Tag Archives: nutrition

Subscription Snacks: Graze vs. NatureBox

I like subscriptions. My razors are by subscription, for a while my toothbrushes were by subscription. I’ve also subscribed to Soylent in the past and plan to again once 2.0 is released in October.

So what about snacks? Recently both Graze and Nature Box provided me the opportunity to try one of their boxes free.[1]

I’ve had three boxes of Graze now and just received my fourth. I’ve received one box of Nature Box. Here are my thoughts…

NatureBox

My box included Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars, Sweet Kettle Crunch, Honey Crunch Crisps, Whole Wheat Vanilla Animal Cookies, and Mini Cocoa Belgian Waffles. This would normally cost $19.95.

Picture of Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars
Nature Box’s Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars

I loved the fruit stars and kettle crunch. I really enjoyed the animal cookies and waffles. The honey crunch crisps are good, but not my favorite.

The size of the portions are significantly larger than those provided by Graze – and this was actually a problem for me. I’m not the best with portion control, so I like single servings of snacks – that way I can better gauge and control the amount of a snack I’m eating.

In addition, some of the snacks were just too good. The fruit stars and kettle crunch I could easily eat in a single sitting.

I guess what I am saying is, their food is great – but for me personally it isn’t optimal. I am looking for foods that satisfy with fairly small portions and that are divided into single portions.[2]

At first glance one gets a little shock from the pricing. $20 for a few smallish bags of snacks? But if we do a little math we find it isn’t that bad. There are five snacks, so each snack is $4 and each snack has four or five servings, so you are looking at around $1 per serving – the same as you’d pay for a candy bar…but Nature Box offers half the calories and better nutrition.

Graze

There was a problem with my original order with Graze. Somehow I got (and was charged for) a second box before I ever received the first free one. Graze was cool about it though and refunded me for the second box.

Photo of Graze's Fruit and Seed Flapjacks
Graze’s Fruit and Seed Flapjacks

My first box included triple berry smoothie, herby bread basket, honeycomb flapjack, and chili & honey almonds (no longer available). These were all tasty and several of them were quite satisfactory as far as satiating effect.

My second box had jalapeno fiesta, fruit & seed flapjack, hot cross yum, and salsa corn chips.

It was the second box that actually really caught my attention – primarily because of the ingredients. For example, the Fruit & Seed Flapjack contains rolled oats, dried apricots, dried dates, sunflower seeds, raisins, currants, and pumpkin seeds and were delicious!

In my third box I received sesame garlic crunch, vanilla almond granola topper, iced cinnamon bun, and hickory smoked bbq – again, all great tasting!

Again I was impressed by the nutritional quality. My Sesame Garlic Crunch contained canola oil, sesame seeds, oat bran, dried garlic, steamed jasmine rice, soy sauce, and so on. Meanwhile my Vanilla Almond Granola Topper included almonds, pumpkin seeds, barley, coconut, cinnamon, and so on.

This box was seriously about perfect for me as far as being satiating and nutritious. I could list the ingredients from the other items, but you’d just get bored (ohh wait, you already did? sorry!).

I haven’t had a chance to dive into my current and fourth box, but I’m looking forward to it and expect that I will enjoy it as much as the previous ones.

Ohh, and did I mention that while the portions are smaller the price is less $12 for eight single serving snacks – that works out to $1.50 per snack.

Concluding Thoughts

Both Nature Box and Graze make great products and either can be a great fit for you. In my specific use case I’m leaning heavily towards Graze. I like the satiating quality of their snacks (Nature Box probably has more satiating snacks I haven’t explored, but Graze seems to just come with them), the nutritional value, and most importantly – the single serving packaging.

For many years of my life I would have considered this an unconscionable amount of money to pay for snacks…it was still hard for me to shell out this much for a relatively small amount of food (I could buy 12 boxes of Good & Plenties for this same amount!) but I’ve decided that it is a wise investment.

While it may be more expensive it helps me consume less overall and improves the nutrition of what I do eat. I figure, in the long run, the decreased cost in medical expenses will even out for the increased cost.

If you want to get a free Graze box, use this link. Or you can enter the reward code DAVEM6YKP while ordering.

  1. [1]This wasn’t a special offer made to me personally, rather I received coupons or otherwise saw ads, etc. for free boxes.
  2. [2]I’ve thought about getting larger supplies and breaking them down into single serving bags for myself, but for various reasons, including the psychological research that indicates we have a finite amount of willpower, I have decided against that approach.

