Food Rescue to the Rescue

It’s easy to blame the Web for sucking up more of our time, making us lazier, focusing our attention on YouTube videos and Facebook updates instead of healthier endeavors. But, according to HealthiNation, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a team of doctors and media experts, the company produces videos about living healthier lives through personal stories and lifestyle tips. While it may lack the viral buzz of an Old Spice or New Era commercial, it offers an undeniable real world value to its network of 40 million unique users.

The company’s latest Web series, Food Rescue, is a reality-style series in the spirit of HGTV or FoodTV programming that aims to show families how to shop, cook and eat more healthily. Each episode of the series, roughly 10 minutes long, introduces viewers to a new family and the bad habits that need breaking. The formula isn’t new, but HealthiNation makes it work.

Food Rescue kicks off like most reality shows, with nutritionist host Amy Hendel introducing us to the family du jour and the particular health challenge it faces.  Wasting no time, Amy dives right into the fridge – the window into the soul of the family – and starts pulling out food items. Too much sodium in processed foods. No veggies in the fridge. Food Rescue doesn’t hold back in calling out common mistakes that we all make, but it also provides simple and clear alternatives and suggestions: choosing low sodium turkey dogs instead of traditional beef hotdogs, or adding fresh chopped veggies to liven up brown rice, for example

While Food Rescue isn’t a cooking show, each episode ends with some easy-to-make – yet still healthy – snack and meal ideas. Food Rescue encourages viewers to use fresher, healthier ingredients for basic cooking instead of processed foods. The first episode wraps up by showing how to make a delicious looking fruit and yogurt snack and an English muffin based personal pizza. It demonstrates how quick and easy it can be to make big improvements in our diets and health.

One of the benefits of web video over TV is the flexibility that producers have with content length. Why create a 30-minute show when 10 minutes will suffice? It’s here that Food Rescue outshines its TV competition. No filler, just straight content. This keeps the episode feeling like it moves much more quickly than similar TV content. A big plus in my book. What’s wrong with my grocery list? How do I fix it? Now let me eat. My kind of food programming – well, at least since died.

If Food Rescue is part of HealthiNation’s custom series development program for brands, it certainly wasn’t noticeable. No branded products are pushed or even mentioned. With more than 50 distribution partners, I presume that the pre-roll and banners will be delivered by the ad networks and syndicators.

On the down side, Food Rescue uses a lot of graphics on top of the content that seem more low-budget than the rest of the production. The series relies too heavily on displaying road signs with health-related messages on them, which isn’t a bad idea unto itself. However, the graphics were of poor quality, with easily visible pixilation, even in a small video window, making key messages difficult to read and jagged lines being more distracting that I’d have expected.  Two words of advice: vector graphics.

Food Rescue will break new episodes, with new families, each week for the next seven weeks, and will be available online at


Update 6/10/2011: HealthiNation’s preview player was the source of the graphic issues. The live player displays much higher quality graphics that are easily read and do not suffer from the same pixilation as the preview player.

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