If you have an Android device, you have over 450,000 apps to choose from, and even more for iOS/Apple users! Some apps, like Angry Birds, find their way into your life by the sheer popularity and addictiveness of the game, but where do you turn if you are looking for something a little more practical? After several years of installing, trying, and often deleting food-related apps, there are a few that have found a permanent place on my home screens. Here are my top 5. (Note: These are all Android apps, as I am an Android-er, and they are all free. I am oddly cheap about paying for apps, and I like my favorites enough that I don’t see how a paid-for app could be any better.)
For Tracking Diet and Exercise–Myfitnesspal: This is great food and exercise tracker that I have used for years. It is easy to use, and works well both on a smartphone and on a computer. It can give you some guidelines on your calorie needs, and can track your weight, and even things like arm circumference. The food tracker seems to always have the items I am looking for, but a word of caution: other people can enter foods for you to choose. While this is convenient, you are trusting that the information is complete and accurate. I try to choose myfitnesspal’s own entries when possible, or confirm that the nutritional information is at least in the ballpark. You can also set up your personal database to focus on what your specific desires are. Watching your sodium or carbs? Need more calcium? You can choose the information to be displayed. You can also set categories of meals or snacks. For example, if your drink a lot of high-calorie beverages, you can create a beverage section, to keep a close eye on those items. You can also keep track of fitness, which then “pays you back” some of your calories; its a little extra incentive to exercise when you see your calorie allowance go up! Other great tools are all the reports you can run to see your data over time, and you can share your diary with others, have myfitnesspal friends that you can contact, or just read the message boards for inspiration and support. It even has a bar-code reader to check on the nutrition of your foods!
Chad and I have used this several times in the past, sometimes just to reign in portion sizes or be sure we are exercising regularly. Because this has so many great tools, this is what Chad is using to track his 40 By 40 progress…we love it that much!
For Recipes–Big Oven: Despite my growing mountain of cookbooks, I am often looking for a recipe that will fill an immediate need, such as when I am overrun with basil or eggplants! Big Oven is a easy way to focus on what you are looking for. It allows you to search for what ingredients you want to include (basil and eggplant,) and omit any with ingredients you definitely DON’T want! (Around here, that’s mayo and ketchup!) You can read others’ reviews and see posted pics of the recipes. You can also search for categories to narrow your search, use its recipe planner for your weekly menu or even help make your shopping list. If you save your recipes on your phone, you can always pull them up at the store to make sure you don’t forget a crucial ingredient! You can search for recipes under other categories such as diabetes, but remember that these recipes are often shared by the public, and the listed nutritional information may have errors. (Also, all recipe websites are sure to tell you they are not able to “cure” your disease by using these recipes…so use at your own risk, and always use your best judgement when choosing healthy recipes!) I am a member of several recipe sites (read: food nerd) but Big Oven has a great blend of easy, comfort, fancy and ethnic recipes, so I always get a lot of variety.
For Label-reading–Fooducate: This is my newest toy! It’s main purpose is to scan bar-codes in the store, and condense all the information on the nutrition label and ingredient list into a letter grade. It will tell you some good and bad aspects of that food, and if your food gets a poor grade, it will give you some alternate ideas that score better. For me, this is just fun, but for others who don’t want to spend time comparing 5 different types of cereal and weighing the pros and cons of each, this gives you one overall piece of information to base your decision on. Beware that using this app can ALSO take some time, so if you don’t read labels at all, this will make your trip longer. But for those bogged down by the many choices in the aisles these days, it could be a time-saver to them. One other note: It is pretty tough to get a grade above a C+ or B-, and part of that is the preservatives and salt used in processed foods–which is what allows them to be packaged and given a bar-code in the first place! Even if you only use it once, either at the store or looking into your own cupboards, you may think twice about some of the items you buy!
For Kitchen Math–Recipe Converter: Since I am always trying new recipe ideas, and I am a science nerd, I always like to have an actual recipe to follow. I follow that recipe exactly, unless I have made it a couple times and feel comfortable enough to tweak it to our personal taste, which usually means twice the herbs and spices! And there is always the doubling or halving of recipes, whether you are going to a potluck or just making dinner for two. Because it’s part of my knowledge base, I can convert grams to ounces or teaspoons into cups, but not always in my head! Recipe Converter helps me with kitchen-type math quick enough that I don’t have to stop my actual cooking. It takes a second to get used to it, but it converts both weight and volume measurements to almost any unit and can even give you the needed amount if you change the yield (how many the recipe serves.) Kinda geeky, but handy if you spend lots of time cooking or baking.
For Workouts–Map My Run: Though this isn’t a food-related app, it is part of overall health. I use it on my phone to track the distance of my runs, bike rides and even kayak trips by GPS. I have tried several others, but this app seems to be the most accurate and consistent. I can share my workouts on Facebook, and make the routes public, so others can benefit from your routes, too. This also has a general fitness tracking system where you can enter workouts, and you can map out a trip on the computer before you leave, so you know the distance you will travel. This app was fabulous when I was training and needed runs of a specific number of miles. (They do have memberships that have a fee and come with more features, but I haven’t felt anything was lacking in the free version.)
Who knows what app I’ll find next, but it makes me feel a little better knowing that it MIGHT be something to help live a healthier or better life…but it also might be just for fun. Hey, there’s always Fruit Ninja!
Please note that I do NOT receive any compensation for endorsing any product. These are my personal opinions.