Soylent: A Viable Meal Alternative?

The Journey to Soylent

On June 27th, 2013 I began anticipating Soylent, talking about Soylent, impatiently waiting for Soylent to become available. I signed up for a week’s supply of Soylent on June 10th and it arrived on July 22nd.

A picture of my box of soylent...and of course, my feet, b/c I'm talented with cameras like that.
A picture of my box of soylent…and of course, my feet, b/c I’m talented with cameras like that.

Inside was a long sheet with instructions…I’m not a fan of the big sheet…What am I supposed to do with this? Unless I hang it on my way there is no easy way to store it.

The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.
The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.

You can click on the above image to see how long the instructions really where, but it would have consumed too much space on the page for me to embed the image here.

Next we had the bags of Soylent and the bottles of oil. You can see a picture below.

What came in the first Soylent box I received - instructions, oils, and soylent.
What came in the first Soylent box I received – instructions, oils, and soylent.

Theoretically, I should have received a package before this one with my welcome pack – which was to include a stainless steel measuring cup and an airtight pitcher as pictured below:

Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.
Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.

 

The Soylent pitcher - yes, it is BPA free.
The Soylent pitcher – yes, it is BPA free. Ohh, and mine doesn’t look like this, the main body is clear, the handle and lid are green, and it is entirely unbranded by Soylent…I think there is a name of some other company on top…

But I hadn’t and I didn’t for quite some time. I attempted using some of my own implements to make Soylent but had mixed successes. If this was what Soylent tasted like, I wasn’t going to stick with it. After a few tries I decided I would just wait until my welcome package came.

Ohh, and yes, I sent an email reporting the missing welcome package on the 23rd and of course received the usual automated reply the same day. It would be August 9th before I would receive a reply from Soylent and then to be informed that “I have forwarded your concern to our shipping department…” Then silence. Finally, on August 18th I received an email informing me that my starter kit was on its way.

Okay, that is a pretty ridiculous wait…the organizational side of Soylent has been extremely underwhelming…I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes, but, honestly, I don’t care that much if Soylent is good and works and if they learn from their mistakes – which, it seems (I hope), they are doing.

On a side note, the disorganization worked out to my advantage as I received a second shipment of Soylent by accident and when I asked what I should do with it they told me to keep it. I was pretty happy about that (though I feel bad for folks who ordered far before me and way more and still have not received their Soylent).

But How About It, Is It Good?

Now that you have heard about the nightmare of procuring my Soylent, lets talk about Soylent itself. It is a very fine mix and comes in bags that each contain three meals. I found trying to make Soylent in smaller portions to be a hassle – not only because of measurements and so on but because the powder is so fine that it puffs up into the air and lands everywhere while scooping.[1]

In any case, I moved to making a whole packet at a time and it was so much easier. Okay, I know for those of you who cook, you are rolling your eyes – and yes, in the distant past I did sometimes cook – but the whole point of Soylent is to save time and improve nutrition.

Making Soylent was now simple – pour in the powder, add a bottle of oil, and then fill the rest of the pitcher with water. Screw on the air-tight cap[2] and shake for around sixty seconds. Place in the refrigerator, remove when ready to consume, shake for five to ten seconds, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

Soylent tastes a bit like a milk shake. It has a pleasant flavor, though one I can’t place. Compared to any other powdered drink (Shakeology, RAW Meal), the “graininess” is almost non-existent.

It tastes good, the texture is good, and its easy to make – sweet! Another surprising and positive note is that it uses water not milk or a milk substitute and yet tastes better than Shakeology with (in my case) almond milk! Seriously, if you didn’t see the batch mixed, you’d swear it had to have a dairy base.

So, I like my Soylent and I intend on continuing to consume it. Right now I average two meals a day of Soylent and one meal elsewise. I allow myself to eat whatever I desire for that third meal – but my cravings for unhealthy foods seem to have lessened somewhat (not completely).

Should you get Soylent? Sure. Just be prepared to wait a bit. I think organizationally they are getting there, but with the delays initially as well as the huge demand, and then the ongoing demand for resupplies, it is going to be a while before Soylent is working smoothly.

