top of page

15-puzzle diet planner ​

Startup, iOS app. Closed in 2014
My role: product design

  • Flexible diet plan for any goal (loss, gain, maintain) without calorie counting

  • All planning at one screen

  • Social network: share your meals and receipt ideas, give feedback from the community

This project was started around 2004 when I came up with a way to plan my own diet without counting calories using food groups and portion control. Then it went through many iterations, one of them being an iOS app. And was closed in 2014 no further developments were made.


1. Common dieters' pains

2. Some kind of solution: food-based dietary guidelines

3. Best from both worlds: 15-puzzle diet planner

4. Go mobile

5. Demo how it works

1. Common dieters' pains

The essence of a healthy diet looks simple: to provide the body with all necessary nutrients and balance the caloric value of food with your daily activities.


Let's not talk about controversies. There are a lot of dietary religions, we’ll just focus on this task: the balance of nutrients and energy. It’s important for those who are engaged in fitness or sports, who gain or lose weight, etc.


What difficulties will face anyone who starts planning a balanced diet?


  • Need to calculate the proper amounts of macronutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. There are many online calculators, it's not that difficult, but still...

  • Need to weigh food. At least the first time, until you learn how to determine the size of portions by eye and figure out how much it weighs. Neural networks require training! :)

  • Need to write down everything you eat. Moleskine, excel tablet, or a special app - you need to choose something and it should be convenient.

  • To calculate calories and nutrients of already eaten food. Difficult with Moleskine, easier in a special program... until you notice that the numbers in it don't add up and you spend half a day to figure out why.

  • Count how many calories are left and how much food will fit in them. Tetris in your mind.

  • Planning shopping, separate meals, etc. All adults have to suffer from this, but if you are on a diet, suffer twice. Pick the right products, and distribute them throughout the day. If some of the products are not available or simply you do not want to eat them at that time - adjust the menu on the fly


Of course, this is not a complete list, but enough, I just illustrate that the task is not easy.

2. Some kind of solution: food-based dietary guidelines

So-called food-based dietary guidelines provide advice on food groups and help to achieve good dietary patterns, which tend to provide the required nutrients for overall health and prevent chronic diseases.


Food-based dietary guidelines can be very easy, clear and effective. Just look at USDA’s «Food for fitness: a daily food guide» from 1958. It’s easy to understand and make practical decisions based on this information:

a daily food guide.png

But sometimes things go wrong and we can get something like a Food pyramid (The USDA guidelines from 1992 to 2005). It has a poor design. It may look clear at first look, but it will be very confusing and require a lot of additional explanation when you get into practice.

Fats, Oils & Sweets.gif

To explain the pyramid you had to sweat…


People can always make things worse, and USDA also can. Look at 2005 guidelines and try to understand what can be done with this information dump:


But this is a story with a happy ending. New guidelines were released in 2011. Here they are, clean and simple, USDA’s «Choose My Plate».

The graphic depicts a place setting with a plate and glass divided into five food groups that are recommended parts of a healthy diet.

Look how easy it is to plan a meal: divide the plate in half, fill one half with vegetables and fruits, divide the other between proteins and cereals, and you're done!


3. Best from both worlds: 15-puzzle diet planner

And now it will be easy to explain what I did.


You get a daily menu stylized as 15-puzzle game. Instead of one meal as in My plate, the whole day is planned based on the same principle — food-based dietary guidelines. In fact, this is three plates a day:

CMP vs 15i.png

A plan was developed for each goal, whether it be losing weight, maintaining or gaining weight. To be honest, you only need one scheme (and patience), a balanced diet fits most goals, but people love to lose weight and gain, this was part of the game.

15i d6.png
15i d1.png

Customers have a daily menu designed as 15 puzzle game. Besides solid foods, caloric and caffeine drinks are also planned. This is what breakfast might look like:


The portion size in this diet plan is equal to the customer's fist. The fist is proportional to the body size and serves as an excellent guide. 

This was not an arrangement of My Plate. I developed the scheme back in 2004 when I was a medical student and was trying to figure out how to plan my own meals without constantly counting calories.


At first it was a simple table with no visual design, but after many iterations, it turned out to be a beautiful infographic.

Pasted Graphic 3.png

4. Go mobile

Since I publish 15-puzzle diet on my blog in 2009, this idea has grown and hundreds of people have written to me that it works. While the community grows, people ask me to think about a mobile app.


In the spring of 2012, my brother made a proposal to develop a mobile app. I took over the UX, he did the coding, and also brought in a UI designer to draw the final look. We worked on it for three or four months. Beta was launched in iOS-6. It was not only a diet planner but also an early-Instagram-style social network.

Mockups for iOS were created in paper and in keynote:


5. Demo how it worked:

  • Flexible diet plan for any goal (loss, gain, maintain) without calorie counting

  • All planning at one screen

  • Social network: share your meals and receipt ideas, give feedback from the community

bottom of page