Single food providing a balanced diet?
September 19, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Does any company provide a food which, eaten alone, would provide a completely sufficient diet? Is this even possible?

I know they say variation is the key to a balanced diet, but surely one could produce some kind of mix, containing all sorts of food in just the right quantities to be optimal. Presumably, if the variables were tweaked right, one could then live entirely off this 'soup', with maybe occasional supplements to compensate for day-to-day variations in their energy requirement, etc.

Please tell me if I've oversimplified and this is in fact impossible. Otherwise, does anybody know if this kind of thing is commercially available anywhere?
posted by insperatum to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on your definition of "balanced" and/or "sufficient" but didn't Dilbert creator Scott Adams market a burrito that specifically hit 100% of the DRI nutrients?
posted by johnnybeggs at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2010

I believe you may be looking for Nutriloaf.
posted by Madamina at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's always monkey chow (actually ZuPreem Primate Dry Diet Animal Food).
posted by Ery at 10:10 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about Monkey Chow?
posted by The otter lady at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2010

These previous questions are worth your attention.
posted by Houstonian at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2010

Another previous q. The answer from that thread was "Chicken, rice, veggies" or "Beans, rice, veggies".
posted by carsonb at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2010

I think you could definitely do this in one dish, or one meal. For instance, indigenous people in Central America, South America, Mexico, and the US Southwest did this by combining beans, nixtamalized corn, and squash*. They ate them together within the same meal and even grew them together in the same fields.

That said, I'm not sure that there's any commercially produced food product that meets those standards, no. You could probably survive and be OK by living on Zone/Power/Clif bars and a multivitamin, if you were trapped in a mine for six months or otherwise completely unable to eat food in the normal sense. I don't know that it would meet 100% of your nutritional needs in a healthy and sustainable way, though.

*Some sources that suggest that chili peppers were part of this mix of nutritional staples as well, though I think that's debated. Other sources will often cite chili peppers as one of the first foods domesticated purely for taste.
posted by Sara C. at 10:15 AM on September 19, 2010

posted by madcaptenor at 10:19 AM on September 19, 2010

Loaded with proteins, fat, and carbohydrates, the Special Management Meal is a perennial favorite for the hungry problem inmate at a correctional institutes, and will satisfy your daily nutritional needs. As a bonus, may be served to the house guests at the end of their welcome.

Bon Appétit!

• 6 slices whole wheat bread, finely chopped
• 4 ounces imitation cheddar cheese, finely grated
• 4 ounces raw carrots, finely grated
• 12 ounces spinach, canned, drained
• 2 cups dried Great Northern Beans, soaked, cooked and drained
• 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 6 ounces potato flakes, dehydrated
• 6 ounces tomato paste
• 8 ounces powdered skim milk
• 4 ounces raisins

Mix all ingredients in a 12-quart mixing bowl. Make sure all wet items are drained. Mix until stiff, just moist enough to spread. Form three loaves in glazed bread pans. Place loaf pans in the oven on a sheet pan filled with water, to keep the bottom of the loaves from burning. Bake at 325 degrees in a convection oven for approximately 45 minutes. The loaf will start to pull away from the sides of the bread pan when done.

Yield - Three Loaves
posted by Schadenfreude at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is it weird that, sans a few of those ingredients and with fresh spinach swapped out for canned (and maybe with some more moisture added, like perhaps a couple eggs or some cottage cheese), I think that would be a pretty awesome casserole?
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 AM on September 19, 2010

Plumpy'nut. Recent article in the NYT.
posted by barnone at 10:57 AM on September 19, 2010

What you're asking doesn't exactly make sense. A variety of foods smooshed together is still a variety of foods. You can't fool nature.

The science of nutrition as it stands now is self-contradictory and still in its infancy. No one really knows the mechanisms by which foods and health interact, except for a few really broad generalizations. For instance, the statistical health benefits of fruits and vegetables probably have more to do with the fact that rich & already-healthy people are the ones who are eating them. There are way more questions than answers, and even the questions are wrong. You could take a gamble on something like Nutriloaf, but you'd risk damaging your body because some not-as-yet-understood factor in human nutrition is not adequately addressed.

Monkey chow is designed to keep monkeys alive, not in the prime of health. Look at some photos of lab monkeys sometime. They age terribly and get very fat, diabetic and arthritic from monkey chow.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:35 PM on September 19, 2010

This isn't that hard or even uncommon. Lots of people have lived on extremely monotonous diets for long periods of time. There's no reason to resort to perversions like monkey chow and nutriloaf. Boost and Ensure are designed to provide for the nutritional needs of people who can't eat solid food. British seamen lived for years at a time on salt beef and pork, oats, split peas, cheese, hard tack, rum and lemon juice. I'm thinking you could eat any of the MREs or even canned chili and get along just fine.
posted by chrchr at 1:26 PM on September 19, 2010

As well as Plumpy'nut, there's Nourimamba, sort of the sane thing. It's more of a stop-privation measure.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:44 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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