This is What Nutrition Labels Don’t Tell You. And Here’s How it Can Improve.

finalNLvisualWe started with a simple question: Do nutrition labels tell us the value in our foods? The answer brought us here.

Nutrition labels are rigid. They communicate through the same numbers, and the same structure, every time. And you already know our thoughts on that.

Foods, on the other hand, are wildly diverse. And as a result, many healthy foods get tarnished by how traditional nutrition labels represent them.

Healthy foods with high fat content, high carbs, or “too many” calories get frowned upon, while some low value foods get a boost (hello, 100-calorie snack packs!)

We can do better. And over the next several blog posts, we’re going to try.

Our aim: nutrition labels that answer the question, “What’s the value in this food?” Labels that better enable healthy decision making and allow power foods that fuel the body to outshine lower value foods, even if the latter have fewer calories.

At TwoGrand, we don’t count calories. And we don’t push a universal nutrition philosophy. We simply make it easier than ever for you to improve the value of what you’re putting into your body every day. To change your habits for the better, for good.

We aren’t going to teach you how to read a nutrition label, and we aren’t going to tell you what to eat. Instead, we hope to drive meaningful thought and debate about the way foods are evaluated and perceived.

Don’t think of it as a nutrition label. It’s a value indicator.

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If You Take the Stairs, You Probably Love Kale (plus other green veggie insights)

Recent green veggie meals on TwoGrand

It’s safe to say we aren’t born with a burning desire to consume green vegetables.

If we had the same natural appetite for green veggies that we do for chocolate and Ring Pops, we might be a whole lot healthier.

But there are many people who legitimately love the green stuff – we see their photos every day on TwoGrand. It got us thinking: What makes them different? Could we pick green veggie lovers out of a crowd without gauging their reactions to a flawless head of broccoli?

We turned to our questions data to find out. On TwoGrand, you can follow people at your goal weight to see how they eat and exercise every day, and you answer questions to get better matches. Questions range from the standard “Do you smoke?” to the odder “If a restaurant has mints at the host stand, do you take one on the way out?”

We combed through more than 250,000 answers to see what the best predictors were of green vegetable love (and hate). Here’s what we found.

1. The best place to find green veggie lovers is your grocery store parking lot. They’re the ones riding carts to their cars.

Yup. The biggest predictor of green veggie love is how much that person enjoys grocery shopping.

On average, half (50%) of TwoGrand users love green veggies, and half either tolerate them (36%) or hate them (14%). But if you dig for the source of that love and hate, you find that the best way to divide the camps is by affinity for grocery stores.

If you dig grocery shopping, you’re nearly 6 times more likely to love green veggies than hate them. And if you avoid grocery stores? Your green veggie love-hate ratio doesn’t even reach 2:1.

Chart showing green veggie love, grouped by relationship with grocery stores

2. Proximity to goal weight, however, is NOT a strong predictor of green veggie love.

43% of all TwoGrand users are 25 pounds or more above their goal weight. If you love green veggies, that number drops only a little, to 40%. The difference widens slightly at higher weights.

And, surprisingly, if you are within 10 pounds of your goal weight, you are no more likely to be a green veggie lover.

Is love of green veggies a good predictor of proximity to goal weight? (chart)

3. If you want to find people who DON’T like green veggies, head to your local airport or mall.

Another one of our questions asks for your take on kale/apple/spinach/pear juice. (It’s green.)

As a whole, 40% of TwoGrand users answer “NOM” while 12% want nothing to do with the green juice. The rest will drink it if forced to.

Not very helpful if you’re planning to surprise your party guests with a giant cauldron of kale juice.

Alas, it turns out there’s a different question you can ask to get a much better idea of someone’s love (hate) for kale juice. That question: Do you take the escalator or the stairs?

How to predict whether someone loves kale juice (chart)

***

Keep in mind we’re talking about correlation and not causation – loving grocery shopping doesn’t cause you to love green vegetables, just as riding escalators doesn’t cause you to hate kale smoothies – but it’s definitely some interesting food for thought. Pun intended.

If we treated trips to the grocery store like appearances on Supermarket Sweep, would we learn to love green veggies a little more? (It’s a competition, damnit, and there’s only ONE prize cucumber that’s gonna make my dinner SHINE!)

Regardless, if you’re looking to make your daily routine healthier – green veggies or not – download the TwoGrand app (iPhone, Android) today.

You can try your hand at the questions above, and start discovering small changes you can make to improve your eating and exercise routine – things that mesh with who you already are.

98% of our app reviews are 4 or 5 stars… and that’s WITHOUT free grocery carts to ride around on.

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I Thought I Was Healthy… Until I Started a Health Company

For almost three years, I knew I wanted to build TwoGrand. I wanted to change the health game for many personal reasons, but my own health wasn’t one of them.

I always viewed myself as pretty healthy. I’d be an example to be followed – the tutor, not the tutee.

Looking back on 2013 – TwoGrand’s first (partial) year in existence – I see that I’ve rarely  ever been so wrong.

