The concept of feeding using the so-called smart food as an alternative to the usual “fork and knife” food has been going on for some time already. Its loose origin may be tracked to the classic sci-fi film “Soylent Green”, from 1973. The plot introduces an overpopulated world with scarce resources and food shortages, where most population survives on processed food rations under the Soylent brand. Soylent Green becomes the latest addition to the menu, and although commercialised as “produced from plankton”, later in the film the actual ingredients come out.
Already in the real world, and based on this concept some companies have lately started developing commercially available food rations, capable of replacing food intake and provide all nutrients. As an interesting concept I decided to give it a go for one week, using the samples provided generously by Satislent, a Spanish brand already offering some varied preparations. Worth to mention that this food is not considered for dietetic purposes, but as a food replacement.
I got 3 family packs, with 7 rations each, 2 of them “normal” type in coconut and coffee flavours, and a third one, “sport” variety, in vanilla flavour. The family packs are cheaper than the individual pouches, and price goes from 2 to 3.5€ per ration (depending on the quantity and format of rations purchased). The main ingredients, in decreasing proportion, are: oats, gofio (a Canary Islands roasted maize flour), soy flour, olive oil and pea protein, among others. As for the nutritional profile, it doesn´t differ much among them, with around 1/3 of the energy requirements provided by each ration (for a daily expenditure of 2000-2100kcal), plus vitamins and minerals (you can find a detailed full description in labels). The sport type offer a slightly higher proportion of proteins than the normal type, with values as follow:
Sport 737kcal 11% fat / 54% carbohydrates / 23% protein
Normal 670kcal 13% fat / 58% carbohydrates / 16% protein
Preparation is easy: 4 spoons (approximately 160g), or 4 ½ spoons (175g) for the sports variety, diluted in cold water or milk. Only add the powder, mix well and drink. Easy! Your lunch in less than 2 minutes. For my 1-week plan, I get coffee for breakfast, vanilla sport for lunch, and coconut for dinner. Doing so I would be getting around 2100kcal. Considering that I will be doing my usual level of training (plus a short competition on the weekend) my energy expenditure will be surely over 2500kcal/day, so I will allow myself an afternoon snack (fruit or yoghurt) and some fruit around midday.
For the preparation I try to dilute it in water. Some protein milkshakes I have used previously, by diluting the powder provided, had only a good taste if diluting in milk. It is a bit difficult to manage complete dilution of the powder, even using the metal ball provided with the shaker, although lumps can be dissolved adding more water. Taste is good with water, although there is no much difference between flavours provided, prevailing the slightly roasted gofio taste, even when using cold water as recommended. Not a big deal as I like its taste. Positively I feel full and satiated between takes, with no gastric problems during the whole week. I found myself thirstier than usual, probably because of the preparation dry nature. Normal food is usually rich in liquids, and although the powder is dissolved in water I found that I need to drink extra during the day. After 2-3 days I am used to the routine, and I feel with energy enough to carry on with my normal training and work levels. At the end of the week, I still have some powder left in every bag, being able to get an extra ration from each.
This smart food concept may be designed to replace your whole food intake, although it would get undoubtedly boring. Nevertheless I found it an interesting choice:
- It can be a useful tool if trying to precisely control your calorie intake.
- If short of time, it offers a healthier option than a sandwich and a pack of snacks.
- If travelling, and you are unsure about food hygiene conditions, it can help to avoid gastric problems, or facilitate transport and preparation if facilities are unavailable.
Surely it will be part of my food routine in occasions, and I am still to taste the lemon and strawberry flavours.
Score: 4 (out of 5)
Pros: vegan, lactose-free and natural Spanish ingredients; non-genetically modified organisms; time saver; satiety sensation.
Cons: no much difference among flavours, although pleasant taste; a bit difficult to get full dilution.