General Nutrition

How to find the right nutrition app for you

November 14, 2023

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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General Nutrition
Contents
Contents

Key Points

  • Nutrition apps can be a useful tool for tracking, motivation, and accountability
  • You should search for nutrition apps based on your goals and desired capabilities
  • Ultimately, apps can only get you so far, and working with a registered dietitian is likely to yield more lasting results due to their expertise and ability to customize your approach 

Are you trying to find the nutrition app for you? When it comes to healthy habit building, many people turn to mobile apps for their convenience and ease of use. You’ve probably heard plenty of stories from people who accomplished their nutrition goals with the help of these apps. They can help you follow a diet plan, track your goal progress, and much more. With so much information available in the palm of your hand, you might find a nutrition app helpful when it comes to tracking and achieving your fitness goals, weight loss or gain, and beyond.

But what are the best nutrition apps? How do you know which to choose? Do you need a food journal? A weight loss app? A water tracker? There are so many different apps with different features it can be hard to know which is right for you. Here are some ways to find the right nutrition app for you.

How to choose a nutrition app

What nutrition app you choose will depend on your goals. The primary categories of nutrition apps include weight loss or gain (which likely includes calorie counting), mindful eating, and dietary restrictions or allergy management. You should start by searching around based on your goals to see what professionals recommend and what an app’s reviews are like. Keep in mind that some might be easier to test than others depending on whether or not they are free or if they require a membership or subscription to use.

Some features you may want to consider include:

  • Food tracking, including a food diary, food database, calorie counter tool, and a water intake tracker
  • Goals and reminders for healthy eating habits
  • Weight and habit tracking
  • Education on food items’ nutritional value, portion sizes, how to read nutrition labels, and how to create shopping lists
  • Meal planning tools
  • Fitness and exercise tracking
  • Social support with a community feature
  • Healthy recipe database
  • Specific guidance on approaches like mindful eating, keto or low-carb, or paleo
  • Nutrition coaching for a custom approach
  • Integrations with Apple Health, Fitbit, and other health and fitness apps

Many nutrition apps are free to download with a paid premium version option or in-app purchases. Some have subscription options while others have a one-time upgrade fee. It’s always wise to trial an app before paying to ensure it is user-friendly and that its features align with your health goals.

What are the best nutrition apps?

Fooducate

Fooducate focuses on habit building and mindful eating. It has all the tracking capabilities you expect: meals and snacks, water, and exercise. It calculates your caloric intake and shares the macronutrient breakdown. It features a barcode scanner that rates scanned foods based on their nutritional breakdown (higher sugar foods, for example, will receive lower grades), as well as diet personalization for those following low-carb, keto, vegan, and other specific regimens. Fooducate offers nutrition insights and fitness tips, plus a community platform.

Rise Up + Recover

This app is designed for those struggling with food, dieting, and body image. It is modeled on elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to support eating disorder recovery. It enables you to log your meals, track your emotions, and stay accountable. This app offers exportable PDF summaries of your progress for you to share with your treatment team. While it is always best to work with a professional for eating disorder recovery, Rise Up can be a great accompaniment to your treatment.

Yummly

If you struggle with recipes and meal planning, this is the app for you. Famously user-friendly, Yummly offers personalized recipe recommendations based on your needs and preferences. You can sort through endless recipes by cuisine, diet, ingredients, and course – so you’ll always be able to find something that works for you. It also has a shopping list feature and enables you to create your own collections of your favorite recipes.

Cronometer

Cronometer touts itself as an all-in-one health tracking app due to the number of metrics it can track. Log all nutritional information, recipes, workouts, fasts (for intermittent fasting), and more for a holistic overview of your health. It also offers extensive app integrations so you can keep all your data streamlined. It is available on both iOS and Android and can integrate with Fitbit, Garmin, Strava, and much more. This is a great choice for someone looking for a fitness app with robust nutrition tracking.

Do nutrition apps work?

Most nutrition apps center around tracking and accountability to support behavior change. They can offer a helpful sense of motivation and accountability, both of which play a significant role when it comes to behavioral changes.

One cross-sectional study found that most study participants strongly agreed that using an app increased their motivation to eat a healthy diet, as well as improved their self-efficacy and desire to set and achieve healthy goals. They also agreed that using these apps led to behavioral changes and helped them eat healthy foods consistently.

Another systemic review found that many nutrition app users report positive outcomes, primarily through increased awareness and motivation for healthy eating, as well as nutritional education. Many participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their bodies. However, some reported a sense of obsession with food tracking and feelings of guilt and anxiety.

It’s important to remember that tracking apps are generally not that personalized and, as a result, might not yield the results for which you’re hoping. They can also cause a sense of stress or guilt if tracking behaviors doesn’t work for you. If you are beginning to feel obsessive about tracking, it’s best to take a step back from the apps.

If you are looking for additional accountability and education, a nutrition app is a great, often free place to start. However, for long-term efficacy and lasting change, a registered dietitian is the best option. Apps cannot match the personalization that you get from working with a nutritionist, and that specificity is what makes the difference in the long run.

When to work with a registered dietitian

Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professionals and are equipped to help with a vast range of health concerns that go far beyond what any singular app could offer. RDs are able to help with weight loss, disease management, ED recovery, mindful eating, food sensitivities, and so much more. And their services are completely custom for each individual. Your RD can offer much more tailored support than an app, with one-on-one sessions and a personalized meal plan or treatment plan. All dietitians follow an evidence-based approach derived from years of research and testing, and many specialize in their area of expertise. This means that if you are looking for a provider to help with a specific concern, that provider likely has years of experience in that particular area of focus and their guidance will be all the more robust.

Working with a registered dietitian might be more accessible than you realize. If cost is a concern, there’s good news: You can get dietitian services covered by your health insurance. In fact, in the US, health insurance companies are required to cover medical nutrition therapy services. You can use a service like Fay Nutrition to find an RD covered by your specific healthcare insurance. Fay will bill insurance on your behalf after your session so you don’t have to worry. Most Fay users pay as little as $0 per session, compared to an average of $150-200 out of pocket without insurance. Get started with Fay today.



The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Sources
  • Frontiers in Psychology: “Motivating the unmotivated: how can health behavior be changed in those unwilling to change?”
  • JMIR mHealth and uHealth: "Controlling Your “App”etite: How Diet and Nutrition-Related Mobile Apps Lead to Behavior Change”
  • JMIR mHealth and uHealth: "Barriers to and Facilitators for Using Nutrition Apps: Systematic Review and Conceptual Framework”


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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

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Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.

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