And never has being so wrong made me so confident in something being so right.

***

My executive health summary paints the picture of an average dude with no problems. And that was the problem.

From the time I neared high school graduation, I’ve weighed between 157 and 165 pounds. The weight fluctuation has been almost exclusively due to actively gaining (and then sadly losing) muscle.

Things change, things stay the same

I’m 26, so that makes it ~10 years at this weight. And at 6’0”, that puts me at the low end of “normal” for a medium frame guy.

I play competitive adult soccer, and although my fitness level isn’t what it used to be, I can run a 5K without pause.

I knew I had a few bad eating habits – namely a gross overuse of the microwave that was an outgrowth of my insane schedule when in college – but nothing had inspired me to make real change.

I’d patch those habits in time. Nevermind the fact those habits were already eight years old. There’s always time…

***

I remember the meal Alex (my co-founder) and I ate the night we agreed on the name TwoGrand. I remember it because it was the first time I fully acknowledged the stark contrast between real meals and the stuff I was often eating.

The meal Alex made was simple, and old as time: Chicken (with a drizzle of gravy), mixed veggies, and potatoes.

Chicken, veggies, potatoes

It was delicious. It also stood out like a sore thumb on my TwoGrand profile.

I couldn’t recall the last time I’d made dinner like this. And remember, we’re not talking gourmet French cuisine here – just chicken, veggies, and potatoes.

Four of my dinners from the previous week looked like this:

What Peter Used to Eat for Dinner

The headliners: Pizza, sandwich, oatmeal, and Chipotle.

Sure, I kept the calories down – I’ve always done that – but where were the vegetables? Or the fruit? Could I be treating my body better?

Comparing my meals to Alex’s (and also eating Alex’s meals because, you know, co-founders), combined with the influence of my wonderful girlfriend (and chef extraordinaire) Cat, gave me all the evidence I needed.

***

So I had an “Aha!” moment. Big deal – we all have them. The real magic came in how I, almost unknowingly, undid decades of habitual behavior thanks to an app I wasn’t supposed to be the audience for.

Arguably the most powerful aspect of TwoGrand is its visual nature. Seeing meals in full color, texture and size, gives you perspective that no amount of text and portion descriptions can.

Arguably the second-most powerful aspect is the repetition. You see a new food once and it’s interesting. You see it a second time – from a second person – and it’s intriguing. You see it a third time and you’re asking about how to prepare it. The fourth time, you’re posting it in your own meal, and beaming from self-satisfaction.

In the past week, I’ve made quinoa, a kale/apple/flax seed/natural PB/water smoothie, spaghetti squash, a kale/brussels sprouts/bell pepper/cucumber medley sauteed in (just-squeezed) lemon and lime juice, and, wait for it… a chicken/veggies/potatoes dinner.

What Peter eats for dinner now

Only when I went home for the holidays did the transformation hit me. The guy whose only groceries opinion growing up was which cereals to stock the cupboards with, was getting involved in the preparation of a six-person Christmas dinner.

I mean, my Christmas gift to my parents was a top-shelf blender. Two years ago, Vegas set the odds of that happening at slightly longer than a Milli Vanilli comeback.

Milli Vanilli dancing

***

I used to joke that 80% of my life’s calories had come from 10 foods: Cereal, milk, peanut butter, ice cream, Gatorade, apples, berries, bread, carrots, and beer.

It wasn’t really a joke, of course.

TwoGrand has changed all that. I enjoy food more than ever before. I feel I understand food more. I feel healthier. I am healthier.

My mom can say all of the same things. Alex can, too. Myriad people in the TwoGrand community have lost weight. Almost everyone in the TwoGrand community has replaced an unhealthy meal with a healthier option.

One particularly awesome person has lost 20 pounds in two months, and looking at her first few days compared to her most recent days is incredibly uplifting.

It’s working. And if I didn’t go through it myself, I’m not sure I’d be as adept at explaining why.

In 2013, I set out to build a health company. Turns out I was its first customer.

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A Breakup Letter to the New Year’s Resolution… and What We’re Replacing it With

We love you, New Year’s resolution. No, really, we do.

Your heart’s in the right place. You’re cheery. Full of hope. And you always show up – year after year after year.

But when it comes down to it, New Year’s resolution, you fail. You fail 88 percent of the time.

You fail because you focus on the outcome instead of the process.

You fail because your outlook is short-term when the road to success is much longer.

And you fail because you listen too much to what’s being sold to you, rather than asking yourself what you really need.

So we’ve decided it’s best to part ways, New Year’s resolution. Don’t take this the wrong way, but we’ve found someone better.

It’s not you. It’s us.

***

So if New Year’s resolutions are out, then what now?

At TwoGrand, we asked ourselves a simple question: “What kind of health-related resolution would actually work?” How can you keep the spirit of the New Year’s resolution, but get rid of all the stuff that holds such resolutions back?

The answer came from a simple, but powerful reframing: Make Life Resolutions instead.

