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Living in the information age is indeed challenging. When the Clermont Coalition for Activity and Nutrition (Clermont CAN) was formed in 2008 in an effort to address the epidemic of obesity and inactivity, social media and the “apps” phenomena had not yet engulfed the general public. But in 2013 apps are in the hands of almost all youth and in the hands of most adults disguised as a tool on “smart” phones.
Apps are a buzzword that denotes computer programs and applications that lead users into an immersive portal. With thousands of nutrition- and food-related apps available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and drowned with information. In October 2012 there were more than 700,000 apps available for smartphones with over 25 billion downloads reported at online app stores.
How do I know if my nutrition app is providing me with research-based information? Where can I find information about whether an app is a good one?
It helps to narrow down what you’re looking for: Do you want something to help you plan healthy meals, or are you more interested in tracking calories, managing blood sugar or finding restaurants that serve gluten-free food? Once you have narrowed down what kind of information you’re looking for specifically, talk to your friends about the apps they use and what they like or don’t like about them. If they say they like their app but that it’s clunky or otherwise cumbersome, search around for other options that offer the same type of information and test them yourself.
As for making sure the food- or nutrition-related content is accurate, nothing beats guidance from a registered dietitian. If your health plan offers dietetic services or nutrition coaching, it might not be a bad idea to sign up for a session or two and, during your consult, inquire about recommended apps.
If that seems a bit much, you can take a look online at apps reviewed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional organization for registered dietitians.
Academy dietitians started reviewing apps in late 2011, and their initial offerings, grouped under the categories of “Diabetes,” “Gluten-Free” and “Weight Management,” are online at the organization’s website, http://www.eatright.org/appreviews/. These apps, all available to download free and primarily geared for smartphones, are listed in alphabetical order under each category. You can scan the initial listing quickly to see how well each app rates on the Academy’s 1- to 5-star scale.
Since its initial review, the Academy has continued to review apps and list reviews on its Food and Nutrition magazine website, http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Nutrition-Apps/. Each review details an app’s pros and cons, as well as the dietitians’ rating and feedback. The apps are listed in reverse-chronological order — that is, the most recently reviewed apps are at the top.
Margaret Jenkins is Director and Family and Consumer Science Educator for the Ohio State University Extension Clermont County, an active member of Clermont CAN. Visit www.clermont.osu.edu for more information.
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Updated: 11/01/2013 D.Franer