A Few Importantish Notes

It Goes Bad

One of the great things about Soylent is that it lasts forever (hyperbole) in powder form. Something I didn’t realize until I received my Soylent is that once it has been mixed with water it needs to be consumed within two days. Apparently due to the nutrient richness of the drink, even while being refrigerated bacteria multiply quickly. I would like to know more about the health implications of this.

I oftentimes eat food far past its expiration date – especially dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk) and don’t have any problem…so I’d probably ignore this warning except after posting on the forums I learned that the bacteria make the taste go bad quickly – so its not just filled with bacteria, it tastes nasty too.

Still, I’ve been consuming Soylent over a two to may three day period and haven’t experienced issues thus far…and making it in this size batch saves me from measuring, etc.

Don’t Forget The Oils!

Each time you use a bag of Soylent you are supposed to add the oils as well – which provide some important aspects of Soylent’s nutrition. Being ADD, I have on occasion forgotten to put the bottles into the Soylent. This doesn’t bother me, but it is a dilemma – what am I supposed to do with these bottles of oil?

Flatulence

There was a lot of discussion of increased flatulence when using Soylent which, it is hypothesized, is caused by the bacteria in our stomachs not knowing how to handle nutritional food and the replacement of some of these bacteria with better bacteria that do consume this food.

I had no intention of mentioning flatulence, b/c I really don’t like talking about it. I was never a fart guy joker…but I must mention it, b/c it radically increases flatulence and it smells horrific.

This goes away after a few days – but my recommendation – start Soylent when you aren’t spending a lot of time with people…and please, give your spouse a break and sleep on the couch…or at least let them sleep on the couch.

What Now?

My plan at this juncture is to continue Soylent 2x daily long-term. We’ll see if I grow sick of the taste…which is very possible.

I haven’t noticed any huge changes in my health, but that may come with time. I also am hoping to get my blood drawn and analyzed every quarter by WellnessFX so I can monitor my health, especially vitamin levels, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Wrapping It Up

Soylent is great – I’m exceptionally pleased with the product itself. The company has some work to do – and seems to be doing it. I haven’t noticed any amazing positive health effects, but I’m hoping over time it works positively. I’ll provide future updates as I’ve been on it longer and can analyze how I respond to the taste with continued consumption and whether I see any health changes positive or negative.

  1. [1]The reason I wanted to do smaller servings was b/c Soylent goes bad after it is made and I wasn’t sure I could consume an entire package of Soylent quickly enough.
  2. [2]I discovered it isn’t really, really, really air-tight. I didn’t have room to put the pitcher standing up in my refrigerator (it is a mini) so I put it on its side – this worked a few times, but eventually it began to leak.

Shakeology – 4 Month Update.

I began using Shakeology around the 8th of November, 2013. It is now the 8th of March, 2014 – four months later. It seems an appropriate time to provide everyone with an update on how my use of Shakeology is going. Do I still like it? Have I experienced further health benefits? Have some benefits dissipated, etc.?

For those who haven’t read my past posts, they are: Three Days on Shakeology (11/13), Shakeology – Almost a Month Later (12/13), and Shakeology, Garden of Life, and Vanilla (12/13).

An image from the Shakeology website of a Chocolate Shakeology drink.
An image from the Shakeology website of a Chocolate Shakeology drink.

To sum up, Shakeology is a super healthy shake with tons of ingredients meant to replace one meal each day. It comes in a 30-day supply bag (some other options are available) for around $130. There are several different flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry) – some are vegan, others not. Soon after beginning Shakeology an ailment with my legs that had limited me significantly for the past two years evaporated (though I can’t draw a clear cause/effect relationship between the two) and an issue with urinary hesitancy also disappeared.

Since then I have continued to experience almost no issues with my legs, but the urinary hesitancy has returned to some extent…however, I have not been faithful in utilizing Shakeology every day due to a number of factors – some relating to Shakeology and others due to moving, a busted blender, and so on which made making shakes a little more difficult.

I started off with Shakeology’s vegan Strawberry – which is good except the milling process appears not to be as fine as for its non-vegan options – and thus it can have a bit of a sandy taste. By the end of one month drinking it every day, drinking more of it on a daily basis made me feel nauseous.

For my next month’s shipment I switch to Vanilla. At first I loved Vanilla – it was non-vegan and thus didn’t have the grainy taste to it like vegan strawberry…but after a few servings I started getting a nasty aftertaste. I eventually returned the package, which they accepted without issues, though I have yet to receive a refund for the package…Hmm, I’ll need to follow up with them on that.

