Appetite for Apps

Yesterday, July 8, 2013,  Apple was celebrating the fifth anniversary of its app store by offering some of its most popular games and apps for free.   The limited time offerings include: Barefoot World Atlas, Day One, How to Cook Everything, Over, Traktor DJ, Badland, Infinity Blade II, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Tiny Wings and Where’s My Water?  These apps may remain free for a short time to celebrate.

The buzz around the apps for free got me thinking about apps for smartphones (whether they be iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, or even Blackberry Phones).  Apps are used nowadays for everything from GPS to tracking a person’s run, to even calorie counting to name a few.  But what good apps are out there for the health-conscious?

Here are some of my favourite apps:

Fooducate

Fooducate

      1.   Fooducate  is an app that is available for iPhone and Android.  It automatically grades foods and beverages on a scale from A to D. (10 distinct grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, and D). It actively allows you to use your phone to scan barcodes that are on food and food products.  It then processes this information and gives you a rating of the food.  The food is ranked using an algorithm according to the nutrients it contains, the ingredients, the processing and fortification of the food.  While the database isn’t always complete, you are able to send and request information to be added to the database.   I know many people dislike having multiple usernames and passwords for the vast number of services annd applications that are available.  This app is functional without creating a username and password.  You can browse their databases for food to see how it ranks as well.  Some advantages of creating an account is that it keeps track of the foods you scan and you can personalize it, track your health and create shopping lists.   For those who are following an allergy-free or gluten-free diet, there is also a new app that came out in May of 2013 to use for that purpose.

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal

 2.      MyFitness Pal is a free app (you can use it from their website as well) that is available on iPhone, Blackberry,  Windows Phone and  Android platforms.  It is a way of tracking your physical activity and overall calorie intake.  Additionally, based on your height and weight and weight-loss goals, it tells you how many calories you should be taking to maintain a certain weight or to reach a goal weight   It allows you to enter food you eat, and using their database, estimate the calories per serving and also input your physical activity (which is converted to calories burned and taken away from your general calorie intake) to determine your net caloric intake.  You do require a username and an active e-mail address to use this app. Alternatively, you can link it to your Facebook account.  Their online database includes ways to calculate calories from recipes based on serving sizes.  Once you have done this, you have the opportunity to add it to your food diary.  There is also a quick way to calculate your BMR.  Additionally, if you love social networking or working out and dieting with friends it allows you to connect socially with your friends (via the app) and monitor progress and obtain accountability.  

Buycott App

Buycott

3.      BuyCott is a nice app.  You need to have an user account or have it linked to your Facebook account to be functional.   It allows you to buy from brands that support causes that you care about.  Additionally, it lets you see where the money you spend is going and to make sure it is not going to go to fund causes you oppose.  Buycott is basically a tool that lets you organize your consumer spending to help causes that you care for, and to oppose those that you don’t. According to Buycott, it “basically can be used to scan a barcode with the Buycott app and it will look it up in their database and try to determine who owns it. Buycott will then trace the product’s ownership back to its top parent company and cross-check this company against the campaigns that you’ve joined before telling you whether it found a conflict.”  For me, I find it to be a helpful guide to finding food products that are not genetically modified.  This is simply done in the app by adding non-GMO foods as a campaign.(When you are in the app, there are campaigns you can read about and join).   The general population is becoming more aware of the controversy surrounding GMO foods and their prevalence in our food system; that is where the app comes in for me.   Forbes reviewed of the BuyCott app.

Non-GMO Food Guide

Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide

 4.     Non GMO Project Shopping Guide is another app that is available in the AppStore for Apple.  I was unable to verify if it was available on any other platform.  For those who are interested but unable to get the app, you can use the resources at The Non-GMO Project, a not-for-profit organization committed educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO food choices.  While it isn’t a complete database, it is a great start.  I believe that knowing what’s in your food is a basic right.  I like the way things are heading in the European Union with the right to know if their food contains GMOs, the same goes for all Chinese, Russian, and Saudi Arabian consumers.  

That’s all for now.  I will be occasionally updating this blog with apps that I find useful.   If anyone out there has any suggestions for apps, please feel free to comment on the blog.

Thanks,

Dr Reena

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