says, “Hey, what’s this?” The stomach churns a bit or lets go with a few mild twinges or small cramps, enough to let me know that it recognises a difference.

Therefore: I need to think this out and decide a couple of questions, issues that arise from this watershed change:

  • When should I eat food, and when should I eat soylent?
  • How much is enough soylent? how much is too much?
  • How often should I eat food?
  • What kind of food should I eat?
  • If I have taken pains to balance soylent, shouldn’t I take equal care with food?
  • Can food and soylent be made a team, so they reinforce and support one another, without conflicting or stressing the system?
  • What sort of food will offer maximum support to soylent?

Those are just a few of the questions that immediately come to mind; I don’t think they are the only ones but they should be plenty to begin with.

Has anyone else given these subjects some serious thought? If so, what conclusions did you come to?

I’ve heard one or two people say that when they eat food it’s just junk food. I gotta say that seems stupid to me. If you are going to the trouble of concocting a nutritional support system that aims at a perfect food or purports to be such, then why on earth would you screw that up by ingesting food that you personally admit is rubbish-nutrition by calling it junk food? Do you really need to jack your one and only body around like that? No – I can’t use that.

So shouldn’t food meals be researched, and carefully controlled and balanced just as soylent is balanced? I’ve been trying to research that online but I can’t get any search off the ground; my searches so far have produced mostly irrelevant web rubbish. Obviously few people have put any kind of effort into really balancing meals. The CRONies that I know who have done this are mostly head cases, extremists, almost all rabid vegans, and not much help. One of the two or three who have really confronted the issue wound up eating Purina lab chow for primates!

I think I need to start with my precious hot cereal. That can probably be balanced pretty easily without wrecking it; I already have experience with varying it in many different ways by adding various “superfoods” – nutritional yeast, hemp hearts, wheat germ, whey protein, blueberries and other fruits, dried fruit, walnut pieces, sunflower seeds, yoghourt, etc. My other real weakness is Dempster’s Ancient Grains Bread with peanut butter, jam and other stuff; that could be a bit harder to balance, but not impossible. After that, I think I’d go for a beans-and-rice based meal with various veggies; a spaghetti bolognese; and a hearty soup or two. All rigourously balanced out with CRON-O-Meter.

Come on, you guys and guyesses – help me out here! I need input on these questions. :tired_face:


I’ll weigh in with my own opinion.

Personally I don’t think it’s necessary to meticulously balance one’s diet. (Except in cases of certain illnesses, hardcore athletes, etc.) I think that if a person eats a diet that isn’t obviously terrible, then they are, overwhelmingly probably, in no danger whatsoever of malnutrition. There are huge gains to be made by moving from a bad diet to a good diet. But my personal guess is that the gains to be made by moving from a good diet to a meticulously careful diet, are relatively small. Note that I say this as somebody who has never practiced a meticulously careful diet.

That said, I think taking meticulous care of one’s diet is something that interests some people, something that is fun and rewarding for them. In which case I wouldn’t discourage them from doing it; it certainly won’t harm anybody.

One question to ask is: why not eat soylent all the time? The answers to this question fall into two categories: nutritional, and non-nutritional.

As far as the first goes, there remains the possibility that soylent is not nutritionally adequate in some way. Personally I find it unlikely that there is any essential nutrient that we haven’t discovered, which isn’t in soylent; I fully expect that a person could live the rest of their life on soylent and never experience malnutrition. People have lived on medical food for many years. There is a huge amount of diversity in the diets that have been consumed throughout history. And people have survived on incredibly impoverised diets, in comparison to the options we now have. In the face of all that it seems very unlikely to me that there is some essential nutrient which is undiscovered, and yet in the intersection of all diets which have ever kept people healthy, and that there is some tricky explanation for why long-term consumers of medical food do not experience malnutrition in the face of this fact.

However, it seems entirely likely to me that there are various substances in food which are helpful, but not necessary, for the human organism, which aren’t in soylent. It might be worthwhile to eat things other than soylent, in order to get those substances. For what proportion of one’s diet? 25% would be enough, I think. Just a guess.

The other reasons not to eat soylent all the time are “I like food,” “food is a social experience,” etc. Only you can say how important these kinds of things are to you.

As far as balancing meals goes, one thing worth noting is that you don’t need to get a balanced nutrient profile in every meal. It suffices to get a balanced nutrient profile through all of your eating throughout the day. Even that isn’t necessary. You probably can, for example, go a few days without getting any vitamin C, and not notice anything wrong at all. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies only start with a chronic lack of the substance in one’s diet. But if one is being conscientious, I think the thing to shoot for is just to get a balanced nutrient profile through all of one’s eating in a day. So yeah, enjoy your PB&J!


