Marty's Corner: Show Me the Nutrients!
Believe it or not, according to www.148apps.biz as of this writing, there are 23,728 apps in the category of Health & Fitness, and 15,846 apps for Food & Drink. Considering that there are over 877,000 apps, this is a relatively small percentage (about 4.5%), yet one that is increasing each month. What this suggests is a growing interest on the part of consumers in managing their health.
Taking charge of one’s health is a key emphasis of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S., aiming at prevention of the many chronic diseases that are so debilitating for so many North Americans. Prompted by many state or municipal laws, and pending implementation of national legislation related to restaurant menu nutrition information, restaurant chains now have detailed nutrition information available on their websites. Some sites even allow you to make your anticipated meal selections, view their nutrient content, then adjust items to compare and reduce calorie, fat, and/or sodium intake.
Apps related to food and drink typically include a list of anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of items, allowing you to record and monitor your daily intake. Apps related to health and fitness often include features where you record your physical activity. Some apps even do both, allowing you to compare proposed activity to proposed intake, coaching you to “up” your exercise duration in order to balance out your caloric intake.
This all sounds good, but how accurate is the information provided by the app? What is the source of the nutrition information, and how often is that information updated? Does it include branded items? Does the fitness app take into account an individual’s body composition or just apply some sort of average value to an activity? Food & Nutrition Magazine’s website includes several dozen reviews of nutrition and fitness apps, including those specific to eating gluten-free or for managing diabetes. Armed with this information, the consumer can make wiser choices when selecting an app that fits his or her needs and provides accurate, reliable data.
For foodservice operations, especially those that sell and label packaged goods prepared on-site, accuracy is critical. Not only are their patrons looking more closely at nutrition labels, they are also making the assumption that the information is correct. In addition, they will expect that appropriate allergens are identified. With your reputation on the line, choosing software to analyze the nutrient content of a recipe and produce a label that is compliant with federal regulations is a process that should be undertaken carefully. The benefits are many. Your patrons will appreciate your acknowledgement of their increased interest in managing their health. Those with allergies or who are following a gluten-free diet will be pleased with your consideration of their special needs. You will be providing a great service to ensure that your customers are informed, and you will be leading the way to a healthier America!
Article by: Marty Yadrick, MS, MBA, RD, FADA - Director of Nutrition Informatics and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Fusion, 4th Quarter, 2013