As an aside, I’ve also been frustrated with their phone system (specifically the “auto-attendant”, that is the computer system that asks questions and directs you to the correct department). I’ve had to call multiple times before getting a real person, the wait times appear to be totally inaccurate, and I suspect I am occasionally dropped into some black hole from which I would never emerge if I didn’t eventually hang up and try again. I don’t think this is intentional – but it is REALLY annoying.

Around the time I returned the Vanilla, Shakeology released a non-vegan Strawberry and I decided to give that a try. I thought maybe the issue with the Vanilla was the batch – but rather than take a chance, I figured I’d try Strawberry and I could always go back to vanilla. Strawberry is my preferred flavor anyways – I had just shifted away from it b/c of the grainy taste.

I received the Strawberry and it has been okay – but I have some vegan Strawberry left over and I actually like it more. Why? Well, the non-vegan Strawberry isn’t grainy (which I like) but it does have that same aftertaste as the Vanilla (which indicates to me that it probably isn’t a batch issue), and I prefer the grainy taste over the aftertaste.

That said, I’m still using both. I’ve been experimenting a bit with different ways to make the shakes taste better – frozen fruits, yogurt, ice cream, honey. The direction that has shown the most promise for me recently is using 12 oz of almond milk and no other ingredients besides the Shakeology mix. This provides a more “shake” and less “smoothie” drink which I can consume more quickly and thus either the graininess or aftertaste is not as big of a deal.

I’ve canceled my Shakeology auto-subscription for the moment – until I catch up on consuming the Strawberry (vegan and non-vegan) I currently have…but once I do, I expect to pick up the product again.

Overall, I think Shakeology has a great product which seems to provide significant health benefits. I would like to see a better milling process for the vegan products and the removal of the aftertaste from the non-vegan products. I also hope they will do something about their phone system. If they want, I’m sure I could fix the problem – I do IT consulting on the side and have worked with Inter-Tel, NEC, and cloud-based PBX systems. 😉

Three Days on Shakeology.

I’ve been drinking a lot of Ensure nutrition shakes recently. Andrew Vogel suggested that I try Shakeology. It is fairly expensive – $130 for 30 servings ($4.33/serving). Ensure is less than half this expensive – but Shakeology has a good reputation, its ingredients are certainly exponentially superior to Ensure, and home-made meals aren’t as cheap as one would think. So, I jumped and gave it a try…

A picture from Shakeology's site portraying their drinks.
A picture from Shakeology’s site portraying their drinks.

I ordered it last week and received it on Friday. I started consuming it for breakfast on Saturday and have consumed it each day since then (Saturday, Sunday, Monday). I chose the tropical strawberry flavor. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and while vanilla is okay, I prefer strawberry.

I had read that chocolate and vanilla the best flavors with tropical strawberry coming in third, but I saw their money-back guarantee which states that they’ll refund me even if I use the entire thing and don’t like it…so I figured why not start out with the least-tasty one and then move to more more-tasty ones if that one didn’t do it for me.

The first thing I don’t like about Shakeology is that it is a powder. An Ensure I can remove from the fridge and drink at a moment’s notice – Shakeology I have to put in a blender, mix a fluid and ice, and spend 5-10 minutes in preparation/cleanup. Bahh, humbug. This is on the upper limit of my tolerance for meal preparation (I know, I don’t have much tolerance at all!), but I’m making the sacrifice. I also realize that when Soylent is released I’ll face the same dilemma.

The next challenge I faced was figuring out how large a scoop was. The package said to use one scoop of Shakeology for each shake I made – but how big is a scoop? 42 grams? Great, that doesn’t really help me! I googled it and discovered I wasn’t the only one struggling to appropriately measure Shakeology. Thankfully, I also discovered there was an easy remedy – a pre-measured scoop inside the bag! Unfortunately, the scoop was buried so I had to fish around a bit (wasting powder which floated into the air and clung to my hand) – but at least they included a scoop. Still, I have to wonder – why include other materials in the box (e.g. instruction booklets) outside of the bag and not include the scoop outside of the bag? This would prevent A LOT of confusion (especially for less tech savvy users who might not use Google to quickly find the answer) and also would avoid unnecessary waste.

