This review is written by Nora Saul, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., Manager of Nutritional Services. The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s. Joslin Diabetes Center does not endorse products.
Smartphone app: Fooducate
Manufacturer: Fooducate LTD
Platforms: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android OS version 2.2 and up
If you want to combine setting your nutrition goals and tracking your food intake with understanding more about the food you are purchasing in the grocery store, Fooducate may be the app for you. While most grocery store apps focus on helping you save money and most nutrition apps omit supermarket education, Fooducate is a combination grocery shopping app and meal planning tool.
Once you download the app you will see a homepage that is divided into three categories: scan, health tracker and browse. At the top of the screen above the three modules on the right is a question mark that brings you to a list of helpful, frequently asked questions. On the left is an icon for a memo pad. Touching it brings up a list of all the modules in the program including your account information and daily tips to keep you on track with your health plan.
The scan and browse modules are fairly self-explanatory—you can add products by scanning their bar codes, enter a food by selecting it from a list of foods, or type the food or bar code in the search field. You can even add foods that aren’t in the database through the health tracker module.
The health tracker module allows you to enter your personal information such as age, height and weight and activity level, and then sets your nutrition goals. You can set targets for your weight, calories and/or carbohydrate amounts, a nice plus for people with diabetes. It also allows you to include special dietary modifications such as heart healthy or vegan product alerts. Once you have set up your goals, you can use any of the three major modules (health tracker, browse or scan) to enter your food intake.
When you scan or select a product, Fooducate responds with a host of information. Foods are graded from A to D based on an algorithm that takes into account nutrient content and degree of processing. Facts specific to the food category are detailed. For example, when you select a cereal it tells you the number of teaspoons of sugar it contains and if this is a reasonable amount. Each product entry includes the Nutrition Facts Label. Product entries also highlight the information you chose in your goals. Fooducate will alert you to negative information about a product based on your choices, but will not stop you from adding it to either the daily health tracker totals or your shopping list.
As you add foods you have consumed to health tracker, you will see your calorie goals appear with additions for food and subtractions for activity inputs, so you can make decisions based on how many calories or carbohydrate grams you have left for the day.
Fooducate is very easy to navigate. I was able to use all three modules without resorting to the frequently asked questions or the email help. Its database is substantial and most of the product information is sound and helpful.
Although this final feature is mostly a sales gimmick, people who are social media buffs will like the fact that they can email, tweet or post a comment about their Fooducate experience to Facebook
Fooducate is appropriate for anyone with or without diabetes who would like to learn a little bit more about the food they are choosing in the grocery store. It is also a nice way to track your progress if you are trying to lose weight or simply want to know how many calories or carbohydrates you are eating.
Fooducate has a function that allows you to check out more healthful alternatives to the product you are considering and offers a series of insights about the food, under product details. I was also pleased to see that dietitians had a hand in its development and that you can chat on line with a nutritionist if you have questions.
There appear to be a few bugs in the alternate food selection software. When I looked up alternatives to a C-rated cream cheese I selected, all the substitutes provided had the same rating. In addition, the people responsible for Fooducate are disinclined toward a host of food additives, some problematic, some not.
My other gripe is that there was nowhere to add multiples on the grocery shopping list.
Overall, I would give Fooducate thumbs up!