It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when setting new lifestyle goals. You might need help getting started, help with motivation along the way, or additional support to keep you on track. The good news, there’s an app for that. There are plenty of health apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone that are designed to help you meet your goals. I bet you’re wondering, how do I know which app is right for me?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who regularly review health management apps1. Their reviews are posted on their website, www.eatright.org/appreviews, and also posted through Food and Nutrition Magazine at www.foodandnutrition.org/Nutrition-Apps/. After reading the pages of reviews and doing some further testing on my own, here is a list of apps that you may want to try out yourself.
All apps listed below have free versions that are available to download through your Apple (iOS) or Android smartphone.
- Lose It!
Lose It! is geared for those looking to lose weight. Studies show people who track in a food and exercise journal lose double the weight of those who don’t track2. Lose It! allows you to create a daily calorie budget. You then track your food and activity which will help you meet your daily calorie goal. The app will also track your three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You can add your own recipes and save your favorite meals. There is a social community that offers challenges, blog posts, and reminders that monitor your achievements. You can also sync other apps and devices like your Fitbit. Lose It! does have additional features such as advanced meal planning and custom goal setting that can be accessed by purchasing the premium version. If you are a participant in the Boston Heart Lifestyle Program, you can sync your Lose It! account through www.mybostonheart.com so your Registered Dietitian coach can view your entries.
MyFitnessPal has is a user friendly app designed to track your food and activity. You can set a daily calorie target based on your weight goals. You can choose to lose, maintain or gain weight. MyFitnessPal also provides very specific nutrient goals including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, calcium, etc. With a large database, MyFitnessPal allows you to save your commonly used meals, and also plan your days ahead of time. When you have finished logging for the day you’ll get a summary stating, “If every day were like today…” and it will show you the weight you would reach in five weeks. This app allows you to add friends to keep you motivated, to access a blog with plenty of healthy articles, and the ability to sync other apps and devices. There are additional features like a nutrient dashboard and setting different goals by day that can be accessed through the premium version.
If you’re trying to learn how to be a healthier shopper, this app is for you. Zipongo is a meal-planning tool that has over one million recipes. The app allows you to select a specific diet preference such as omnivore, vegetarian, vegan or paleo. It also allows you to check off any allergies you may have like gluten, dairy, nuts or shellfish. Zipongo will take those preferences into consideration when providing you recipes. The recipes are broken down into a ton of categories. The recipe categories range from low calorie, to budget friendly, to heart healthy, to diabetes friendly, or I can barely cook. Once you select a recipe, there is a vibrant picture with details like serving size, calories and basic nutrient information, total time to make, ingredients, and instructions. One of the best features is that Zipongo has a grocery list that you can access anytime. If you find a recipe you like you can save it to your list and then pull it up at the store to see the ingredients and how much you’ll need to buy. You can “favorite” recipes for future use and even share them via email, Twitter or Facebook.
Workouts in the palm of your hand, no equipment needed. Sworkit has four main activity categories: strength, cardio, yoga and stretching. Within each category is a sub category that you can select which will provide you the exercises for that workout. Sworkit allows you to watch videos of the exercise so you know exactly what to do. You can choose the length of the workout and the app will walk you through the entire session. At the end, it will give you the calories you burned during the session. You’re able to set daily and weekly activity goals, and you can track your progress with each workout session you complete. Sworkit is a great tool for those who need help planning their workout sessions. You can create more customized workout plans through the premium version of the app. Remember, it is important that you talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an activity routine.
Built by a team of medical doctors, social workers and meditation experts, Happify is an evidenced-based approach to relieving stress and anxiety. Reviewers call this app a “personal happiness trainer.” Trying to obtain new goals can sometimes be frustrating, causing an individual to have stress or anxiety during the process. With Happify you can choose a track that will support you in managing those negative feelings. You complete a questionnaire that allows the app to provide recommended tracks. There are a lot of free track options like “Cope Better with Stress," "Beat Burnout and Build Resilience,” or “Living Well with a Heart Condition.” More tracks are available with the premium version. You are then able to do activities that are designed to increase positive emotions while you complete your selected track. The app explains the details on how and why the activity works, and it links you to the research behind it. Their blog section, Happify Daily, allows you to read through a variety of articles that are aimed at inspiring or motivating you.
* This listing of apps is for informational purposes only. Boston Heart does not endorse or promote the use of any app listed.
- Boyce, Brian. Nutrition Apps: Opportunities to Guide Patients and Grow Your Career. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014:114(1):13-15
- Hollis JF, Gullion CM, Stevens VJ, et al. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Am J Prev Med. 2008;35(2):118-126.