Nope, I’m not done complaining. I want to let you know all the bad stuff before I talk about the good. The next issue was using the scoop. First off, it is really tall and it doesn’t have any external numbering on it. It has a line that divides the scoop in half – is that saying that 42 grams is to the halfway mark or is to filling it to the top? I still don’t know the answer – I’ve been too lazy to google it and am currently just filling it to the very top – assuming that when they say “one scoop” they mean “one scoop.”

The scoop is also inferior. Because of its depth it doesn’t usually get a full scoop – there are air pockets. Try as I might I can’t get it to fill entirely with Shakeology powder. So how many powder am I getting? Did they account for this so I’m still getting around 42 grams? Or am I getting 32 grams?

Again, this is an easy fix. Make a regular sized scoop and tell us to make our shakes with two scoops. This should resolve the air bubble problem and doesn’t significantly increase our labor.

The first day I dumped in my powder then 12 ounces of almond milk followed by some ice. I learned that putting the powder in first isn’t the best idea – it doesn’t seem to mix as well and it makes it more difficult to measure out 12 ounces.

I also was frustrated that there wasn’t any indication of how much ice to add – just add ice. Unfortunately, I added too much and ended up with sludge instead of a shake…but I still drank it.

On my second day I used Lactaid fat-free milk (12 oz.) then added the shakeology powder and finally some (less than before) ice. This shake turned out fine.

Today I used Lactaid fat-free milk, the powder, and a bunch of frozen mixed berries. Again, the shake came out fine.

So how does it taste? Hmmm….Sandy? I thought at first the issue might be that I hadn’t added any other ingredients besides the liquid to the powder – and so today I tried adding the berries (a significant number), but the taste was still sandy. I feel the powder granules getting stuck between my teeth, in front of my gums, under my tongue. For somebody with OCD this is a quite unpleasant experience.

I’m using a normal, run-of-the-mill blender by Hamilton Beach – so I’m not sure if it just doesn’t do a good job or completely mixing the ingredients (I doubt it) or if the sandy composition is just inevitable. It doesn’t make it undrinkable – but it certainly isn’t as tasty or pleasant as Ensure.

So my thoughts overall? Well, I’m going to keep mixing and see if I can find anything out about reducing the graininess of the shakes. If I can’t, I’ll probably return it and try vanilla. If I don’t find vanilla to be better flavored, then I’ll likely continue with some sort of nutritional shake – but not Shakeology.

I’ve tried Garden of Life’s RAW Meal previously, which also had a grainy consistency, which caused me to discontinue using it….but if that is the way all these shake powders are, then I might as well go back to RAW Meal which is around 1/3rd the price of Shakeology but still uses high quality ingredients.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Alternatives?

P.S. One other thing I don’t like is that Shakeology is somehow associated with Team Beach Body. Ummm…I’m not looking to form a beach body – just want to be healthy. I don’t really want to go about talking about “beachbody.” I know, I know – not that big of a deal…I’m just saying, not everyone who is using this product is looking to get their “beach body” on.

Ensure Nutrition Shake or Ensure Complete Nutrition Shake?

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Soylent…but it seems likely that it will be sometime later in Q1 2014 before I’ll get my hands on it. In the meantime I’ve been drinking a good bit of Ensure. It is a nice, easy way to get some caloric and nutritional content without a lot of work. How good is it for me? Hmmm…I’m not sure.

I recently saw they had a “Complete” product which is supposed to provide support for muscles, heart, immune system, and bones…but it is significantly more expensive. You can buy a six pack of Ensure for around $9-$10, a four pack of Ensure Complete runs around the same. So which should I buy? I decided to do a side-by-side comparison – and since I’m doing it, I might as well share it with you.

