By Beth Michaels – In-house Dietitian
Gone are the days of having to thumb through pages and pages of Bowes and Church’s Food Values to look up the nutrition facts of every single food consumed. Such a labor intensive process requiring about an hour to calculate a day’s worth of intake by hand – yes, that’s what Dietitian’s used to spend many a waking hour engrossed in!
While technology certainly comes with its challenges and limitations, the opportunities for people to take a more active role in their health has been a great blessing. Whether you’re an apple or android fan, there are many apps available to help you better manage your blood glucose and make healthier lifestyle choices.
Here are some of the top free diabetes and healthy lifestyle apps available:
1. My Fitness Pal
While not an app specific to diabetes, My Fitness Pal seems to be the most popular app used for tracking diet, exercise and weight. It draws on a large database of over 5,000 commonly consumed foods. Creating an account is very simple and will sync from PC to mobile devices.
With My Fitness Pal you can log foods daily, create recipes, track nutrients, and get reports and statistics. Weight and exercise can also be recorded to track progress toward your goals. And, if you're working with a Dietitian or Nutritionist, share your login directly with them so they can monitor your progress, too.
Featuring an enormous database of food and recipes, Sparkpeople tracks over 3 million foods (includes a barcode for scanning packaged foods), contains over 600 exercise videos, and contains a vast array of nutrition and fitness articles.
Be aware that all the information posted on the interactive site can be added to by anybody, which means things aren't necessarily diabetic friendly, or healthy. People do post recipes with high carbs, processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners, so just be aware of this if you do utilize the site.
3. Glucose Buddy
A very simple, user friendly app for tracking blood sugar, Glucose Buddy contains various entry modes, graphs and charts, push notifications, and a printout option for physicians and educators.
4. Lose It
Lose it is a popular weight loss app where you can set a daily calorie budget.
If you want to determine your own calorie budget it's an easy calculation and is based on the number of carbohydrates you are aiming to keep yourself to. There are 4 calories for every 1 gram carbohydrate, 4 calories for every 1 gram protein, and 9 calories for every 1 gram fat.
With the Lose It app you can also connect with friends and family and join in public challenges.
One of the more fun apps available, Fooducate, offers a barcode scanner option that assesses the quality of packaged foods and provides a rating. There are also trackers and articles available.
A disclaimer: while grading food is often helpful, the grading is per “fooducate standards,” which factors in nutrients, ingredients and the level of processing. The standards are not based on carbohydrates specifically, and the articles are, at times, poorly written and not evidence-based.
6. Carb Master
Carb Master is a simple app that tracks carbs entered allowing daily goal setting as well as addition of custom foods. The food database is not as extensive as many others and seems a bit less user-friendly.
Watch out for the phrase “net carbs,” which is not clearly defined and not well understood in the Carb Master app.
This app doesn't contain recipes (we've got plenty of those in our Members Club), but it's a great resource for basic cooking techniques. It contains descriptions, definitions, substitutions, conversions and tips & tricks for working in the kitchen, following written recipes and developing your own.
Figwee uses photographs of food to help estimate portion sizes. Foods can be added or subtracted to set up diaries and it will calculate estimated nutrition totals including calories, fat with breakdown, and carbohydrates.
Featuring a food tracker with extensive database, as well as an activity tracker, glucose tracker, and restaurant locator, GoMeals is a great tool for making healthier lifestyle choices.
It analyzes all data entered and can develop reports. It also syncs with an cloud so data is accessible anywhere and not lost.
Moves is a simple pedometer app that tracks and estimates steps, miles, and calories burned. Walking is one of the easiest and best exercises you can do!
Since most of us already carry a smart phone, it offers a nice resource for tracking activity.
Sleep is more important to blood sugar control and overall health than most of us tend to think. A good night’s sleep is essential to hormonal balance throughout the day.
Sleepbot is the most popular sleep tracking app featuring a motion tracker, a sound recorder and a smart alarm. Interactive graphs track and display various aspects of sleep quality. There are obvious limitations to the accuracy that it is able to measure, but it does give a nice (free) starting point.
Calm is a nice app that encourages nature scenes, meditation music, and other features that aim to reduce anxiety and tension and may be effective at improving mindfulness when eating.
Keep in mind that while apps are helpful tracking tools, they certainly have their limitations and are NOT a suitable replacement for expert health advice.
They are useful only inasmuch as they are able to facilitate healthy lifestyle behaviors and outcomes. If information seems unusual or arouses skepticism, be sure to reference credible sources and ask members of your health care team, including your physician, for advice.
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