Life resolution photo - I believe in my future self

The annual nature of New Year’s resolutions may be their biggest fault. We all sprint toward that May wedding or that July bikini body, and our behavior modification (if any) follows in a similarly short-term fashion.

Diets, cleanses, and pills don’t make us healthier – our habit change does. And it’s habit change that enables us to stay healthy once we’ve arrived at our original goal. (We’ve all heard that the biggest challenge with diets isn’t losing the weight – it’s keeping it off.)

Habit change isn’t glitzy, and it certainly doesn’t move at a rapid pace. But it works.

So what if we viewed improving our health as a Life Resolution – good for this year, and every year to come? Still declare your resolution, and start Jan. 1 if you’d like, but erase the end date, and make it about what you believe, so it can always be improved upon.

  • I believe that health is measured in added years, not lost pounds.
  • I believe in my future self. I will eat to nourish her strength.
  • I believe I can eat the foods I love and still lose/maintain weight.

These are things we can work toward every day, no matter how much (or how little) we weigh. We can always strive to live healthier. And if doing so becomes our creed, the short-term goals will fall into place along the way.

If losing 15 pounds is part of the journey, and not the destination, then we know we’re not done once we get there – even if there are no more pounds to lose.

Make your life resolution today. And after doing so, we’d love to see you on TwoGrand. We’re an awesome community of people focused on improving our eating and exercise habits our way.

It’s powerful change. You just may find that improving your routine will inspire others to do the same.

Life Resolution photo - 2014 is just the first step

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What Will Your Last 10 Years Look Like? (The Problem with New Year’s Resolutions)

In the coming weeks, millions of us will make New Year’s resolutions, and almost all of them will fail. It’s the not-so-hidden secret about our annual rite of resolution making.

A powerful new PSA – watch it below – forces us to ask whether we’re setting the wrong goals.

The PSA presents a simple question – What will your last 10 years look like? – then shows us two scenarios for how one man’s life could look during his final 10 years, split across the screen’s two halves.

Last 10 years PSA

In one scenario, the man is active, jovial, healthy.

In the other, he’s bedridden, lonely, sick.

It’s a powerful reframing of goal-setting, and timely, too. Rather than strive to lose 10 pounds, as so many of us do – just look at Twitter – we should strive to add 10 years. Happy, healthy, fulfilled years.

That’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a life resolution. And it’s exactly the kind of thing we built TwoGrand to support.

Posted in Health and weight loss, Life resolutions, Seasonal food themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Email of Awesomeness: Dec. 18, 2013

It’s that time of the week, when we release our newsletter Email of Awesomeness into the wild.

TwoGrand #homemade meals montage

Our commitment remains the same: Deliver awesome content to your inbox around 2 p.m. PST every week – stuff that’s worth you taking five minutes out of your Wednesday (or Thursday!) to read.

This has been a big week on TwoGrand – our exercise feature was released, we had a killer #homemade meal competition going on, and we saw a record number of meals logged.

In this week’s email:

  • Vote for the #homemade challenge winner
  • If You Were CEO: Describing TwoGrand to the world
  • Weekly tribute to being real
  • Exercise photo mosaic!
  • Meals of the Week

Read the email in all its glory.

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All of the Science, None of the Counting

When calorie counting, you’re aiming for the number of daily calories required to achieve your goal. As discussed in our last post, there are myriad issues with the practice of calorie counting – which is why we don’t recommend it – but the science of calories in, calories out still makes sense.

If only there was a simpler way to apply that scientific principle…

Turns out there is a way, and all it requires is a simple grammar reversal.

Standard calorie counting logic says X calories per day allows a person to be Y pounds. If this is true, then the reverse must also be true: a person is Y pounds because she consumes X calories per day.

And in the latter case, the calorie number (X) is just a detail. So let’s rephrase it: A person is able to maintain a weight of Y pounds because he consumes the right amount of calories for that weight.

By employing some clever syntax changes, we’ve taken the focus away from counting calories and placed it on the individual and his daily routine – all without violating the scientific principle of calories in, calories out.

If a woman is able to maintain a weight of 130 pounds, then she must be consuming (and burning) the right amount of calories for her body to stay at 130 pounds. Her routine enables her to maintain that weight.

This approach allows you to make statements like this:

Whatever she does is right for her maintaining her weight. So if I’m very much like her – similar age and height, similar body type, similar activity level and lifestyle – then if I can mimic her eating routine, I should be able to progress toward her weight.

This idea is a large part of TwoGrand’s philosophy. There are different foods and routines that work for different people, and by understanding more about you and your body, lifestyle, and preferences, we can help you learn what works best for you.

All of the science, in a fraction of the time, with focus on making good (and lasting) changes instead of a daily calorie target. Sounds like a great trade-off to us.

What one 158-lb, 6'0'' man ate in a recent day

A one-day snippet of the routine that enables one 26-year-old, 158-lb, 6’0” and lightly active man to maintain his weight.

Posted in Calorie counting, Health and weight loss, Nutrition science, The TwoGrand philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment