Have you ever used food apps and ended up confused and frustrated?
My friend breezed into my clinic to seek advice based on tons of food apps he was using. He had become confused in the long run and needed my help.
These days the desire to know more about what we consume is stronger than ever.
Have you ever wondered how long you’d have to work out to burn off the calories in a bowl of ice cream?
In Nigeria, there are not many local food apps available but I found one to help my friend.
I found ask the Sage Project, one of the latest of the food technology companies helping consumers navigate nutrition.
The Sage Project is a friendly bridge between brands and consumers where information can be openly shared. Thanks to the smart phone era in Nigeria, there are quite a number of food apps count calories and track eating habits, but Sage goes beyond the food label to give you additional information about additives and preservatives, how much sugar has been adding during processing or how far a food has travelled.
Food labels are a data visualization that we see every day, but we don’t get a lot from them as they can be confusing. There are a lot of things about those labels that make assumptions about what you know and what you want to know.
Do we really need another food app? Many consumers like my friend have a failed relationship with their food apps but Sage app hopes to inspire more loyalty by providing a ton of useful and quirky information about the food you eat. It may not contain information about Nigerian okpei, Nigerian ogili or Nigerian bitterleaf soup but it contains data on about 20,000 products, though you still may not find all your favourite junk foods. Most of the products in the database are described as “natural” and “organic.”
If you shop at Shoprite, you’re in luck.
To begin using Sage, which is available online or as a web-based app, a user signs up and enters any food restrictions and personal preferences. Only want to see products without additives and preservatives? No problem. Interested in digestive health? Sage will comb through its database and show you products with probiotics, high fibre and whole grains.
The app displays a wide variety of information using colourful graphics and animated food characters, and it’s surprisingly fun and entertaining to use. Using the app, a chocolate bar skipping rope informs me that I’d need to skip for 19 minutes or 23 minutes of swimming to burn off a serving of milk chocolate peanut butter cups.
This is a way to give them all that information that isn’t captured on the nutrition label.
Using animated food characters; a pear doing yoga, a watermelon riding a bike, the app shows how much exercise would be required to work off the burger. In my friend’s case, it’s 20 minutes of running, 22 minutes of jumping rope, 28 minutes of swimming or biking, 44 minutes of dance or 89 minutes of yoga.
The system awards “badges” to the burger for things like an abundance of healthy fats and protein and having recyclable packaging, and it explains what diets for example dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and ketogenic diets that a particular product does not violate.
To make nutrition recommendations like “fibre friendly” or “heart healthy,” Sage uses nutritional standards set by the American Food and Drug Administration and the American Heart Association. An in-house team of dietitians and nutritionists have created standards for badges like “healthy fats” or “contains probiotics”
Finally, the app tells you where the product is made or sourced.
It also can tailor daily nutritional requirements to a user’s specific weight, height and lifestyle.
For instance, Sage came up with a recommended daily caloric intake of about 3,300 calories that is rich in protein for a male friend given his height, weight and exercise routine because he’s a triathlete. It recommended a 1,600-calorie diet with a lower portion of protein for his mother.
All those things on a label telling you that a product gives you, say, 10 percent of the daily requirement of protein is based on a default, 2,000-calorie-day diet, a kind of one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t work.
One thing the Sage app won’t tell you is what you should or shouldn’t eat. You will have to figure that out for yourself.
I love you,I love your health.
Your favourite family physician.