Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nourishing Tools: The ShopWell App

We’re starting a new series on the blog called Nourishing Tools, where we share the tools and gadgets we find that can help you to make the best decisions for your health.  First up: the free ShopWell website and mobile app.

Here on the blog, we’ve talked a lot about how to decipher food labels, to help you learn how to read the ingredient list and understand marketing claims to make the best decisions for your health goals.  It’s not easy!  Even as dietitians, we can sometimes be stumped, especially if we’re in a hurry and without time to study every detail.

That’s where technology can really help.  We’ve fallen in love with the ShopWell mobile app, which helps take the guesswork out of your grocery shopping.  When you download the app to your mobile device, you enter your gender, age and information about your health goals.  For example, I don’t have any specific health conditions (like high cholesterol or diabetes), but I am interested in digestive health and getting enough fiber in my diet.  So, I selected those health and diet goals. 

The app also lets you select the foods and additives you want to minimize in your diet (for example, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans fats and color additives) and food allergies and intolerances.  While the list of intolerances is not exhaustive, I was impressed that it listed honey.  As someone who is sensitive to FODMAPS, I avoid honey and it’s often a hidden ingredient in foods (and not a highly recognized food intolerance). 

Once you have your food and health goals entered, you’re ready to start using the app.  When you’re shopping at the grocery store, just scan the foods on your list and app will tell you whether or not it’s a match for your goals and why.  One of the things we like about the app is that it doesn’t just tell you why it matches your goals, but why it’s good for you overall.  For example, I’m looking for foods that are higher in fiber, but it will also tell me if the food is an excellent source of iron or Vitamin C. 

We like that the nutrition score generated by ShopWell is science-based.  The score from each food is generated with your preferences and information from United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, the Institute of Medicine recommendations for nutrient intake daily, and a panel of registered dietitians and experts. 

When you’re at the grocery store, you can scan and add foods to a shopping list, so it makes shopping easier.  You can also browse from their database of foods to find foods that meet your health goals.  For example, I can find the brands and types of breads made without honey and add those to my shopping list.

The only drawbacks we find to the ShopWell app are that the list of food intolerances is not exhaustive (although it does have a fairly long list) and that not all foods are available in the database.  The company told us it is currently working on adding more foods from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to the database, so that should be improving soon.

We love any tool that makes it easier for you (and us!) to make healthy choices.  Here’s what we like about the ShopWell app:
  • It’s free and easy to use.
  • It’s customizable to health goals, food goals and food intolerances and allergies.  We LOVE this aspect of the program.  There are so many hidden additives in foods and this takes the guesswork out of it. 
  • It makes it easy to make shopping list that help you get through the grocery store more quickly and with less stress.
  • Lastly, we love that this is not a diet program.  You’re not counting calories or trying to achieve weight goals.  It’s helping you to make healthy food choices to nourish your body in a balanced way, which we can totally get behind. 
We hope you find this review helpful! Please let us know, what tools do you use to make healthy choices?  We’d love to check them out!

Disclaimer:  We were paid by ShopWell to review their app, but as always, all of our opinions are our own.  We only work with brands and products we believe in

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