By Laura Bollinger, RDN
With recent research indicating unhealthy diets account for more than 5% of new cancer cases, it seems to be an excellent time to make dietary improvements.
No matter what diet or eating style you decide is best for you and your family, there is bound to be an app for that. The market is flooded with apps to track foods, fluids, calories, macros, moods, cravings, and even bathroom habits.
Many of us could improve our eating habits simply by being more mindful. See How You Eat is a photographic food journal. If life is so busy you find yourself forgetting to eat meals this app can help remind you it’s mealtime. It simplifies the process of keeping a food log by only requiring a photo of each meal or snack.
This simple method of tracking can provide benefits beyond just preventing skipped meals. Photos of your meals literally allow you to see how you are eating.
I know this may sound silly, but if I asked you what you ate last week could you accurately tell me? With this app you could! You can start to see trends and identify areas to improve such as including more colors or varieties of vegetables. If you want to improve your eating habits but find food journaling cumbersome, this could be the app for you.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app is another simplified way to track your food intake and improve eating habits. This app tracks consumption of the most health-promoting foods. Simply check the box next to the food group, such as beans or greens, when you have consumed a serving. No need to search for a specific food or enter nutrition information.
If calories and macros are more your style, apps such as MyFitnessPal and LoseIt are popular with both paid and free versions. Both of these apps allow you to search for the specific food you are eating or scan the barcode. It then tallies calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and some vitamins and minerals consumed.
This method of tracking allows you to make adjustments in the foods you eat to meet your estimated calorie or macro needs based on the personal information you have entered and the goals you have set.
No matter which app you choose, by tracking your intake you automatically increase your awareness of foods consumed. This by itself can help improve food choices. These apps can help establish your food intake baseline. From there, you can set realistic short-term goals to support your long-term health goals such as losing weight or reducing blood pressure.
In addition to food choices, beverage choices play a role in our health―particularly water. Apps like Drink Water Reminder N Tracker and Daily Water Reminder, among others, can remind you to drink water throughout the day and provide a place to track your intake.
If you’re looking for a little more tech, Equa smart water bottle contains a motion sensor and sends reminders to alert you it is time to drink water. The bottle’s accompanying app creates a personalized hydration plan certainly beating the old adage “drink 8 cups of water a day.”
There are also a variety of infusion water bottles on the market that allow you to naturally flavor your water while keeping the food contained in a section of the bottle. The options for infused water are nearly limitless. If you’re struggling to think of a good combination, peruse the artificially flavored water at your grocery store. Lime, Kiwi-Strawberry, Cucumber-Mint are a few favorites to get you started.
If you feel like you’re doing everything you can to improve your health all day long but just can’t seem to meet your goals, the key may be what you’re doing at night. Sleep is another important health factor and there are many devices to track your sleep habits, too.
Most wearable fitness trackers now track sleep as well. These devices can give you some insight into your sleep quality and allow you to make adjustments to your sleep routine. Apps may also provide insight into your sleep quality.
On the one hand, it’s an excellent idea to leave your phone, as well as other screens, out of the bedroom while you’re trying to sleep. On the other hand, tracking sleep habits can improve your sleep routine and enhance your health.
Sleep Cycle and Sleep Better are apps that can track your movement while you sleep to determine how well you are sleeping. Additionally, they can send you a notification that it is time to start winding down and head to bed. Setting a regular bedtime is part of a healthy sleep routine for adults as well as children.
Have you ever been jolted awake by your alarm in the morning? It’s not a great start to the day. Many of these apps have smart alarms that can wake you during a more ideal phase of your sleep within a range of the time you need to get up.
There are many ways to improve our health. If you’re interested in improving your food, fluid, or sleep with a little help from technology, these apps and tools may help.