Apps: Can they help you reach your nutrition goals?

With the New Year  approaching I am excited about the  promise of a fresh start!   I’ve been wondering, how can I inspire individuals setting resolutions, to keep them?  Can apps perhaps be our saving grace from  resolutions set with good intentions, but soon forgotten? According to registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marisa Moore, “Americans are increasingly turning to apps to support them in achieving their health goals, especially for New Year’s resolutions.”

The number of nutrition and diet related apps available for phones and ipads is mind boggling. But are they any good? Well, thanks to registered dietitians (RD’s) and spokespeople for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Americans have the answers to the highest rated, evidence-based apps to help them in three nutrition areas: losing weight, managing diabetes, and following gluten free diets. Thirty of the most popular free iphone apps have been reviewed by RD’s for each of the three categories and rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. The following are the top dogs in each category:

Weight Loss:

Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N reviewed apps in this category. I am reporting the star ratings she gave and  some of the pros and cons she listed for some of the top weight loss apps.

Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by My Fitness Pal;  Current version 3.3.1; RD rating 4.5 stars.

PROS

• Large database of food (over 1.1 million foods) with option for food or recipe entry.

• Analysis of more nutrients than most other apps in this category. Provides analysis of  calories,  fat, protein, carbs,  fiber,  iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.

CONS

• Database content is average.

• Visually not as appealling as other similar apps.

 

Calorie Counter: Diets & Activities; Current Version 1.1;  RD rating 4.0 stars

PROS

• Tracks calories,  fat, carbs, protein, cholesterol, saturated fat, fiber, and fitness PLUS water.

• Has the ability to customize your own diet and activity plan.

• Can be integrated with facebook and twitter.

CONS

• Activity database is not comprehensive.

• Although tracking water consumption sounds like a good idea, the recommendations are not evidence-based.

 

 

Calorie Tracker by Livestrong.com; Current Version 2.4.2; RD rating 4.0 stars

PROS

•  Database contains  more than 625,000 food and fitness items.

• Logs calories, fat, sodium, carbs, sugar , fiber and protein.

• Keeps track of calories like a spending in a bank account. You can visually see how many calories are left after you enter what was eaten.

CONS

• Does not include tracking for saturated  fat, iron, calcium and other vitamins.

• Lacks goal oriented information.

 

Sparkpeople Food and Fitness Tracker; Current Version 2.5.3;  RD rating 4.o stars

PROS
• Broad list of exercises and database includes more than 1 million foods.

• Tracks calories, carbs, fat and protein by counting backward from goals.

• Weigh-in page graphs weight progress over time.

CONS

• Does not track saturated fat, sodium, and fiber.

 Diabetes: Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD reviewed apps for managing diabetes. I am reporting the star ratings she gave and some of the pros and cons she listed for one of the top ranked apps.

Blood Sugar Tracker by Healthy Cloud LLC; Current Version 1.3; RD rating 5.0 stars

PROS

• Simple to use. Set desired blood glucose ranges, log blood glucose values from home page, and this app will graphically show you the numbers out of range.

• Blood glucose levels can be saved for one year.

• Internet not required.

• Ability to export information and forward to a health care provider.

CONS

• Data cannot automatically be backed up.

 

Gluten Free: Jessica Crandall, RD, CDE, reviewed the top 10 rated free iphone apps for gluten free. I am reporting her star ratings and some of the the pros and cons she listed for the top ranking apps in the gluten free category.

Gluten Free Daily; current version 1.0;  RD rating 4.5 stars.

PROS

• Free 7 day trial.

• Includes 24 weeks of meal plans as well as recipes.

• Includes both a grocery shopping list and medications guide.

• Visuals are helpful to indicate portions sizes of food.

• Calculates Resting Metabolic Rate, Body Mass Index and Thermal Effect of Exercise.

• Offers tips on eating out and better food choices.

• Includes listing of chain restaurants that offer gluten-free meals.

• Tracks progress with food and activity journal.

CONS

• After the 7 day trial, this app is not free.

• Encourages anyone to follow the gluten-free diet, even without diagnosis of celiac disease.

• Misleading.

Sorry, I could not find screen shots of this app.

 

Eating out G-free ; Current Version 1.0; RD rating  4.0 stars.

PROS
• Offers tips on ordering gluten-free at restaurants.

• User can input specific allergy restriction.

CONS

• Local restaurants are excluded.

• Focus is not on what to order, but on what to avoid.

To read the entire reviews visit www.eatright.org/appreviews.

Interested in using an app? Consider what  you are interest in tracking. Not all apps track the same things. Remember, use of an app can be helpful, but cannot provide individualized counseling, custom meal-planning or the application of evidence based nutrition knowledge to solve YOUR eating concerns. Only a registered dietitian can do that.

Are you using any app for diet or nutrition or fitness? Which one(s) have you used? Which one(s) do you like?

Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Health/Fitness Enthusiast + Nutritious Side Dish

With only  7 days left until Christmas you are either kicking back enjoying the holidays, or  you are frantically trying to get everything done on time. My hat’s off to those of you who are done, but this blog is for the rest of you! I have some last minute ideas for a nutritious side dish for your holiday meal as well as gift ideas for the health/fitness enthusiast on your list.

Let’s start with a side dish for your holiday meal in case you need one. It has all the best attributes of a side dish: it’s quick, easy, nutritious, and festive. This recipe is my friend Suzanne’s, who  planned this for her holiday meal at church.

HOLIDAY GREEN BEANS

1 pound fresh green beans

1/4 cup cranberries

1 T olive oil

Directions: Clean green beans and steam until they are still slightly crisp. Drain.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve with dried cranberries.

Now let’s finish your shopping. Here are some ideas I came across either surfing the internet, holiday shopping myself, or speaking with members of the fitness community. These are my picks and I have not received any compensation for including any of them.

Sport Bar in Holiday Flavors. Perfect to keep in a gym bag or purse, when your athlete needs energy, but is short on time. Grab a sports bar to tide them over until their next meal. Cliff bars are now in these holiday flavors: iced gingerbread, caramel apple cobble, spiced pumpkin pie.

Perfect portions Nutrition Scale. Boy, food scales sure have come along way. This is a food scale and a nutrition calculator in one! Control your portions accurately and with ease.  Not only  a great device for portion control,  this device tracks calories, carbs, salt and cholesterol.  https://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/kitchen/e608/?srp=1

Sport Watches. These watches are the ultimate multi-taskers. They track distance, pace, speed, calories and even heart rate! If you know someone training for a marathon or triathalon, I bet this would be a good gift. https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=142

North Face Stow-n-Go-Sports Bra.  A gift for a lady who likes to run, this sports bra simplifies her life. With two interior compartments, this bra is the  answer to the question, “What do I do with my keys and cash?”  (Hey, I want this one!) Available at TheNorthFace.com

New Cyclist’s Food Guide: Fueling the Distance. If you are buying a gift for a biker-friend, your are in luck. Nancy Clark, one of the leading experts in sports nutrition has just released this book. https://www.nancyclarkrd.com

Nutrition Consultation. If you are looking for a gift for an individual trying to lose weight, improve their health or improve their sports performance consider a consultation with a nutrition expert.  Make sure you find someone with credentials by locating a Registered Dietitian at www.eatright.org or SCAN RD.

I hope these ideas allow you to cross off the last “to do” items on your list and begin to enjoy the holiday season with friends and family.

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