Think you know your healthy foods? Think again.
I consider myself a pretty healthy eater, but the Fooducate iPhone app has definitely educated me about what I keep in my kitchen cupboards. Sure, we all know that candy and potato chips are unwelcome in a healthy diet, but even the things I thought were healthy have hidden additives, trans-fat (even when not on the label!) and other intriguing bi-products that I never imagined were in my food. Thanks to the Fooducate app, I now better understand what it is I’m bringing in the house -even when I’m at the grocery store!
Fooducate is an iPhone app that lets you scan the bar codes of foods and learn more about their contents, how good they are for you, and even offer alternatives that may be healthier. The process is simple – use your iPhone’s camera to scan the UPC bar code on the package, and you’re presented with a screen that gives you a rundown of everything you need to know about the food. Fooducate gives you at-a-glance information, including a “grade” and helpful notes and warnings.
So…when I scanned my can of store brand pineapple slices, Fooducate graded it an B+ and let me know that it was naturally high in vitamin C, had no added sweeteners, and was a minimally processed food. Of course, if I was looking for a food with a better grade than a B+ I could hit the “alternatives” button and be shown a screen of equally delicious products with higher ratings. In this case the app suggested Dole Tropical Gold Pineapple Chunks (A- rating).
So then I decided to see exactly how “healthy” my bag of Frito Lay corn chips were! Well, Fooducate rates it at a C. When I clicked to find alternatives, it suggested a few different brands of corn and tortilla chips graded at C+, and threw in popcorn graded at an A-. I’m sorry, but if I’m in the mood to eat corn chips, I’m definitely not going to popcorn. Just sayin’.
Some of the items I scanned had lower scores than I expected. Take for example Special K Chocolatey Delight cereal. You’d think it’d be healthy, right?! Well, it’s graded C-. The app lets me know that it has trans-fat (because it has traces that the FDA doesn’t require be on the nutrition label), 2.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving, has high fructose corn syrup, and BHT additive, which studies show to be carcinogenic and should be avoided. Huh. Who knew? Even my loaf of Sara Lee whole wheat bread didn’t score nearly as high as I expected. You’d think it would score an A, but it was actually a B and the app notified me of several additives.
Scan a food that isn’t in their database? Happened to me, but I was a good citizen and helped expand it. When you scan an item that they don’t have it gives you the option to add it. You take three photos – one of the front of the product, one of the nutrition label, and one of the ingredients list. Then you can quickly and easily email the file to the company and they add it in their system. Nice!
The app has several other features which are handy. It stores what you scanned in your history, and you can create a shopping list for the grocery store. It also has a quick link to their blog where you can read daily health news.
This is a great, in-depth app that is available through the App Store for free. You can upgrade to the non-ad version, but I didn’t find the ads disruptive to the usability of this app. It’s a great app for anyone that wants to be more aware of what they’re eating and what kinds of additives and ingredients are in their foods.
But who are we kidding? We all know that the healthiest foods DON’T have a bar code!
Sara’s rating: 5/5!