Fooducate - Eat Healthy Diet, a free food shopping app, is touted as helping you to eat in a healthier way by telling you which foods to avoid. In this review, we take this popular, barcode-reading app for a spin to find out how well it actually works in the real world grocery store, kitchen, or dining room.
As things turn out, using this app is child's play. Fooducate is able to display some very useful info on your smartphone or tablet quite quickly. On the other hand, though, maybe it won't, as we'll describe below.
Whether you use Fooducate while walking through the supermarket or after you've brought your grocery bags home, the app is almost ridiculously simple. First, you point the camera on your device at the barcode on a food item, Then, you wait to see what (if anything) Fooducate's database can tell you about the food. Alternatively, if you have a hard time getting a good scan, you can also search for an item manually.
Once you've found a match, Fooducate shows you a bulleted rundown of items such as calories per serving, sugar and fat content, additives, etc. The app also ranks each item on an A to F scale within the food's specific product category. When it comes to cereals, for example, a sugar-laden junk food cereal might get an F, while whole grain oats or granola might achieve closer to an A. If the food item you've scanned in is less than ideal from a nutritional standpoint, Fooducate will also recommend other products.
If you feel like playing with the app, you can also shake your Android OS device to get a random product, or browse through the recommended alternative food choices. (Apple iOS editions of Fooducate are available, too.) You can even share your results, or comment on a given product.
Limitations and Inaccuracies
So it's free, and it's easy to use. Perfect, right? Well, there's a little more to the story than that. Like most free apps, Fooducate includes advertising. Unlike the regular sort of free app, though, Fooducate uses your install permissions to send you ads through the notification bar, popping them up even if you're not actively using the app. This is not exactly a trend to encourage.
That's not the only down side, though. You also need to maintain some skepticism over the info that Fooducate provides. For example, if you scan a box of cereal, you might get a "warning" that it contains the "controversial" and potentially harmful food additive BHT (short for butylated hydroxytoluene). Scary, maybe?
Yet if you do a little bit of additional research online, you'll find out that the "controversy" over BHT doesn't really have much scientific evidence behind it. In fact, BHT is sold nowadays as a health food supplement, supposedly for its anti-viral properties (although these are just as unproven as its alleged harmful qualities).
The moral of the story? Yes, your food might contain something frightening. But always take Fooducate's warnings with a (nonliteral) grain of salt. Look up the product in Wikipedia, as well.
Moreover, while Fooducate advertises a database of 200,000 products, its database isn't really as comprehensive as that might sound. For instance, Fooducate does not deal with any products from outside the U.S., making it totally useless to non-Americans. Even for foods produced within the US, you're far from guaranteed to get results from scanning anything and everything. Foods that aren't that likely to turn up in Fooducate's database include generic and regional brands.
Since Fooducate is free, there's really not much reason not to check it out. It's easy to use, kind of fun to play with, and convenient. Keep in mind, though, that not all foods will turn up in its database, and that some of the info it comes up with could be overly alarmist.
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