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Meal Planning is a Snap with Mobile Apps

By Jill Buonomo

What’s one thing most busy parents have in common? Trying to get through their day while mulling over the question, “What’s for dinner?”

We could all use a little help to ensure that healthy and affordable meals make it to the table every evening, and mobile meal planning apps make that possible. It’s easier than ever to take a moment at lunch or during your child’s soccer practice to thumb through your phone and put together that night’s dinner, or even be proactive and plan the entire week’s meal plan.

Check out some of the best meal planning apps available.

Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

The highly popular food writer and author has made cooking and meal planning that much easier with an app version of the bestselling cookbook How to Cook Everything.


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Jawbone UP Wristband Has Potential To Ease Healthy Changes

The first step in creating healthier habits is to know your baseline, where you are starting and what areas need the most improvement. “I need to eat healthier” is very vague and does not tell you what to do. When you do know which direction to go, it is important to know the first step and not bite off more than you can chew. Another important step to making a change in your behavior is to track your progress and recognize incremental improvements. If we do not allow ourselves to feel good about the small steps toward improvement that we make, the process can seem overwhelming, and we can be tempted to give up on our goals.

While there are many smartphone apps that can aid in tracking and even some that can make suggestions for improvements, perfect for busy days where taking the time to write down what you are doing and eating is likely to fall to the bottom of your to-do list. While you can start again the next day, many people stop using an app once they have missed a day or two. I am hopeful the new UP bracelet from Jawbone may make the entire process of creating healthier habits easier.

The Jawbone UP is a waterproof wristband, similar in size to a Livestrong band, with embedded sensors that connect to your smartphone to track behaviors such as eating, sleep, and physical activity. It is expected to be released by the end of this year. The free app will track your data and make suggestions for improvement. It sounds like suggestions will be made using the kaizen theory. It sounds really cool that you can input your daily diet by snapping photos of your food, but I wonder how much people will follow through with this. I am also interested to see just how the app works and if it includes push notifications.


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Foodish Lets You Journal Without the Calorie Count

iPhone Screen Shot of FoodishThere are many food journaling apps out there, and most of them are geared towards helping users count calories and lose weight. The Foodish iPhone app takes the diet journal in a new direction. The user takes photos of their meals and the app keeps a record, allowing the user to give each item a rating with an emoticon. You can then share your pic on Twitter and Facebook.

The makers of the app describe it as “the elegant and modern way to track a diet for all those who don’t want to mess scales and calories.” Basically, the app will not tell you if your meal was healthy or not, but it can help you be more aware of what you’re eating and how much. This is particularly true because you have to photograph your food before you eat it, allowing you enough time to think twice. If you’re looking for an app that will inform you about the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating, you will be better off with something like FoodFacts or Fooducate.


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FoodFacts iPhone App Helps with Healthy Choices on the Go

FoodFacts.com iPhone App Screen ShotIt’s no secret that food packaging can be misleading. While most people know that reading the ingredients list on packaged foods is important, they may not necessarily always take the time to do it. FoodFacts.com is a site that’s designed to help users figure out if a food product is healthy in a snap, and now they have an iPhone app that makes this process even easier to use in the grocery store.

Like the site, the FoodFacts app allows users to look up a health score for nearly every item in the grocery store. The scores are on a scale of 1 to 100, with a higher score indicating a healthier food. In addition to a food’s score, FoodFacts also provides you with the list of ingredients, nutrition facts and potential allergens.  From there, you can add the food to a grocery list or save it as a favorite for later reference.

The FoodFacts.com iPhone also allows you to perform a general search using a filter for ingredients you may wish to avoid, like dairy, gluten, sugars or trans-fat. This allows you to find products you can have, without reading through many different nutrition panels. Users have the option of searching individual products by typing in their names or by scanning the bar code. You can also create a personalized profile that helps the app to remember what ingredients you wish to avoid.


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Use Fooducate to Make Schooled Food Choices

Fooducate iPhone App Screen ShotThere’s a new free iPhone app that can help you simplify grocery shopping choices. Fooducate, created by Hemi Weingarten, is a super simple app that lets you know if a food is healthy or not using a letter grade. Scan a bar code on any food item, and the app will return that food’s grade, the number of calories per serving, and how many users like the food. Fooducate will also give you a few notes explaining that food’s letter grade, and suggest healthier items.

You can also easily scan a second food and compare the two. The less healthy food will be grayed out. For example, I compared a frozen Cedar Lane burrito with an Amy’s frozen burrito. The Amy’s burrito got a lower grade than the Cedar Lane version. While the app does provide some additional info about each food, like vitamins, controversial food additives, artificial food coloring and added sugars, I had a hard time understanding why the Cedar Lane Burrito did better. It seemed that Amy’s suffered from having a higher calorie count, although it contains organic ingredients.

According to app’s website, Fooducate analyzes foods based on their calories and ingredients, weighting “nutrients to limit” (saturated fat, sodium, sugar) against “food to encourage” (fiber). So, it doesn’t look like organic ingredients play a role into the grade.


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