Today kicks off the very first day of Mobile Nations Fitness February. When we think fitness we typically think of eating better being one of the very first steps to a healthier lifestyle. There are many apps in the App Store that provide nutrition information about the foods you eat, and in some cases, even healthier alternatives to help you make changes gradually.
We've scoured the App Store for the best apps when it comes to nutrition and learning to eat better. We looked for apps that would not only give you nutrition information but provide alternatives, help you shop for them, and let you track your progress when and if you wanted to.
Fooducate Plus was our all around top pick and here's why...
User interface & design
Upon first launching Fooducate Plus, you'll be asked to create an account with them or use your Facebook account to sign in. This is so Fooducate can store your information.
Once you're inside Fooducate Plus you'll be brought to the main home screen. This is where you'll spend most of your time and where you access the barcode scanner, health tracker, and the browse foods section. You also have a static search bar at the top that allows you to search for any product by name or bar code number.
Tapping the top left menu button will slide out the main navigation where you have even more options. Here you can access any menu you'd like as well as drilled down menus for browsing common foods. Underneath the browse section you'll have a lists section. This is where you can view history for all the items you've checked out as well as a list of things you have liked or added to your shopping list.
Returning back to the main home screen, you can tap on the scan option in order to scan an item. You'll then see an informational type card that gives you some basic information on the food. The first thing you'll probably notice is the letter grade. Next to that you'll see how many calories per serving and how many users have liked that product. You also have the ability here to add a photo of the product.
Underneath the general information, you've got a few ways that you can interact with products. You can like them, dislike them, add them to your health tracker or shopping list, and view alternatives. These are the product cards you see from search or from any of the category sections.
Fooducate Plus keeps a home screen menu link on each page in the upper right hand corner which makes it very easy to return home from wherever you're at instead of having to back out of a bunch of menus. This makes using Fooducate Plus while shopping more convenient than other options.
The overall user interface of Fooducate Plus is not only easy to navigate but doesn't appear to be cluttered like some nutritional information apps can be. The side navigation menu has useful shortcuts and makes it quick to drill down and find the information you need. We also found the health tracker to be laid out better than other options that are out there. But we'll get to the logistics of that a little later.
Finding and scanning foods
To look up a food with Fooducate Plus you can do one of two things, you can search for it by name or barcode or you can just scan it using the built-in camera on your iPhone. While grocery shopping, scanning is the best bet and probably the method most users will use.
In my experience, Fooducate Plus has a wealth of information and I very rarely run into items that they don't have logged. Some off-brands may not be in their database but that's to be expected with most regional stores or unique brands that aren't nationwide.
If you're at home and you either want to make a shopping list or need to look up items, you can do so without a barcode too. You can use the search bar at the top to search for items or tap on the browse icon. From the browse menu you can view several different categories from fruits and vegetables to breakfast foods to breads and carbs and more. You can search within any specified section as well to refine results even more. Some categories even have submenus to help you break down the results even further.
When you're within a category of items you'll notice there are tabs along the top to indicate top graded, popular, and recent. These are accessible anytime you're within a list of food items. If you're looking for alternatives to foods you currently eat that are healthier, the popular tab is a good place to start. Another way to go about finding better foods is to find the food you're currently eating and then view the alternatives for it and see if you can find anything with better nutritional content. I've found Fooducate Plus to offer many items for alternatives to almost every item I searched for.
In my experience, Fooducate Plus not only pulls in bar codes and food information accurately, it does it fast as well. I've almost always been able to find the food I'm looking for quickly as well as lots of information on it.
Nutrition advice and alternative food suggestions
Part of dieting and becoming healthier is finding better alternatives to foods that you're currently eating that may not be so great. This is where Fooducate Plus really excels. Not only can you view the current foods you eat and the nutritional information for them, you can also view alternatives that are better for you.
Scanning a barcode or searching for an existing food will pull it up in search. From here you can tap on it to view the information. You'll see the letter grade that was awarded to the food from Fooducate Plus. Next to that you'll see the calorie count. If you tap on the calorie count you'll then be taken to a screen that shows you all the nutrition information for that item.
Fooducate Plus also monitors many other pieces of data on food including GMO (genetically modified organisms). So if you're worried about eating food that may be genetically altered, Fooducate Plus can give you that information most of the time. You can turn GMO alerts on or off within settings. Other information presented is how much fiber or how many nutrients you are getting.
Another nice feature of Fooducate Plus is the community. You can interact with Fooducate Plus and give your recommendations, likes, and dislikes as well as view other people's. Towards the bottom of the food information screen you'll see like and dislike buttons as well as an add button. This is where you can add that particular food to your health tracker or to your shopping list.
The last button on the food information screen is for alternatives. This really comes in handy when trying to find replacements for foods you already it. If you found one that received a bad letter grade and you want to try a healthier replacement, tap the alternatives button. Here you'll be presented with a list of foods that are comparable to what you're currently eating. This can help you choose one that is healthier, therefore cutting the unhealthy ones out of your regular diet.
