If you're not already using a nutrition app, you might want to consider downloading one (or two). "[They're] some of the best tools to reach and sustain your long-term health goals," says New York City-based nutritionist Kristen Carlucci, RDN.
Whether you pick one that helps you decipher labels, count calories, or find nearby healthy restaurants, using an app helps you become more mindful of your eating choices and patterns, which is always a good thing. "If we can get ourselves out of autopilot and really start tuning in and making thoughtful [food] decisions, we can lose the weight and keep it off for good," Carlucci says.
Since there are so many nutrition apps to choose from, we asked RDs which ones are worth the download. Here, five of their top picks.
To quickly count calories…
MyFitnessPal has an impressive built-in food library, making it a favorite among experts. "MyFitnessPal is my go-to," says Nashville-based nutritionist McKel Hill, RD, founder of Nutrition Stripped, adding that the calorie counts within the app are usually very accurate.
The pros also like that the app can be easily customized. For example, if your doc has suggested you cut back on sodium, MyFitnessPal will ping you when you've exceeded your daily limit.
To make healthy choices on-the-go…
Although fast food signs are ubiquitous on the highway, healthy fare is much harder to come by when you're traveling. That's why Health's contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, loves Food Tripping, an app that guides you towards healthier eateries along your route. "I travel a lot, so I use it to locate healthy spots wherever I am, or if I'm in a different neighborhood," she says. Bonus: In addition to restaurants, Food Tripping also tells you about health food stores, farmer's markets, and coffee shops.
To better understand nutrition labels…
Nutrition labels are meant to demystify products, but we often find ourselves more confused by them. No longer: For an easy fix, Atlanta-based nutritionist Marisa Moore, RDN, recommends the Fooducate app, which lets you scan nutrition labels for a quick assessment of how healthy something really is. For example, if you're considering a container of yogurt that has lots of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, Fooducate will display a red exclamation mark alerting you that there may be a better choice.
To find products that meet your dietary restrictions…
Download Ingredient1 (free on iOS)
Although grocery stores have become more accommodating to shoppers with food allergies, it can still be difficult to find products that fit your specific needs. For those with dietary restrictions, Carlucci recommends the app Ingredient1, which quickly identifies products within your diet plan. Just apply a filter for your specific allergy (gluten, soy, dairy, etc.), and the app will locate foods in nearby stores that meet those requirements.
To make healthy shopping a breeze…
You already know that eating too many processed foods can increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. But it's not always so easy to determine what makes a product overly-processed. That's why Carlucci recommends the EWG's Food Scores app, which boasts a database of 80,000 products rated on a scale of 1-10 based on three categories: nutrition, ingredients, and processing levels. This system helps you "make the most informed choices when it comes to healthy eating," Carlucci says. Once you select a product, the app immediately ranks it—the closer that score is to 1, the better you can feel about putting it in your cart.