Interview: Making Your Meal Work For Your Biology
Habit's Chief Innovation Officer Heather Cutter sat down with PSFK to explain how her company is using specific biological data to make diet suggestions
For a recent interview on our PurpleList podcast, PSFK’s Piers Fawkes sat down with Heather Cutter, the Chief Innovation Officer at Habit, a holistic, personalized nutrition company. Piers and Heather discuss the importance of tailoring diets to a person’s individual needs and the steps that Habit takes to provide this service in an excerpt from their conversation.
Piers: Can you talk about a couple of food trends that are exciting you right now?
Heather: A big trend right now is personalization, which can mean a lot of different things. For many, personalization means how they choose to eat, what their preferences are and the consumer being in the driver’s seat.
There’s also a trend of people wanting to find a way of eating that is sustainable over time. The notion that these fad diets are one size fits all and that people should jump on the next bandwagon is pretty tired right now. People want to find something that they can really use in their lives.
I’m noticing a trend in digital everything, from how we order our food—whether it’s a prepared meal, restaurant takeout or shopping online—to how we learn about food. Most people have all the information in the palm of their hand.
Then, just look at how people approach food. Dovetailing from the personalization piece, while people want to eat clean, whole, real food, there’s also a nice counterbalance that we’re seeing, which is that people have real lives. They want to know what to do, or feel like they can make great choices, but with a sense of balance.
Can you give me a quick overview of Habit today and the value you bring to your customers?
Habit is playing right in the middle of everything I just said, which is that there’s a convergence of food and nutrition, health, as well as technology and data. We’re trying to be at the center of all of that. Our service is very much about your health and your body through data, but also about what you put in it.
Here’s a quick description of what we do: A consumer buys into Habit. We send a test kit to their home, which includes some things to measure (including their body’s weight and waist circumference), and we ask them a series of questions about their health. Then, we provide swabs for them to take their DNA and we also provide a blood test where they take their blood after a fast. It’s a finger stick to a blood card. That way, we have a blood sample.
Then, we give them what we call a challenge beverage, which is designed to do exactly what it says, challenge their body. It’s supposed to be representative of a typical big American breakfast. They drink the challenge shake, which is full of macronutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Then, they take another blood sample at two different time increments after they’ve drunk the challenge beverage.
They send all the test results back to us and within a few weeks we provide them with their results, which describe nutrition and health-specific biomarkers in DNA and how they process the macronutrients. Basically, they get a cool results experience, which talks about what we found in their biology and how that might impact them.
They also get a nutrition plan, which is basically a personalized nutrition book just for them. It talks about how they should eat, what the right choices are for them, and things that they should eat more of or less of.
What is on the roadmap?
We just launched a beta of recipes that are personalized to you. In the next few weeks, we’ll be offering some additional tools that help people put that plan into practice, whether they’re at home or they’re out in the world.
Is the Habit approach just going to give people more work? Is it going to be harder for people to prepare food?
No, it shouldn’t be. It’s just more mindful. It’s less about what you should or shouldn’t do, but more about things that will make preparing food more appropriate, based on your biology and your goal.
We are giving ideas on how to prepare but, also, we want people to understand how they can eat their favorite things, maybe just in a slightly modified way.
Listen to the audio of this interview together with conversations with other food and diet experts on our PurpleList podcast.