Overall, Fooducate Plus does a very good job of making users more aware of what they're eating. What I like about it is that it doesn't just stop there, it also suggests alternatives which makes it easier to get out of bad habits and into better new ones.
Tracking calories and foods
If you've ever tried dieting and counting calories, you probably are used to jumping between apps in order to get information. Fooducate Plus actually has a health tracker built right in. It will allow you to set a calorie and food points limit. You can then add foods from Fooducate Plus right to the tracker where your data will be stored.
The Food Points system that Fooducate Plus offers is very similar to many other systems such as Weight Watchers. Each food that Fooducate has stored has a points value. When you're adding them to your health tracker you'll see how many points you've used for the day.
While I don't think Fooducate Plus' version of food points is as accurate or as scientific as a plan like Weight Watchers, it is a much cheaper alternative for users that don't want to spent the pricey subscription fees those services charge. I personally use Weight Watchers and had the chance to compare what point values each service awards for food items and they typically were not the same. In some instances they were but I found the Fooducate Plus points to be on the low side compared to the Weight Watchers PointsPlus system.
If you aren't interested in tracking points but plan on tracking calories and other nutrition information instead, Fooducate Plus is a great alternative that provides tons of information without the monthly subscription fee. You'll get a health tracker to track calories and other helpful information complete with a progress chart to track weight information in as well. For no subscription fee, it's pretty hard to beat. The only other app that would come close health tracker wise is My Fitness Pal but it lacks the food alternatives feature that Fooducate Plus offers.
Creating shopping lists
One of the best things about Fooducate Plus is how easy it makes shopping for healthier foods. I've used it in the past to build a shopping list before I even get to the store. This way I can think about my choices instead of just throwing things into the cart (I really hate grocery stores so I want to get in and out as fast as I can). Making a list helps with two things: I'm making sure our household is eating better and I'm saving money when I'm not buying crap we either won't eat or don't need to eat.
There are times when you're at the grocery store and you see something you want and temptation sets in. This is where Fooducate Plus really helps. Just scan the bar code of the item and Fooducate Plus will give you information on the food as well as the letter grade. I've shied away from things when I see a low letter grade. If I'm dead set on getting it, I'll look for alternatives within Fooducate Plus that may be better options. And more often than not, I'll end up setting that item down.
When you enter the shopping list section of Fooducate Plus you'll notice that each item is laid out nicely with an image, letter grade, and a check mark. As you find the items and add them to your shopping cart, you can simply check them off. Sometimes if there's something I really have a craving for but know I shouldn't have, I'll add it but that glaring letter grade makes me not put it in my cart. Or I can tap on the item and try and find alternatives that my store carries once I'm there.
Overall, Fooducate Plus has made shopping trips much more pleasant in our household. We're eating healthier foods and we're making better decisions based on user reviews and the information that Fooducate Plus offers us. It's about being more aware of what you're eating and Fooducate Plus has helped us accomplish that.
Fooducate Plus is currently priced at $3.99 for iPhone which is a deal for all the features you really get. They've also got a free, skimmed down version in case you'd like to try before you buy. There is no native iPad app but for most users, that won't matter. Apps like Fooducate Plus are meant to be used on the go. The only thing I could see myself using an iPad app for is creating a shopping list while sitting around at home but I don't need a larger screen in order to do that as the feature works just find on the iPhone.
Fooducate does offer other apps as well including nutrition and diet tracking apps for users that have diabetes and allergies. If these are conditions you or a loved one suffer from, the Fooducate suite of apps may very well be worth their weight in gold.
When comparing the price of Fooducate Plus to other options in the App Store, you're getting a lot for that one time purchase. While the food points system isn't as scientific or widely supported as something like Weight Watchers PointsPlus systems, you also aren't paying a hefty subscription fee of over $20 month to use the service. It's something they offer as a convenience to users that are purchasing their app.
I've never used Fooducate Plus as a personal diet tracker app on a regular basis but I use it as a companion app for shopping and making healthier decisions. And just for that, it's well worth the money.
The bottom line
If you're starting the new year off with plans to get in shape and become healthier, Fooducate Plus is a great investment that will help you meet those goals. Whether you're counting calories or carbs, or just want to start making better decisions when it comes to what you're eating, we've found Fooducate Plus to be the best option.
While there are lots of apps in the App Store that provide nutritional information, Fooducate Plus bundles that information with alternatives, a health tracker, and a community that in our experience, is rather large. This means you're getting information from other users that are trying to make better decisions as well.
Whether you're aiming to lose weight or just maintain your current weight, you can't go wrong with Fooducate Plus to help along the way. At $3.99, you won't be disappointed. And if you're still hesitant, pick up the lite version first to give it a try.