What We Learned About Fooducate

 

Recently, we wrote an interactive shopping presentation that featured a few different shopping apps, including Fooducate. It was an illuminating experience, and so we thought we'd take a moment to share what we learned with you...

Fooducate is a free app and website that evaluates various foods based on how good they are for you.

Fooducate’s Grading System:

  • Fooducate uses an algorithm to grade foods, selecting a rank from a list of 10 grades from A to D.
  • Food can earn an A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc.
  • The more natural, healthful, and less processed a food is, the higher grade it will receive.
  • Fooducate only uses publicly available information when evaluating a product.

How to Use Fooducate:

  • Scan an item’s barcode to find out key information about that food.
  • To scan a barcode, first find the barcode on the actual product. Then tap the “Scan” section of the app’s home screen. Hold the barcode up to the phone until you see it lined up inside the little box on the screen. The phone will automatically process the code and pop up the product information.
  • No barcode? Again, no problem! You can also look up foods by name in the “Browse” section of the app, or online.
  • Once you find your food, tap it to get all the information you need. Evaluate its grade, review the product details, etc.
  • If the food you scanned has a low grade, find a better option with the alternatives list. On the app’s overview page for that food, look at the bottom right corner. There, you’ll find a button labeled “alternatives.” Tap it, and you’ll find a list of 10 better foods that are similar to the one you originally entered.
  • Just want to browse? Tap the “Browse” section of the home screen and you’ll find a list of products divided into different food categories. Select a category and browse by “Top Graded,” “Popular,” or “Recent.”

Fooducate is a great reference tool, but it should not serve as a substitute for reading the Nutrition Facts label. There are some valuable lessons that arise from relying too heavily on Fooducate. Check out the three top examples below...

  1. Whole wheat bread only rated a B- on the Fooducate app, while brown rice and old-fashioned oatmeal rated an A. This grain lesson is spot on because it emphasizes the importance of eating whole grains without added sugar or salt. However, you should still check the calories and sodium levels of the bread you buy because those levels vary greatly between breads that all earned the same Fooducate grade. It is a good idea to find the lowest sodium foods in the store, especially for grains.
  2. Fruit: Whole fruits almost always get an A grade from Fooducate. Jelly, which has a lot of added sugar, gets a C. Version of fruit that contain added syrup rate below fresh fruit. We found that all canned fruit with syrup receives a B from Fooducate whether it is light or heavy syrup. Compare the calories in canned goods.
  3. Seafood rates highly when it is fresh, but if you are looking the breaded versions in the freezer section receive Cs. Seafood without added breading, fat, or sodium is always the better choice. 

While we agreed with most of the grades we saw, there were a few that puzzled us...

  • We don’t agree on the B+ grade for canned tomatoes without salt because we feel that these deserve an A. Canned tomatoes without salt happen to be a great option because they are chopped and flavored with herbs, which helps you put quick, flavorful, low-sodium meals on the table. Plus, these tomatoes are a better choice than a higher-rated vodka sauce because they are lower in fat and much lower in sodium per calorie than said vodka sauce.
  • Although fat-free half and half earns a C in the Fooducate app, we think it deserves a better grade because it replaces higher-fat cream very well.
  • Flax milk only has 50 calories per cup, yet it has all the calcium of skim milk, plus 1100 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids. That’s practically half the calories in skim milk!  Fooducate only gives flax milk a B because of the cost. Don’t let that slow you down -- flax milk is a great option for people who do not like fish or seafood. Generally, we don’t agree that cost should be part of the grading program, although it would be useful if Fooducate had a separate cost grade to compare price per nutrient among the foods.

To get your own copy of the Interactive Shopping Presentation, visit the Nutrition Education Store or check out some of our featured products below...

Interactive Shopping Presentation
Lighten Up Your Shopping Cart Poster
Shop Smart for the Heart Presentation
How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label Handout
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