Requiring every meal to be perfectly balanced is bordering on obsessive compulsive. PB&J can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet.


What you guys are saying is apparently unarguably true, or at least has traditionally been taken as obvious truth. (I’m referring to the various statements about individual meals not needing to be balanced, robustness of the system, and so on.) However, I’m getting kinda knocked sideways by personal experience here. And some others also seem to have similar experience, of thinking that they were eating healthily yet nonetheless experiencing a sudden jolt of new energy and well-being shortly after moving to full-time soylent. As the Spanish say, por algo será – there has to be a reason, and that reason must have to do with some flaw in the above-mentioned set of assumptions.

I, too, laughed at the compulsiveness of those who meticulously balanced their diet. I’m not laughing any longer. Instead, I’m wondering.

One of the things I continue to wonder about is why I’m having a hard time finding online examples of perfectly-balanced meals – I mean balanced right down to all of the micronutrients, not just macros. Surely someone has made a study of this and posted some examples online – with detailed micronutrient data backing them up. I wish I were more highly-skilled with Google; I think my search skills may be failing me here.


As a quick quip (okay, so this became a rant, apologies) on Google skills (or what me and others term ‘Google Fu’), you’re probably not going to find much.

Simply put, Google indexes what’s popular, not what’s right.

It’s amazing just how much data and information there is out there on Nutrition, and yet, as many of us have found, how little of it is actually accurate or useful.

My current guess is it comes from a plethora of varying factors of the people posting the ‘information’… from their own personal contexts from what they’re trying to get out of it (fitness, weight loss, weight gain), to their country and culture of origin (what types of foods are available, and what they personally enjoy), to the commercial and capital gains of selling a product (buy our stuff, it’s organic!), and to yet again how all these aspects affect the ability of people to publish or even study a specific compound. Science itself is heavily influenced today by popular opinion; what will make the papers, what will get recognition, or just what’s controversial.

On top of this, there’s a ‘poisoning of the well’ effect on the scientific community in part caused by a general distrust of the government thanks to false studies reinforcing the notion that drugs are bad, mmkay, as well as in part due to scientific studies of nutrition or specific compounds funded explicitly or implicitly by corporations to pass approval, to journalism that has a really bad habit of taking science out of context for the sake of sensationalism (oh shit! eggs are bad for you! no wait, now they’re good! STOP. EATING. EVERYTHING. okay you can eat now), to just how science sometimes takes time figuring out what actually has an impact on us (saccharin causes cancer! -50 years later-…except only in rats, and is actually safe for humans).

Suddenly ‘chemical’ is a bad word, and the appeal to nature fallacy runs rampant, even in the most educated of society, so along with all this it’s no wonder legitimate information is so difficult to find, even those writing or studying the subject of Nutrition are bound to hit the wall of spaghetti logic & false data.


Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

If Theodore Sturgeon had formulated that recently, instead of in 1951, and if he had been looking for trustworthy nutritional information on the Internet, he might well have revised his estimate upward.

There is good stuff out there, but by the time you come across it ten pages deep in the Google search returns you may be experiencing irrelevancy-overload to such an extent that you won’t even recognise it.

CRON-O-Mater comes close to doing the job I want done, but is so clunky in use that it’s really hard to stick with it and get something accomplished. Some of you code geniuses should put together an updated, efficient and user-friendly app that interfaces with its own database more efficiently – and hook it up to more than just the USDA db which just doesn’t seem to get expanded and updated enough. I’m still trying to decide which of the online nutritional db’s is the best one to work with; I’m seriously hampered by a cheap underpowered laptop and Firefox which fails to respond all the time when memory is too limited.

I shouldn’t complain; personal computing and the Internet have come so far since the 1990s when I first started – with a Macintosh PowerBook 100 hitched to a deep-cycle storage battery, in a wall tent in the Yukon at minus 30C. And yet in a way much also has gone downhill. Nothing since that time has ever equalled the flexibility and user-friendliness of ClarisWorks and Hypercard. (MS Office is a bad joke alongside ClarisWorks.) I used to publish a 36-page sleddog newsletter with that setup, right there out of my tent; I’d hate to have to try it now with Bill Gates software that won’t let you do ANYTHING you really want to do. Oh well; OT again.


Just FYI - I’m working on a new web-app right now. And thus far it is planned to be quite low in memory requirements (not a lot of “fancy” effects and what not). I’m estimating release “completion” by the end of this week, but have many more features planned for the not-so-distant future.