 Product: Ensure Ensure Complete
 Calories:  250  350
 Fat Calories:  50  100
 Total Fat:  6 g  11 g
 Cholesterol  5 mg  5 mg
 Sodium  200 mg  240 mg
 Potassium  370 mg  560 mg
 Carbohydrates  40 g  51 g
 Sugars  23 g  20 g
 Protein  9 g  13 g
 Vitamin A  25%  25%
 Iron  25%  25%
 Vitamin K  25%  25%
 Niacin  25%  25%
 Vitamin B12  25%  25%
 Phosphorus  25%  35%
 Zinc  25%  25%
 Manganese  60%  60%
 Chloride  8%  2%
 Vitamin C  50%  60%
 Vitamin D  25%  40%
 Thiamin  25%  25%
 Vitamin B6  25%  25%
 Biotin  25%  25%
 Iodine  25%  25%
 Selenium  25%  30%
 Chromium  25%  25%
 Choline  15%  15%
 Calcium  30%  35%
 Vitamin E  25%  30%
 Riboflavin  25%  25%
 Folate  25%  25%
 Pantothenic Acid  25%  25%
 Magnesium  25%  25%
 Copper  25%  25%
  Molybdenum  50%  60%
 Amino Acid Metabolite HMB  No  Yes
 Omega 3’s  No  650 mg ALA
 Probiotics  No  Yes

Based on this analysis, I think I’ll stick with the regular nutritional shakes. I wouldn’t mind the Amino Acid Metabolite HMB, Omega 3’s, or Probiotics…but I can get these from other sources. Everything else seems fairly minor or something I don’t necessarily want (e.g. extra calories)…and the lower price of the regular shake makes more financial sense.

Any thoughts? Do you use nutritional drinks? If so, what kind and how frequently? I’d say I use them on average once a day – though sometimes twice…and of course, there are the odd days where I don’t use them at all.

Soylent May Finally Provide the Diet I’ve Been Looking For…

I’m pretty excited about Soylent, a new liquid meal replacement, which has been successfully utilized by the founder for several months now and is being tested by a number of other individuals – to what appears to be largely positive reviews.

I don’t want to go completely to a meal replacement – but neither does Rhinehart, the inventor of Soylent – he still eats “normal food” but chooses healthier options and spends less.

This isn’t like a lot of other meal replacements which only partially provide the necessary ingredients/nutrients to maintain health, Rhinehart’s goal is something that could be used to entirely replace traditional foods.

I’m also excited b/c it seems pretty evident that the company is run by a bunch of young, energetic, intelligent idealists who I expect will take the company in some great directions – e.g. I’m psyched that they are releasing the “recipe” as open source.

That is about all I have to say at the moment. Product is supposed to begun mass delivery in August and I hope to have the opportunity to try it within a month or two thereafter…but I figured I’d write a short post so folks could explore what is currently occurring with Soylent if they so desired. 🙂

Bibliography

Coromega Multi-Vitamin?

Dietary supplements, such as the vitamin B
Dietary supplements, such as the vitamin B supplement show above, are typically sold in pill form. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I’m taking my coromega omega-3 every day, and loving it. It tastes good, is easy to consume, and doesn’t require me to eat food with it….now, here is the million dollar question – why isn’t there (or is there) a multi-vitamin like coromega?

Right now I try to take a multivitamin daily…but they are gigantic (and I’m pretty good at swallowing pills) and they are supposed to be taken with food (and I usually remember when I’m not eating food).

My thought is – why not make a yogurt or something like Coromega that folks could eat every day without needing anything else with it? This would provide one with all the daily vitamin intake one needed and probably significantly increase the absorption rate as Coromega does (300%!!).

Anyone know of any multivitamins like this? Or why this hasn’t happened yet if it doesn’t exist? And perhaps Coromega would like to comment on whether such a product might be in their near-term future?

iChange – Real Hope for Weight, Lifestyle, and Nutritional Change?

Image representing iChange
Image via CrunchBase

I’m not a health nut. My mom and one of my sisters are pretty big into health – nutritional, weight, etc. – but I’ve always been too busy to spend the time to plan out meals, think about nutritional value, or even cook. For the last eight months or so my life has been moving at breakneck speed as I’ve devoted my energies to three major projects and I realized that if I wanted to squeeze more time and productivity out of my day the best way to start was to focus on my health. That is when I discovered iChange. This is only my third or fourth day using iChange, but I’m already sold.

iChange, like so many other sites, offers guidance on losing weight and eating well…but it goes so far beyond what other sites are currently offering with a number of unique features. Let me just highlight a few:

