Can Food Tracking Apps Boost Health?

 
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There are a large number of apps that promise to make tracking your food choices quick and easy while providing feedback that can help people reach their health goals.

A review of diet-tracking apps published in 2019 noted that apps may help people lose weight, manage chronic health conditions, understand more about their food choices and eating patterns, set realistic goals, improve knowledge about food and nutrition, and develop self-efficacy.*  

Pretty great news, huh?

But which app to choose? In general, food tracking app users look for:

  • Ease of use – Can I set up and use the app quickly and intuitively?
  • How large is the food database and can I find the foods I usually eat?
  • How can I track foods – Can I take a photo of a barcode or a photo of the food or meal? Entering names of foods takes longer and typically results in a long list of possible food choices. Plus, often the food I actually ate isn’t listed.
  • Are the portion sizes in terms I understand and can use? For example, is a serving size option the number of crackers? Or is that serving size only available in ounces?
  • What type of feedback is provided? Nutrition analysis for each food, meal, and the day are important. Some apps go beyond the data to providing other types of analysis such as color rating systems or personalized feedback.
  • Can I track my progress for goals that I want to set? Weight, calories, macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat), fiber, water, micronutrients (individual vitamins and minerals) are often options.
  • Can I track physical activity?
  • Can I track hunger and fullness?
  • Can I track where I’m eating?
  • What type of notifications and reminders does the app provide?
  • Does the app include a community of users or links to social media?
  • Can I use the app for free? If not, what is the cost?

One of the more popular food tracking apps is Foodvisor. Let's take a closer look at that one in Food Tracking Apps: Foodvisor.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC

References:

  1. Ferrara G, Kim J, Lin S, Hua J, Seto E. A Focused Review of Smartphone Diet-Tracking Apps: Usability, Functionality, Coherence With Behavior Change Theory, and Comparative Validity of Nutrient Intake and Energy Estimates. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019;7(5):e9232. Published 2019 May 17. doi:10.2196/mhealth.9232
  2. American Psychological Association. Teaching Tip Sheet:  Self-Efficacy. https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/education/self-efficacy created 2009. Accessed 3-28-22
  3. Foodvisor. https://www.foodvisor.io/en/ 

*Self efficacy is a person's confidence in their ability to control their own behavior, environment, and emotions.

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