Things I Like: Healthy New Year’s Resolutions Edition

As part of New Year’s Resolution Week at Rampant Discourse, I thought I would mention a few things I like that help lead to a healthier life and meet your healthy New Year’s resolutions.

Hydro Flask

I love ice cold water. Ever since I was a kid, I would fill my glass up to the very top with ice, leaving barely any room for water because I wanted to make sure that the water I drank was always as cold as possible. I can’t explain why, but cold water just tastes so much more refreshing than warm or room temperature water. I say all this to explain why  I took a chance on spending $30+ on a water bottle, which some people might consider insane.

At the time, I didn’t know much about Hydro Flask water bottles, other than people were raving about them (just check out this review on Amazon for a product with 4.7 stars out of 5 on over 4,500 reviews). I heard stories, which I thought had to be embellished, of people leaving their bottles all day in their car during 100 degree weather and the water still being cold afterwards. Still, I was intrigued. If even half the things said about these water bottles were true, I wanted to try it out. I didn’t really know what “double wall vacuum insulated” or “premium grade 18/8 stainless steel” meant, but that didn’t stop me. I decided to go with a relatively large 40 oz. size, hoping that would be enough to last me a day at work, in their “green zen” color (which appears to now be discontinued).Hydro Flask logoIt didn’t take long for me to realize that the stories weren’t being embellished and that the water bottle was worth the cost. The Hydro Flask’s ability to keep liquids cold is amazing. I fill mine about halfway up with ice in the morning and there’s still some left when I go to sleep. I’ve even filled it entirely with ice and had the ice last over 24 hours. I can leave it sitting inside a car all day in sweltering summer heat and still have the water inside be ice cold. The Hydro Flask has made ice cold water on demand a reality, which is a lot cooler (see what I did there?) than it probably sounds.

I carry mine with me virtually everywhere I go and it has really cut down on my sugary beverage intake. It used to be that if I got thirsty on a long drive or while running chores, I would stop for a sweet tea from a fast food restaurant or grab a soda from a vending machine. Now that ice cold water is often just an arm’s length away, I’m far less tempted to go for those higher calorie options.

It should be noted that while I’ve only talked about ice water so far, that’s not the only thing Hydro Flasks are good for. It’s common to fill them with cold beer and it also apparently works wonders with hot beverages like coffee.

The Hydro Flask is tough as nails. Mine has survived over two years of near continuous use and still works as well as the day I got it. It’s also virtually free of any dents or scratches despite the fact that it constantly gets tossed around the floor of my car (I unfortunately got a size which is too big to fit in a cup holder). Considering the number of times the lid has smashed into things at a high velocity, I’m shocked it hasn’t started leaking yet.

There are only two relatively minor downsides to note. The first is entirely my fault and is a mixed blessing: the size. The 40 oz. size is simply too big to fit into a standard car’s cup-holder, which is even more inconvenient than it would seem. I knew this going in, though, and made the decision anyway because anything smaller than 40 oz. seemed like it might be too small to last the day (or an afternoon of basketball or ultimate in the heat of summer). Also, the 40 oz. size provides a good barometer of the amount of water I drink. If the day is half over and I haven’t refilled yet, I know I’m behind the pace.

The second minor downside is cleaning. The Hydro Flask is not supposed to be placed in the dishwasher.  Despite only filling it with water, I’ve found that it develops a musty smell after a few weeks that even rinsing out with warm soapy water doesn’t fix. Luckily, we have a number of baby bottle cleaners around the house that, while they aren’t quite as long as I would like for the 40 oz bottle, overall do a pretty good job of cleaning it out.

If you’re a fan of beverages that stay cold (or hot), then I encourage you to try out a Hydro Flask. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Halo Top Ice Cream

Halo Top Creamery logoOne of my greatest weaknesses when it comes to trying to maintain a reasonable diet is ice cream. I find it nearly impossible to resist a hot fudge sundae or cookies and cream milk shake or even just a scoop of mint chocolate chip. That’s why Halo Top ice cream has been such an amazing discovery. They basically replace the sugar in ice cream with stevia and erythritol to end up with a product that has a lot less calories, carbs and fat as compared to other brands while still tasting pretty much like normal ice cream. It’s ice cream you can eat a pint of in one sitting and not feel guilty about completely ruining your diet. I’ve only tried a few of their flavors, but I can vouch for their mint chocolate chip flavor and the vanilla bean tastes really good mixed with PB2 powdered peanut butter. The hardest part with Halo Top is being able to find it in a store. It appears to be carried in some Costco stores, but I’ve only been able to find it at my nearby Wegmans so far, and they are often out of stock. If you can find it, though, and ice cream is one of your weaknesses too, it might be worth picking up a pint to try.

Soylent

What is Soylent? It’s not people. As their website states:

Put simply, Soylent is healthy, convenient, and affordable food. We engineered Soylent to provide all the protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and micronutrients that a body needs to thrive. We produce Soylent in different forms and flavors to best match your lifestyle.

Originally, Soylent began as a powder that was mixed with water (and possibly other ingredients to enhance the flavor) to provide all the calories, nutrients and vitamins needed for a meal in one glass of liquid sustenance. Now, it’s available in many different forms (including a bar, pre-mixed drink, and drink mixed with coffee), but it’s the original powder form that I still use.

