From apples to apps

Healthy eating at your fingertips

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Remember the "pink slime" on McDonald's hamburgers that nobody really explained and many people didn't even question? Well, that was ammonium hydroxide. The fast food giant stopped adding it to their meat in 2011. But what about all the other chemical additives you’ve never heard of and can barely pronounce? Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in chewing gum? Azodicarbonamide in bread? Why is something called tert-butylhydroquinone in potato chips? Does caramel coloring really have caramel in it?

Consumers are becoming more and more interested in and educated about what they're eating. Over the past few years, several apps have popped up to help people figure out what is in their food and if they should put it in their mouths. All of the following are just a sample of what's out there. Most are free to download and all offer in-app purchases.

Fooducate: One of the highest rated healthy eating and calorie counter apps out there. Features a personalized nutrition box, food grades and explanations and healthy food recommendations. Fooducate grades foods based on ingredients. Sugar Rush is another app offered by Fooducate. It can tell you how much sugar has been added to your food and differentiates between natural and added sugars.

Lifesum: Also highly rated, this app helps you track your food intake and healthy living habits. It includes a test to help you choose the right diet plan. The app also offers advice on eating better and for losing weight, tips from experts and an intuitive calorie counter. Like similar apps, Lifesum has easy food tracking through the use of a barcode scanner.

MyFitnessPal: Calorie Counter and diet tracker app that makes it simple to log your food intake and physical activity. It's simple to use — one feature is a barcode scanner that recognizes more than 4 million barcodes. The MyFitnessPal boasts a database of more than 6 million foods from all over the world. "Food Insights," Recipe Importer" and a "Calorie Counter" are some of its other features. The creators of this popular app say the more you log your eating and exercise, the more you will learn about your habits, which in turn leads you to making healthier choices.

CalorieKing: This is a science-based weight management web program and a provider of calorie-centric tools for weight control. The CalorieKing Program helps you to understand how you are personally affected by "calories-in and calories-out". The program guides you to develop new behaviors that support your personal health objectives. CalorieKing is a preferred app of Angela Borrego, Holy Cross Hospital's registered dietitian. "I use this app with a lot of my patients, and specifically with my type 1 diabetes management service clients," she said. "It helps count carbs and we it use to track calories to lose weight."

Harvest: Ever wonder if that acorn squash you're thumping with your fingers truly is ripe? Are cherries bought in the store in October really as good as the ones picked in June? Harvest lets you know which fruits and vegetables are in season and shows you how to tell when they're ripe. Cost is $1.99 to download.

So now that you want to get your body in order, how about the mind? Well, there's apps for that, too. One of the most heralded and popular is Calm, an app for "mindfulness and meditation to bring more clarity, joy and peace to your daily life." Apple's 2017 App of the Year says that through its guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs and relaxing music, your stress will go down and you'll get better sleep. Calm is free to download. You can access relaxing music, a sample of meditation sessions and a limited Sleep Stories library. Two subscriptions are offered to unlock the full app: $12.99 per month or $59.99 per year.

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