Monday, July 30, 2012

Food Facts Friday(Okay, Monday): Restaurant Nutrition Apps

I've been busy! 
For the last several months, I have been trying to get another nutrition internship position, aside from the one I have at the Rehabilitation Center.
It's great - I love working for FREE!
I love it! Really, I do ...
There are a few, very well-known and respected Sports Nutritionists (RD's), with whom I would love to work with. Over the last several months, I've been trying to get an internship with one of these great RD's who lives in my area ...and to make a long story short, I have been given an incredible opportunity to work with her! So, lately, I've been doing a ton of research for a project that she is currently working on. Let's hope I hit the ball out of the park and she will continue to want me to "work" with her.

As part of some of the research for this project, I have been asking everyone what they eat, when they eat out. Even the poor unsuspecting NJPIRG, public interest employee that rang my doorbell asking for a donation.
Me: Hey, do you want some water, it's awfully hot out there.
Unsuspecting NJPIRG Employee: Oh my gosh, YES! Thank you!
The poor girl, she hadn't a clue!
Me: So (filling up her Kanteen with ice and water), What do you eat when you get hungry?
Unsuspecting NJPIRG Employee: Huh? (Oh God, I got a crazy on my hand, just gimme the freakin' water B@&tch!)
Me: Well, I'm working on a project and I'm wondering, your on the road all-day, your office is in New Brunswick (very familiar with NJPIRG in my 'save the world from plastics' life phase!)  ...what do you eat when you get hungry and your on the road?

You'd be surprised at how comfortable people are telling you their personal food habits. This unsuspecting public interest employee told me that she never snacks, but she does eats ALL her meals out. She went on to explain that she doesn't own a car, so she can't drive to the supermarket and she shares an apartment with a bunch of people, who don't usually cook their own food, either, so for now, this is her way of life.

Unsuspecting NJPIRG Employee: I'm not proud of the way I'm eating, right now, but it works for now.
Me: I'm not judging you. I'm asking everybody, "What do you eat when you go out to eat? And where do you go?"... so where do you go, when you eat out?
Unsuspecting NJPIRG Employee: I go to Panera Bread or a Deli during the day. My friends and I will eat Italian, Mexican or Chinese a couple of nights a week. That's about it.

Oh my gosh, how will I ever keep track of all these types of foods in all these different restaurants? I decided to do a search at the App Store, on my iPad. I typed in "Restaurant Nutrition" and came up with a whole bunch of Apps popped up. These Apps are great for people who are 
  • On the road, didn't pack a snack, and are hungry or starving
  • Have a business lunch/dinner at a local chain restaurant & don't want to blow their diet,
  • Had a rough day at work, just want to grab the kid(s) and get something to eat 'cause you are starving and too tired too cook!
  • Or are an unsuspecting public interest group employee, who is young and wants to relax and hang out with friends at a restaurant after talking to a bunch of Half-Crazed Runners people all day!
Some of the Apps that caught my eye are:
Restaurant Nutrition
Restaurant Nutrition: This App isn't as user friendly as some of the others. Still, the App does have over 250 restaurants & 60,000 food items are included in this App. Users can find (via map) the location of a particular restaurant, rate menus to keep track of their favorites, or mark their favorite foods at each restaurant. The App gives you calories, grams of fat,  carbs, protein & fiber (no sodium info) for foods selected. 
Fast Food Calorie Hunter
Fast Food Calorie Hunter: If you wanna figure out if that cheeseburger is better than the salad smothered in Caesar Dressing, then this App is for you ...well, maybe - some glitches with this one. It sometimes closes unexpectedly and some folks have reported that some of the calorie, carb, protein and fat counts are off. Not bad for a quick reference, but I found that Lunch Facts and Compare Chains
Lunch Facts
Compare Chains
offer the same restaurants with more info (calories, grams of fat & saturated fat, cholesterol, carbs, protein, fiber and sodium in any food item) and they don't close unexpectedly. Both Fast Food Calorie Hunter and Compare Chains also give you maps with restaurant location overlays.
Restaurant Calorie Counter
Restaurant Calorie Counter (or Restaurant Points Calculator Plus HD): This would be perfect for our unsuspecting NJPIRG employee 'cause you pick a restaurant, select your food and add it to the day's total calorie tracker: "I ate this". Once downloaded, it does not require Internet connection, so your not tied to a particular restaurant because it offers free WiFi. This App is really amazing - there are over 15,000 food items from 100 top restaurant chains.  Nutrition Facts include calories, grams of fat & saturated fat, cholesterol, carbs, protein, fiber and sodium. There is also a way to track your exercises for the day, to calculate Energy Intake vs Energy Expenditure! This App makes tracking calories fun. I guess that's why the reviews on this one are great!

Go Meals HD
Go Meals (or GoMealsHD): This App is my favorite because it is more versatile than the others. With this App, users do not only get information for the Chain Restaurants, like all the other Apps, but that's because I only eat out - maybe 2Xper week. With this App, users can search for info three different ways: 1) By typing in any food you want to eat, like, Spaghetti & Meatballs, OR 2) You can search by Type of Cuisine (Italian, Mexican or American Bistro) 3) Search by Restaurant by Name, OR 3) You can do a general search for Grocery & Generic food items - here, users can even find popular packaged cake, cookie and dessert mixes! Like some of the other Apps, it lists general info on calories, grams of fat & saturated fat, carbs, protein, fiber and sodium per serving size, but once you found the food you are eating, and hit the "Add to Plate" button only your Calories, Protein and Fat are calculated for that particular meal. Users can track Calories, Protein and Fat per day, week and even 1month!
WikiWeight: I wasn't crazy about this App. It's similar to GoMeals in that you can search foods by Type of Food, like salad dressing, potato chips, pretzels or candy, or by Restaurant, but the information per food item is very limited: calories, fat, fiber, protein and carbs - no saturated fat or sodium info. This App supplies users with a rating per food items - the only thing, the App doesn't explain this rating in the App - you have to go to the WikiWeightScore website to find out how this score was determined.

There are tons of Apps out there claiming to provide information on "every" menu item listed per restaurant chain. Unfortunately, that's not true. There are also great Apps out there that are voice activated, come with a barcode scanner and will give users lots more detailed info on foods eaten at home ....but I'll save that for another blog-post! Until then,
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