Sounds wonderful, Card – I’m looking forward to seeing it in all its glory. I’m sure it will see a lot of use; I think there’s a rising tide of interest in this sort of thing just now.


Okay, so I think I can see (or at least I suspect) that people haven’t really thought much about the questions with which I started this post. I want more. Sure, I know these are very personal decisions, of course, that’s obvious. Still and all, I’d like to know how others are confronting and dealing with the same choices. I now feel pulled in two directions between soylent and regular food. I love my soylent and look forward to it! Yet it’s cutting me off, weaning me away, from other things I very much like and enjoy. It’s a weird situation and induces some strange feelings and conflicts. Come on, people, let’s be honest – surely some of you are feeling much the same sort of thing? Is it so disturbing that no one wants to discuss it, or what?


Sitting at dinner with my wife the other night, my Soylent glass at my place setting, and her having a beautiful vegetable lasagna, I decided that Soylent was going to be a two meal a day event for me. Shared meals are a fundamental social construct. Soylent just doesn’t cut it at the dinner table.


All of this is my opinion, take it with a hefty grain of salt (and offset that grain in your day’s soylent).

The pains you took to balance your soylent are very well invested time because you’ll apply that knowledge without modification many times, whereas with regular food the variance dominates and prevents you from applying the care taken with one regular meal to the next.

If you then say to me that your soylent was clearly an improvement over an at-least reasonably healthy diet then it sounds like you should swing more towards soylent and more away from regular food, just for the sake of reaping more reward from your investment… but then again, what do I know, you might have more time to spend thinking about food than I do.

It seems unlikely that anything else could reinforce or support soylent, on the simple grounds that if you can find something that does it’s easy to roll whatever that is into the soylent itself.

I guess a notable exception would be things that require chewing (which seems like it ought to be important for dental health[citation needed]). Raw carrots then become an obvious choice companion food, but you have to be careful not to OD on vitamin A, it’s bad for your bones because it blocks calcium uptake[citation needed]. Jerky may be a reasonable way to keep your teeth in shape as long as you watch sodium, as might nuts as long as you watch fat (and potentially sodium).

So I guess that’s another way you could spend time well taking care with food; balancing the nutrients of chewing intensive snacks with your soylent.

FWIW, once my soylent arrives (I haven’t made time to come up with my own formulation yet, and it’s seeming unlikely that I will) I’ll probably only ever eat socially, and even then only tiny portions for flavor.

Edit: Oh and one thing, for the record, Google indexes what’s popular AND what’s right… and what’s wrong, and irrelevant… they index everything (except that which is protected by a robots.txt file).


I’m not sure why folks seem to think I don’t know this! It’s exactly this that makes web searches with Google such a frustrating affair, Sturgeon’s Law just as I said. What’s actually good and useful is all too buried ten pages deep in the returns beneath stacks of more popular rubbish. One would think it (Google) has been around long enough, has grown huge enough, has resources enough to be working hard and seriously on developing more effective algorithms for detecting, ranking and relegating content by quality and usefulness. There is really no good reason why it has to deliver search returns with the desired content buried in a rubbish tip of web dreck.


I was more talking to mrob, I should have been more clear. The hard part of being Google is that, contrary to popular belief, they really don’t know much about you. The may have something stored somewhere, but it factors into your search results less than you might think. They’re all about optimizing high level statistics.

To be a little more specific, the current Google search is based primarily on what you’ve done rather than what you prefer. Which is not to imply that you’ve done something to warrant the dreck, merely that they don’t know that’s what you think of the results. They’re working on it, but taking individual preferences into account while searching is even harder than it sounds.

I usually end up doing my searches iteratively, I look for what I want, and if it doesn’t immediately show up I just add minus tags for the common themes that I see in the bad results.


That’s good advice about the minus tags; I should be less lazy and make more use of that function than I do. I tend to forget that Google is watching my searches and loading the dice in favour of my search history. Because it’s a silent process, it’s easy to forget. Might be better if they would make searching interactive using an ALICE type of engine to query the user; in that way the user would be a lot more aware that the search engine responds to things like user history as well as the actual search terms.

It’s funny, you know; my Mac almost twenty years ago had surprisingly excellent speech capability. I can’t understand why that never went anywhere; I would have thought that by now we would routinely use computers via speech. Instead, even the keyboard has gotten harder to use; this touchpad driven laptop drives me nuts selecting and deleting when I don’t intend that, really a waste of time and quite frustrating. I have to lock the touchpad out sometimes in order to compose a message. Jeez, are we ever OT here.


It can’t have been that good. It’s not that we’ve forgotten all the good algorithms for speech recognition. It works really well in limited contexts (car voice commands, say).