  • When you register with iChange you can choose a personal nutritionist to assist you. Right now this is either Diana Young (registered dietitian, specializes in ADA methods, served as Chief Clinical Dietitian at two major hospitals) and Linda Miner (registered nutritional counselor, specializes in metabolic typing, holistic and alternative medicine approach). These folks are really available to you – ready to answer questions and give you counsel on how to progress towards better health.
  • iChange takes a really holistic approach. Many sites focus on weight loss, mood monitoring, nutritional diets, and so on – but very few talk a full-fledged and well-rounded approach. iChange offers nutritional/meals modeling, weight loss / exercise, fluids, calorie, mood, energy, sleep and stress monitoring.
  • They offer a simple checklist that only has three items on it at a time that encourage you to take small steps towards increasing your health. As you finish a step you are given another task. You can bang these out or take your time.
  • There is an incentive system – its minor (e.g. web-based “awards”) – but still pretty cool. We all like “earning” awards or achieving accomplishments (why else do so many people play farmville)?
  • The community is proactive in reaching out. Within hours of registering I received a contact from another member (a SuperCharger) who asked how I was, introduced herself, let me know how she’d successfully used iChange, and generally provided encouragement to continue on. This is unlike other communities for health I’ve been involved in, where there isn’t that sort of proactive effort to reach out to new members.

You might think a site like this would cost something – many other health sites with more limited functionality do – or have a freemium model. But iChange is entirely free.

So, my advice – go register. Give it a try. It takes ten minutes to get yourself through the initial setup and its very intuitive. I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

In closing, I’d like to make a list of some enhancements I’d like to see in iChange. While these are enhancements that should be implemented – I’ll reiterate again that iChange is far ahead of any competitors I’ve seen thus far.

  • The ability to monitor medication intake.
  • Eventually, the site will need a profit model – they have a few links to Amazon associate products tucked away, but this really should be tightly integrated into the system.
  • There is a nice row of boxes along the top with checkboxes that show you your progress in various areas, unfortunately they aren’t clickable!
  • The iChange site is a bit slow sometimes. Need to ramp up the server power. 🙂
  • Links in emails to attached documents take you to the main iChange page – not very helpful. 🙁
  • When you download a document, its name is just a string of random letters and numbers, it’d be nice if the PDFs had names reflecting their purpose. Of course, I can rename them, but still…
  • Create a Facebook app. – this will be a huge marketing item. It will provide individuals who view an iChange profile with a quick and convincing advertisement to use the program – e.g. when they see we’ve lost ten lbs using the service and so on.
  • Eventually, it’d be pretty cool to see it allow us to “schedule” things we should be doing on a semi-regular basis – e.g. do we need to make an appointment with the dentist, doctor, or ophthalmologist? I’d like to see this expanded to include more general task management – I used to use a service (whose name I can’t remember and has since closed) that reminded me of things I needed to do around the house and with my automobile – allowing me to take better care of my house and belonging – things like changing furnace filters, checking batteries in smoke alarms, and taking the car in for inspection/maintenance.
  • I’ll add more as I think of them.

Liv-Natural.

(This is a reprint of an old review I did of Liv-Natural, a natural health sports drink).

I must first admit as I review Liv Natural’s drinks that I am not an objective observer. Igor St. Phard, Sales Manager for Liv-Natural is a friend, worship at the church I attend, and is a sometimes basketball opponent. He generously gave my brother-in-law (Chris) some of the Liv-Natural drinks when Chris was on a liquids only diet after being randomly beaten in NYC. It was during this time that I received my first taste of these drinks. On the other hand, I don’t push products I don’t believe in – so I think you will still find this review helpful.

When I first heard about these “all-natural” drinks I had my doubts. My mom is a big fan of organic foods and I oftentimes rebelled against this because I didn’t enjoy the taste (e.g. bread made with honey instead of sugar). I’d had rice milk before and didn’t like it – so I thought that these all-natural rice drinks would probably be disgusting as well. But when Chris couldn’t finish all the drinks Igor gave him – I began trying them, and I was amazed. It actually tasted good.

It isn’t every day that we find things that are both healthy for us and tasteful. Sadly, we oftentimes must choose between a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the food we eat. But with Liv-Natural this is not true. The juice tastes amazingly like your run-of-the-mill sports drinks, except perhaps better. It uses agave nectar which is amazingly tasty and a good replacement for corn syrup.

Now, I admit, I’m no expert on the benefits or dangers of rice and agave nectar and whether these ingredients may have any dangers similar to the processed ingredients found in many of today’s sports drinks – but I do know  that I’d rather drink a sports drink without that fructose corn syrup and other processed ingredients any day.