Even before I had kids, I struggled eating a healthy breakfast. I’m not a morning person, and when confronted with the idea of getting out of a comfy bed to prepare a healthy meal or hitting the snooze button and just stopping for a fast food breakfast, I all too often chose the latter. Now, with two young children that have to be prepped and taken to school, it’s even harder to find time to prepare breakfast in the morning.

Soylent logoThat’s where Soylent has been so helpful. I don’t use it for all my meals or even most of my meals. What I use it for is to provide a super quick and convenient breakfast in the morning. I prepare a pitcher full of Soylent the night before (warm Soylent does NOT taste very good), which requires only a few minutes of time to prepare. By the time the morning rolls around, the pitcher is chilled and ready to be poured for a nutritious meal with virtually zero prep time. My pitcher makes 4 “meals” worth (2,000 calories total) and in my experience stays good for over 3 days (despite the directions indicating that it is best eaten within 48 hours), so with a few minutes of prep time I’ve prepared 3 breakfasts and an extra meal for the week. It’s also incredibly cheap, working out to only a few dollars per meal.

There are a few downsides, though. Initially, I didn’t find Soylent filling enough, and found myself getting hungry before lunch. Over time, I’ve adapted by eating a slightly earlier lunch, supplementing with a snack like yogurt, or just pouring a larger glass in the morning. Also, while the flavor is designed to be “neutral” and I personally find unflavored Soylent to be perfectly acceptable, I know others have had a much more negative reaction to the flavor. I find that adding some cinnamon or flavored protein powders can go a long way towards improving the taste.

One mixed bag (pun not entirely intended) is that the powdered version of Soylent is constantly being altered. This could be a good thing, as I generally believe the flavor and texture has been improved with each subsequent release, but I know others who have preferred earlier versions. The current version is vegan, lactose free and nut free. Interestingly, not only is the current version not GMO-free, but their site has a long piece written on why Soylent is Proudly Made With GMOs, which is a refreshing change from most food companies who seem to buy into the idea that GMOs are harmful despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting the theory.

Soylent certainly isn’t for everybody, but if you’re looking for a cheap and convenient meal to replace a fast food run, I would heartily recommend giving it a try. If you find the idea of Soylent intriguing, you can use the following referral link to get 50% off your first order of Soylent 2.0 (which is the unfortunately the pre-mixed version and NOT the version that I use).

Power Supply

Power Supply logoPower Supply is a nifty service offered in select regions of the United States (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC) where you order meals online and they get delivered to a location near you a week later, requiring just a few minutes of heating up for a tasty, healthy meal. Power Supply is incredibly flexible, offering one or two deliveries a week and different size meal portions (boost, standard or XL) to fit different desired levels of caloric intake. They also offer paleo, vegetarian and mixitarian menus, and each meal provides a list of ingredients, nutrient breakdown and a list of potential red flags that people might want to avoid in terms of allergies or dietary restrictions. They also offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options. I’ve subscribed to Power Supply for over a year now and have tried dozens of different meals. The vast majority were both tasty and seemingly healthy, and it’s rare that I’m ever disappointed with my meal. Each week, their menu contains over a dozen different options, and it’s incredibly easy to modify your order to swap in favorites or drop out meals you might’ve been less enamored with.

The biggest potential drawback for Power Supply is its price. I get a generous subsidy for Power Supply at my work, so I’m insulated from some of the cost, but without the subsidy there could be some sticker shock when it comes to the price. It’s a higher quality meal than you would get at Subway, but it’s also more than the $5 you would pay for the eponymous $5 footlong. If you want to give it a try, you can use my referral link (or my referral code: PESSEN) to get a free meal with your first order.

MyFitnessPal

My Fitness Pal logoMyFitnessPal is an app available in the Google Play Store and iTunes which helps individuals track the number of calories and macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) they consume each day. I’ve been using the app for years now, and while I initially found inputting every single thing that I ate to be tedious and annoying, I began to see the benefits of it and the process gradually turned into an acceptable routine. It can still be difficult to accurately measure meals cooked at home (how many cups of cheese did this lasagna have?), but the ability to scan the bar code of ingredients is amazingly useful and if it’s a common recipe, it can be saved to reuse down the line.

The beauty of MyFitnessPal is the instant feedback and constant reminder of what I’ve eaten. Sure, I know that waffles for breakfast are high in calories, but maybe I’ve forgotten by the time I have a pizza for dinner. With MyFitnessPal, I might see that those waffles not only took up half of my calories for today and therefore I might want to look for a salad for lunch, but that I’m approaching my limit for carbohydrates and so maybe I should pass on the dinner roll too. Likewise, I always knew soda was high in calories, but it really hits home when you see 120 of your precious calories deducted over such “empty” calories. MyFitnessPal lets you set custom calorie/fat/protein/carb goals and also has tools to help track your weight and calories burned through exercise. There is also a premium version, but the free version is plenty functional to where I’ve never been tempted to pay for it.

To a healthier New Year

Not everything above is for everybody, but hopefully there is something that has piqued your fancy and can help you lead a healthier life in the coming year, even if it’s in a small way. Here’s to making 2017 the healthiest year yet.

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Paul Essen
Founder and Chief Discourse Officer at Rampant Discourse

Proud geek. Trekkie. Browncoat. Entil’Zha. First human spectre. Hokie. Black belt. Invests Foolishly. Loves games of all types and never has enough time to play as many as he wants. Libertarian who looks forward to the day he votes for a winning presidential candidate. Father to two beautiful daughters.


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