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National nutrition month awareness: Top 7 apps to help patients track nutrition and fitness progress

National nutrition month awareness

"Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle" is the theme for National Nutrition Month in 2015, and it encourages us to embrace healthier eating habits and exercise more in order to maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk of disease.

How to Get Patients into the National Nutrition Month Spirit

Educating your patients is the best way to inspire them to lead healthier lifestyles, and it all starts with nutrition. There are various places online where you can find patient nutrition education resources including heart.org, cdc.gov, and more. These materials will give patients information ranging from healthy diets to incorporating healthier ingredients into their favorite recipes, as well as how proper nutrition can act as a preventative measure for certain diseases.

Nutrition is the foundation of your patients' healthy lifestyles; exercise makes up whatever they build on top of that foundation. As healthcare practitioners, you can't physically make your patients be more physically active. What you can do is provide tools and information to guide them. Start by steering them in the right direction with some physical activity guidelines and resources. Once they establish their ideal exercise regimen, you can still help navigate them as they get started—Quill.com has exercise and fitness equipment that can support any level of exercise program. Also, make sure patients don't think that just because they're more physically active that they can eat whatever they want—Quill.com also has a range of energy and nutrition bars that are great after-workout snacks that stave off cravingss for sweets.

However, there is only so much hand-holding you can do with your patients—most of the effort has to come from them! Luckily we've compiled a list of the top nutrition and fitness apps so healthier lifestyles are more easily integrated into daily routines.

Top 7 Nutrition Tracking & Fitness Progress Apps

  1. MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker—This is one of the more widely used health apps, and for good reason. It has a massive foodod database that includes an impressive number of large and small restaurants so patients can keep track of their calorie intake. It even keeps track of vitamins, sodium and more. The app also keeps track of how many calories users are burning through exercise and puts that into the equation. Every day it also calculates how much users will weigh in a few weeks if they continue to eat similarly to the way they did that day. If that wasn't enough, the app also can sync with other activity trackers such as the exponentially popular Fitbit—and fortunately Quill.com has a variety of these and other pedometers/fitness trackers—so patients can get the most out of this app.

  2. SparkPeople Food and Fitness Tracker—SparkPeople is a network of sites that all promote living a healthier lifestyle—each focuses on a different area (nutrition, fitness, weight tracking, etc.). Obviously (since it's in this list) there is also an app that syncs with your online account so you can take all of this on the go. The app also helps you create daily meal plans so patients can stay on top of their nutrition goals. Another interesting feature with this app is the barcode scanner that allows you to quickly track nutrition of packaged foods you're consuming—on top of their already large database of prepared food items and recipes.

  3. Lose It!—This is another great food and activity tracker meant to keep users working towards their health goals. There is an exceptionally larger than normal database of food items when trying to track calories, and patients can also add custom recipes so they can get really granular about which nutrients they are consuming. Like SparkPeople, Lose It! also features a barcode scanner to really be exact with the nutrition tracking. A unique feature for this app is the “challenges” tab, which allows users to actually compete with one another in reaching their goals—for weight loss, exercise, overall wellness, and more. Currently there is a free and more robust paid option.

  4. FatSecret—FatSecret prides itself on being agnostic to all fad diets and trends, and it provides users with a simple and intuitive interface that's easy to pick up. All of the typical nutrition tracking features are here—adding custom foods from restaurants or your own recipies and a large database of food items—but FatSecret has a strong community and allows users to share recipes that are able to be reused in others' food tracking. The app also tracks habits and performance over time to give clear visualization of how users are progressing to goals. Another unique feature of this service is the personal journal (not just a food journal) so patients can keep track of how they feel in relation to what they ate.

  5. CRON-O-Meter—Taking "simple" to the next level, this service is really catered towards people who don't want an entire lifestyle companion—just a simple way to track diet and physical activity. It showcases all of the typical nutrition tracking you see in other apps; however it lacks social and syncing/integration features. If your patient is hesitant to adopt any of the more complex services—particularly applicable to older patients—this is a great alternative.

  6. Restaurant Nutrition—For those patients who can't seem to shake the going out to eat habit, this nutrition tracking service could be a good compromise. With nutrition information for more than 250 chains and 60,000 plus food items in the database, this app doesn't allow restaurant goers to have any excuse to not choose a healthy option. There is also an option to hide items with certain ingredients (if you're allergic) and a map feature to find nearby restaurants with gluten-free options. Users can add items to their food journal to track their calories and nutrients as well; however it's also an option to use this as a supplement to one of the other more comprehensive apps. You can download this app for the iPhone and Android, however the database isn't as expansive on the Android version.

  7. Fooducate—Similar to Restaurant Nutrition, Fooducate is a great supplement for one of the other robust nutrition and fitness tracking apps. The goal of this service is to reveal how marketing food companies make a product seem “healthy.” With the barcode scanner, Fooducate will take the information scanned and give the food item a grade—it also highlights the good and bad, talking about the unhealthy hidden ingredients (trans fats, certain preservatives, etc.) that a consumer might not necessarily know are bad. Using this educational app, users can then make better decisions and not have their hearts skip a beat when they are tracking their food in another app. You can download Fooducate for the iPhone and Android.

With the proper guidance to inspire patients to use one (or more) of these helpful apps, you can rest assured that they are on the right path for National Nutrition Month and the rest of 2015. Healthy habits have to start somewhere!

NewsWeek website
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