MealSquares, the Ultimate Lifehacker Food

I used to eat food. I still do, but I used to, too.

You have probably heard of Soylent, the liquid meal replacement where you can conveniently get all your balanced nutrients by just drinking liquid Silicon Valley. I mean, you've already outsourced all your other chores to my fellow startups–don't you want to save another two hours per day and eliminate all superfluities?

No? Yes? Well, it's not for everyone, but I sure would like more time for my important stuff, and I've already eaten food tons of times. Plus, if I can have my default meal be a healthy one, I'll sacrifice extra tastiness (which is why I don't eat dessert). I'm in. Forget eating! Yet...

I like Soylent, but it takes a lot of trust in nutrition science to say, "Let's just combine a bunch of individual micronutrients that match the recommended daily allowances, since those are exactly what all humans need, right?" Never mind that some of the RDAs were established by a handful of weak studies–you still have to believe that not only did we get the nutrient levels right, but that those nutrients are all you need, and that they work in isolation, in the specific forms that are included in your Science Drink (which may not be bioavailable or bioequivalent).

Enter MealSquares. Real foods, not micronutrients. Solid, not liquid. Baked, not pasteurized. They're still a complete meal replacement made by a Bay Area startup, but they're designed by the best nutrition geek I know out of foods you would buy at Whole Foods instead of micronutrients you would buy from a lab. And they're delicious!

... Well, to me, anyway. I'm crazy and don't eat sweet things much (although I love them), so my sugar adaptation level is very low, making the occasional dark chocolate chip found in a MealSquare like a sweet explosion for my mouth. Most people who tried them thought they were too dense and too dry.

But wait! Now they have individual packaging, and so they're able to include a lot more water, leading to moister, fluffier MealSquares. (I still wouldn't call them either moist or fluffy, absolutely, but you shoulda tried the old version.) You still have to drink water while eating them, but they are a lot better than before. An informal poll of six victims showed a 1-10 tastiness increase of 2.25 points, to 5.2 (not even counting my superfan 9 rating). I'm eating them even more now and just switched to four boxes per month instead of two.

Why does individual packaging help? It turns out that if you are aiming for a long shelf life, there's a variety of things you can do, but mostly you don't want air or water for bad things to grow in, so you vacuum-seal things and don't let air in. Soylent is pasteurized, so there are no bacteria in there until you open it. Clif bars have insane amounts of sugar, which suppresses bacteria somehow (weird, right?). Some foods are irradiated. Others are dried. I'm sure there are many more tricks processed foods use. To increase the moisture further while increasing shelf life, the MealSquares guys are hoping to do do some science magic and someday lead us to the glorious muffin-like MealSquare promised us in our early days.

I've been eating MealSquares for about half my food for 16 months now. I'm not sick of them at all, and my biomarkers have been fine. Mostly I save time, energy, and money compared to how I used to eat. Knowing you can always just sup on a square lets you avoid overeating or undereating (especially while traveling), and the 400 calorie portion sizes are great for maintaining focus throughout the day. When I wanted to cut down to low bodyfat and only eat 1200-1500 calories a day, the MealSquares were the easiest food to do it with. Now that I'm adding mass again, I just eat more of them.

I still have social lunches with friends and home-cooked dinners with Chloe (although we often cheat and use Gobble–thanks, chore-obviating startup!), and I don't care as much what I eat then because my overall nutrition is much better than before. If I were super concerned about the nutrients, I would just try to eat organ meats more often, 'cause those have a ton of everything.

So if you have tried MealSquares before and found them just a little too dry, try the new ones with individual packaging. If you haven't tried them yet, order a sample box. If you are comparing them in your mind to that delicious dinner you cooked, don't. Instead compare a MealSquare plus a bunch of extra minutes to your last convenience breakfast/snack/lunch that you had to make or go out and buy. Even a foodie isn't going gourmet three meals a day. I'm not saying you will definitely like MealSquares–tastes vary a lot with these. But if you do like them, the possible benefits are large. They've been a huge quality of life improvement for me, so it's worth finding that out.

Nick

Hacking on CodeCombat, a multiplayer programming game for learning to code. Mastermind behind Skritter, the most powerful Chinese character learning app.

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