BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) — Apps can put nutrition facts for millions of foods at your fingertips. Over time, app companies claim, that adds up to healthier habits and fewer extra pounds. However, you should always proceed with caution.

Joining us tonight on Health Alerts for the second part of our series on food-tracking apps is Faith Calhoun, a registered dietitian at United Hospital Center.


Question: So can apps give information concerning oils and dressings?

Answer: Absolutely. These apps will provide you with this information, but you have to remember to input that you sautéed your broccoli in a tablespoon of olive oil. Often you will find foods listed without any extras. You will need to add any oil, spreads, dressings, mayo, and sodium (for tracking purposes).

Question: What can you tell us about apps and dining out?

Answer: Let me give you an example of why you need to be careful when using an app to make your food selection. A search for Pad Thai or Kung Pao Chicken or Chicken Parmesan returns plenty of entrees in the 300 to 600 calorie range. This is highly unlikely.

At a sit-down restaurant—chain or not—expect most entrees to have at least 1,000 calories. However, it is a good thing that many apps already have data from the big chain restaurants. Your best bet for non-chains is to look for a similar dish from a chain.

Question: Can the app help us to control our portion size?

Answer: Most people eat more than the serving that the apps suggest. The next time you have cereal, pasta, ice cream, peanut butter, hummus, etc. Take your measuring cup or spoon so you can adjust the serving size in your app. Keeping track of portions is most important when eating processed/unhealthy foods. It is not as critical when choosing healthy, whole/unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables.


Question: To pay or not to pay for an app?

Answer: Premium version of apps set you back $30 to $50 a year for extra features that you may not need. Experiment with the free version first. Then look to make sure that all the data that the app provides has been verified and that all entries are complete.

I want to caution you on relying too much on projected weight loss on apps and on calorie estimates from non-chain restaurants can be wildly inaccurate. Apps can fall short in many ways. Remember to use your own judgment, your intuition, when something doesn’t seem right. Apps can be good at helping you be more aware of what you’re eating on your journey to being healthier.

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