The modern supermarket is a labyrinth of harsh fluorescent lights bouncing off of brightly colored packaging, and many of us zombie-walk up and down aisles in a daze, just reaching for what looks familiar. But if you want to try and eat better — healthier — your smartphone can help.
As Kunur Patel writes for AdAge, millions of Americans access health information on their smartphones, and app developers are responding.
For instance: Fooducate is a mobile app that's designed to be a "bullshit detector for marketing messages" on packaged foods. Just scan the bar code — or enter a keyword — and you can find out if your raisin bran has too much sugar, or if your mac and cheese is too salty. (The system is not perfect; this organic mac and cheese got a low rating with no explanation.)
Then there's The Eatery, which allows you to take pictures of your food, tracking what you eat, and also lets people rate how healthy your meals are. There are also apps for vegetarians and vegans, for spotting food additives and for finding out if something gluten-free.
As the AdAge piece notes:
"There are 60,000 items in an average grocery store, and it takes a lot of time to compare nutrition panels," said Lynne Robertson, president-CEO of TBWA's retail agency Fame. "Shoppers are being bombarded with a lot of information."
Reading labels does take time, and it might be a little quicker if you stop and scan everything you're placing in your cart. But it seems like the people who will do this are folks already interested in health and nutrition. Shoppers who really need this app may not even have a smartphone.
Consider the fact that the American obesity map looks very similar to the poverty map — and almost exactly like the commute-by-car map. Money and convenience are part of the equation when it comes to food, and I certainly try to get in and out of the store quickly, grabbing what's cheap and easy. These apps can be an asset, for sure, but lack of information isn't really the problem when it comes to eating unhealthy stuff. It's way more complicated. What's available, what you're used to, what's part of your culture, what you have time for and how much it costs are involved.
Oh, and there's another downside to obsessing over food with your smartphone, according to one Eatery reviewer:
This app just makes me hungry
Image via Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.