I am not the most techno savvy kid on the block, but I have come across some health and nutrition apps that I absolutely love!!
I have put together a quick review of my favourites. To make the cut the app needed to be free (because we all love free things), and available on android (simple because I have an android phone). I plan to grow this list as more great apps come out and add any worthwhile iPhone apps once I have had the opportunity to use them. If you know of any other great health and nutrition apps please share them with me.
First up is Bupa's FoodSwitch. In my opinion this app is the bees knees, the cats pyjamas and the ants pants of nutrition apps!
How it works: This app is so easy and just a tad fun too. Simply scan the barcode of a food item to view how the product rates on total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. You are also provided with a list of similar products which are rated as healthier choices. A shopping list feature allows you to select the 'healthiest' product to save to your shopping list.
What I love: The simplicity! The rating system is very easy to follow; red for the least healthy choice, orange indicates an okay choice, and green for a good choice, while still giving you the numerical value of each rating. You are also provided with information about the energy of products.
My thoughts: This really is a great, practical app. The product database is huge (over 28,500 products) and includes some generic brand items. Using the FoodSwitch app takes all the hard work out of label reading and saves you heaps of time as you no longer need to search the supermarket shelves for the healthiest option. As always however, you still will need to weigh up your options as very few products will get the green light in all categories. Also, this app doesn't provide a rating for fibre. Only plant based products contain fibre so it isn't relevant to all products, nor is it always listed on nutrient information panels. It is important to check the amount of fibre in products such as bread, breakfast cereal, muesli bars and other grain based products. Aim for products in this category which contain 6g or more of fibre and avoid products that contain 2g or less.
I have to say I really like this app too. It's got a bit of everything, looks good and is easy to use.
How it works: Apart from some Woolworths specific features such as the weekly specials, loyalty card schemes and store locator, it has some really useful features which allow you to thoroughly plan your shopping - nutritionist tip number 1 for achieving a healthy diet - a shopping list. This app lets you scan products you have used before and add them to a shopping list or search for products on a database. This database is categorised by product type or you can search based on a 'health and well being' option such as egg free, sugar free, vegetarian etc. You can access a vast recipe library which again has easy to use categories including the 'health and wellbeing' option.
What I love: The piece de resistance of this app is the Fresh News feature, where you can view What's Fresh. Simply search by produce or by month to find out when and what different fruits and vegetables are in season. The variety listed is huge, trumping the in store variety! By selecting a fruit or vegetable you can view information about that particular fruit or vegetable, including tips on buying quality produce, how to store it correctly, and tips on cooking and preparation. I love this feature as buying what's in season increases nutritional quality, increases the likelihood of getting local produce and will be the cheapest option. Accessing tips on how to use different produce allows you to try different fruits and vegetables and increase the variety in your diet, which means a wider range of vitamins and minerals.
My thoughts: Nothing actually comes to mind in terms of limitations of this app - I think that says it all! There is the obvious underlying agenda to sell products and increase the Woolworths customer base, but even so, this agenda is not overwhelming and does not distract from the great features of this app.
This app is a bit of an all-round health tool, providing information on energy in, energy out and the amount of energy in Australian fast food.
How it works: To get the most out of this app, start by setting up your profile which includes details of your weight, height and activity level - be honest! This data is used to generate your 'ideal figure,' which is the number of kilojoules recommended each day. This app also provides you with a fast food search which reveals the energy content of various products from the major fast food chains. The total energy for the food item is shown as well as the percent it contributes to your daily energy intake. Lastly this app features a 'Burn kJ' search which allows you to work out how much energy you will burn doing a particular activity for a nominated time period, i.e. running for 10 minutes.
What I Love: This app makes you stop and think. Along with providing the energy content of fast food and the percent of your daily requirement, you are provided with an activity equivalent. For example, if I consume 540kJ from a fast food item, I will need to walk for 53 minutes, jog for 27 minutes or run for 20 minutes just to burn off the energy from one indulgent meal. Are those 540kJ really worth 53minutes of my time or am I better off achieving my daily requirements with something else?
I love the huge range of local fast food chains and the category system which makes it easy to look up different items either by store or by food type. This app also has a handy calorie to kJ converter.
My thoughts: This app does give the disclaimer that your estimated energy requirements are just that, an estimate. This is important to keep in mind as energy requirements can vary a lot. For example, this app didn't allow me to include breastfeeding in my profile settings, which, along with pregnancy, significantly affects energy requirements. This variability of energy requirements is also important to keep in mind if you are trying to lose weigh. Weight loss takes time, 0.5 - 1kg per week is a realistic, sustainable, healthy weight loss goal. Achieving this level of weight loss may be a better gauge of energy balance rather than focusing on energy requirements.
This app also fails to highlight the low nutritional value of fast food items and that in fact I would be better off finding a nutrient dense, rather than energy dense, option to achieve my daily energy requirements. Although you are provided with an estimated energy requirement, this app doesn't have a calorie counter tool which would really complete the features.
Calorific Diet Tracker
I think I have covered the nutrition side of things pretty well, so now let's look at fitness.
How it works: This app has a lot of features! There are pre-set workouts which are categorise according to where you will be exercising, i.e. at home, the gym, outdoors etc, the body part you want to focus on, your fitness goal, or the equipment you want to use. You can also build your own workouts and add any exercises you like. Each workout and exercise comes with clear instructions on the number of sets and reps to perform as well as how to correctly complete each exercise, with clear photo and video demonstrations. You can log your workouts, save your favourites and assess some great nutrition information to support your exercise efforts.
What I Love: Although the not as pretty as the other apps, I do love the graphics. The images are good quality and easy to follow and you can always watch the video if you do get into trouble. The workout library is huge - there is no chance you'll get bored! I like the newsfeeds which scroll across the screen on the home page.
My thoughts: This app has a lot of information but I think overall is very user friendly, making there no excuse not to be able to workout anywhere, anytime. There seems to be a lot of 'coming soon' features, so keep your eye on this one.
Traffic Light Food Tracker
How it works: This app is similar in concept to the FoodSwitch app, except you need to enter the amount of total fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium for each product manually. Once the value is entered the traffic light indicates the products rating, again red, orange or green.
What I love: This app is a demo of how a front of package traffic light labelling system might work. I don't love it, in terms of a practical, useful app but I do love the concept of front of package traffic light labelling.
My thoughts: This app is handy as a backup if you're not well rehearsed at reading labels and can't find your product on FoodSwitch. It might be useful to assist interpret the nutritional value of different recipes when the breakdown of these nutrients are provided.
Nikki is a PhD qualified Nutritionist and an expert in children's eating.