Hello, 100 Days of Real Food readers! Lisa has asked me to share a guest post with you while she’s on vacation, and I’m thrilled to be here. My story is remarkably similar to hers and her family’s: Until a couple of years ago, my diet was filled with processed and fried foods. After slowly gaining 30 pounds — and eventually having my “ah-ha!” moment — I started exercising and eating more healthfully. I lost the extra weight, and felt great. During that time, I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, which led to my own October Unprocessed challenge last year. I discovered 100 Days of Real Food somewhere around the same time, and Lisa and I met in person at a conference a few months later. We immediately became friends, of course, since we’re kindred spirits!
Any time I can find tips, tricks, or tools to help make eating healthfully easier, I get really excited. One device that has helped me tremendously is my iPhone. With this little magical gizmo always at my side, I can look up nutrition information, figure out which seafood is the best for my family and my planet, and a whole lot more.
A little while back, I posted a list of 27 Apps for Healthy Foodies, on my own blog, and for this post Lisa has asked me to narrow the list down to just ten — with a focus specifically on apps that will help busy families. So without further ado, here’s my list of top ten apps for healthy foodie families. If you have other favorites, please share in the comments!
1. Dirty Dozen (Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides)
The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides is the definitive guide of fruits and veggies with the most and least residual pesticides. Their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists help you know which to buy organic, and which are okay to by conventionally-grown (if organic is not available).
With this handy list, you can make the best choices with a limited food budget: You’ll know which are the most important choices to buy organic, and which don’t matter quite as much (since they are likely to have less residual pesticides).
Seasons is all about foods that are in season. It covers fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, mushrooms, and nuts. It supports the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Western and Central Europe. It lets you search by “local” and “imported” season. It also includes an international Farmers’ Market finder, which makes this app perfect for the traveling local foodie. (Geeky kids — like me — will enjoy the little graphs that show the availability throughout the year.)
If you haven’t heard of Fooducate yet, you’re in for a treat. This free app lets you scan the barcode of any product (or just shake it for a random item, which is fun), and then gives you a letter grade, the number of calories per serving, and additional relevant health-related information (My favorite? “Look out! Not 100% whole grain.”)
Click the “Alternatives” tab for suggestions of better products, or you can compare two products to help you decide which to put in your cart. Helpful kids will love to scan barcodes, of course, so they can get in on the action (and education).
4. Seafood Watch
This is the essential guide for making more sustainable choices when buying seafood. With the exception of a few species (Wild Alaskan Salmon! Wild Alaskan Halibut!), I have trouble remembering which fish are the way to go, and which are the best to avoid (Swordfish! Orange Roughy!). Just type the seafood into the searchbox, and you’ll instantly have the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s expertise and guidance on what to order, guilt-free. (And next time you’re in Monterey, California, be sure to bring the family to the aquarium — it’s phenomenal!)
5. Good Guide
Good Guide has rated tens of thousands of products (not just food) according to health, environmental, and social performance. Everything gets a score from 0 to 10; the higher the better. All the scores are available on their website, but you can use the mobile app when you’re at the store to quickly scan a product’s barcode and see how it stacks up. See if your kids can find items that score a “10” before putting them in the shopping cart!
6. CSPI Chemical Cuisine
Have you ever wondered about some of those multi-syllabic chemicals in the ingredients list? Curious to know if it’s okay to eat Maltodextrin, Inulin, or Sorbic Acid? This mobile version of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Chemical Cuisine website lets you look up more than 130 food additives to find their descriptions and safety ratings to help you make informed, healthful decisions.
7. Cook IT Allergy Free
If you’ve got family members with food allergies, you’re going to love this one: Created by a mom after her oldest son (and her husband) were diagnosed with Celiac diseas, Cook IT Allergy Free has over 200 recipes that can all be customized to be made allergy free. Tell the app everything you (or your little ones) are allergic to, and it’ll automatically adjust the recipe to include a subsitution. You can save your adjusted recipes, keep notes on your “trial & error,” create a shopping list, and more.
$4.99 for iPhone/iPod, $8.99 for iPad
8. Paprika Recipe Manager
The Paprika Recipe Manager App lets you enter your own recipes, browse for them online (and save them to the app), plan your meals, make a shopping list, email recipes, and sync across devices (for an added fee). Great for keeping track of all your family favorites!
Okay, this isn’t specifically a food app — but we use it regularly for our family grocery list, so it definitely deserves a mention. TeuxDeux (pronounced “To Do”) is a simple, designy, to do manager. The great thing is that you can use it online, or in the app, and it stays in sync. If items are not crossed off the to do list, they automatically roll over to the next day — so the list stays current. We share an account just for our grocery list, and add items as we think of them. Then, as either of us are at the store, we just use the list and check off items as we go.
(Available free at TeuxDeux.com and as an iOS app; they sync gracefully.)
10. Lose It!
Lose It! helped me lose 30 pounds, so I can’t not list in a favorite apps list! It lets you set a weight-loss goal, and then helps you log everything you eat (as well as your physical activity), all in a simple, easy-to-use interface. By using it consistently, you’ll likely lose weight — but more importantly, by doing logging everything, you’ll start to learn about appropriate portion sizes, how many calories are in everything you’re eating, and how to start eating nutrient-dense (as opposed to calorie-dense) foods. They’ve incorporated social networking and friend updates — so the entire family can get in on the action and encourage each other.
(Available free at LoseIt.com and as an iOS app; they sync gracefully.)
Andrew Wilder is the author of the blog Eating Rules. His philosophy is that health and nutrition information may be complicated, but eating delicious, healthful food doesnít have to be. Get his free Guide to the Nutrition Facts Panel on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at @eatingrules.