What I eat in a day?
What I talk about when I talk about a day of eating, the diet app Noom, and wine packaged in a paper bottle.
There’s a trend on TikTok that I have a hard time avoiding. It’s called “What I eat in a day?” Sometimes it’s posted by a long-distance runner––I love seeing what athletes eat; sometimes it’s a college kid––a window into a world filled with gallons of iced coffee, protein bars and breakfast for lunch; sometimes it’s someone walking the Pacific Coast Trail who said their last bite everyday was a Snickers bar. Every day! Like how many Snickers did they pack? Didn’t they melt or get crushed?
More rare, but appearing now and then, are posts from nutritionists or dieticians who focus on what they eat, how it changes daily (as it should) and why they eat what they eat. I like these posts a lot, even though a part of me prefers to be shocked at how much certain small-framed (young) runners eat because it’s so astronomically much more than I can eat in a day.
This invariably made me consider my own “What I eat in a day?” Breakfast today was a small bowl of chia seeds, hemp hearts, almonds, and goji berries, plus a matcha latte. For lunch, a salad and a small burger made from soy protein and beef cells grown in a lab. (Yes, it was good. No, it wasn’t homemade.) I ate a quarter of a too-big peanut butter cookie for a snack and right now I’m steaming an artichoke, which I will eat with some leftover veggie stir fry from the previous night and carrots and dip. I’ll probably have another piece of that cookie and maybe a little dark chocolate.
It sounds like a lot, but we all move through the world carrying different loads. Our genes (plus our hormones, any underlying conditions) regulate what we can eat with ease. We all process food differently, and our quantities vary widely. My lived life—watching my calories, type 1-diabetes, weight fluctuations—these things alter and layer upon my genes to determine how easy or hard my struggle is. And I haven’t even mentioned the mental part of eating—legacy diet behavior that is so very hard to stop.
I’m certain I shouldn’t watch these videos, but they beckon, and I watch.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Chor San Khoo, a science fellow consultant at the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS), a non-profit organization that catalyzes science for the benefit of public health. Before that, she was at Campbell’s soup for 30 years. In our conversation, Chor San said something that really grabbed my attention:
“In the old days people didn’t eat nutrients, they ate food,” she said. “People don’t eat one single food.” Right, she’s so right. But that’s exactly how our food is being remade today—single ingredients that are promoted for being beneficial in some way and that are then formulated into something else. Are today’s food manufacturers thinking of what we eat in a day? I don’t think so.
Chor San shared that there are 8 dietary guidelines to follow, and for the last 32 years the US has failed to meet those guidelines. “We are always hovering around 59-60% [of that goal],” she told me. “What’s keeping us from not meeting the guidelines?” she asked. “We don’t know how to personalize the guidelines, we only look at a single food. It’s a whole day. You’re eating a combination of food.”
We can’t cram dietary guidelines into a single food, but we can into a day of eating. As we vault into a future full of single ingredient “New Foods,” we need to consider how we combine them, what has been lost from this new perspective, and how we can personalize foods for people with different needs coming from different cultures.
Rather than get too complicated, which it is, how can we retain the fun that we get from eating? Let’s not lose the joy of eating as we go down endless rabbit holes of micro amounts of tailor-made compounds.
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How we talk about food, what we eat, what’s “good,” what’s “healthy,” color-coded food groups…oof this landscape is hard to navigate. Read this essay in Vox about the popular diet app Noom.
Fascinated by this idea of wine in a paper bottle. (Sadly it’s not available in the US.) The wine comes in a thin plastic bag that’s inside the paper – like boxed wine where the wine actually comes in plastic bag. The carbon footprint is roughly one sixth that of a glass bottle of wine. What we don’t know is how the plastic bag affects that number. Heinz ketchup is trialing this paper bottle soon and if I was a ketchup user, I’d buy it!
Climate concerns are all to real for the people growing our food. Here’s a farmer who is growing new varieties of chickpeas in upstate New York (colder and wetter than usual), and plant breeders working on low-chill cherry varieties, which need a lot of “chill hours” (HA!) to grow good fruit. These low chill varieties could allow the crop to be grown in places as un-cherry like as Egypt and Israel.
I love upcycled foods, and these crackers made from discarded prawn waste and off-cuts from udon noodle production do an amazing job of taking icky sounding waste (shrimp heads!) and turning it into something delicious. I can taste the savory, salty, crunchy already. They’re sold in Japan. Someone please find me a bag!
And because why not, face cream made from banana skins!
Where you can find me:
In April, I went to the Insider offices in New York for an interview about dairy proteins made with precision fermentation. You can see the finished video here. I’m at the end. (Still waiting for my magical hair and makeup person!)
Did you catch my appearance on Milk Street with Christopher Kimball last January? It’s a good one.
I’ll be at Whole Foods’ annual gathering in Austin on May 26th. I saw a photo of the stage—it’s gigantic.
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