Want to eat healthier? There's an app for that

Want to eat healthier? There's an app for that

Heart attacks and strokes are two of biggest killers for New Zealanders and now there’s a new mobile app to help Kiwis avoid them.

FoodSwitch aims to help New Zealand shoppers to make healthier choices when buying food, avoiding excessively high levels of fat, salt and sugar.

With FoodSwitch, grocery shoppers can scan the barcode of packaged foods using their smartphone and receive immediate, easy to understand nutritional advice about it. Users can also share shopping lists with friends via social media. It currently contains nutritional information about over 8,000 packaged food products found in New Zealand supermarkets.

The app was originally developed in Australia by The George Institute for Global Health and tailored for New Zealand shoppers by The National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) at The University of Auckland.

Now that the app has officially launched in New Zealand, users will be encouraged to add new products to the ever-growing database. Foodswitch prompts users to take three photos of the product’s packaging and researchers will use these photos to add the missing product to the FoodSwitch app database.

“FoodSwitch’s three step approach combines the latest technology with cutting edge research. New Zealanders can now scan barcodes, see what’s in a food, and switch to a healthier choice in an instant,” says Helen Eyles, researcher and nutritionist at NIHI.

She says heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases, largely caused by poor diets, are the biggest killers in New Zealand.

“Choosing a healthier diet has to be made easier, because good eating habits are one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease,” says Eyles.

Cliona Ni Mhurchu, the professor who leads NIHI’s nutrition research programme, says “people have been bewildered by confusing food labels” for too long now. “Research shows that people like traffic light labels and can use them to make healthier food choices. FoodSwitch aims to make it easier for all New Zealanders to make healthier choices about the foods they eat”.

FoodSwitch is available on iOS and Android smartphones, and can be downloaded for free on the New Zealand Apple iTunes and Google Play stores, or via the app store on their device.