An app that helps you understand food labels, and lets you make better food choices

August 13, 2015

Unless you’re a dietitian or know your food and numbers really well, sometimes it doesn’t help to be told to “read food labels” carefully to ensure the fat/kilojoule/carb/sodium percentage or “right”. It’s also not often useful to be advised to make better food choices, when sometimes you don’t know what the better choice is, or why it would be the better choice.

Enter Discovery Vitality’s new HealthyFood Switch app, free for iOs and Android, and available to anyone, whether you’re a Discovery member or not (Hint: the app is only available on iTunes South Africa, not US).

Whether you’re looking to watch labels and make choices for you own waistline or the health of your kids, the HealthyFood Switch app offers easy-to-understand information about packaged food products in local stores. If you need any info, simply scan the barcode on the package using the app (you don’t need a separate scanning app), and you’ll get information about the product, plus a recommendation of a better option if you’d like to switch.

There are two ways or modes you can see food information: you can get “Traffic Light Labels” which show how foods rate using colours (red is less healthy, amber is okay, and green is a healthier choice), and “Health Star Ratings”, which rates foods in stars (5 stars is healthier choice, 1 star is less healthy).

I tried the app, and scanned four products that I had at work. Two products yielded very quick results, though neither showed better options. I scanned a cereal, and I’m surprised that with its rating of 2.5 stars, the app didn’t show me a better alternative. Although the app couldn’t find me a better alternative for my 3.5 starred tin of soup in the canned variety, I’m surprised it didn’t point me to a fresh soup.

I also scanned Woolworths rice cakes, and peanut butter, which weren’t picked up by the app. I was then prompted to take three pics of each product (front, nutritional info, and ingredients list) and input some information, but even then I didn’t get any information. Even though I hit a 50% “success” rate with product info, I’m sure it’s a matter of time before the app has all these common products on its database.

I will definitely keep this on my phone and on hand, and carry on using it for peace of mind (or a rude awakening) and information.

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Good to know:

Discovery Vitality is giving away 200 weekly prizes worth R500 each from Pick n Pay and Woolworths! To enter, download the HealthyFood Switch app, sign up and scan any packaged food item. The competition runs until 13 September – click here for details. (Hint: you can use the app without signing up, but you won’t be eligible for prizes).




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  • Bindya

    Great app- signed up few days ago!!?

    August 14, 2015 at 5:34 am Reply
  • Gaelyn Cokayne

    I just downloaded it, lovely idea and I can’t wait to use it!

    August 14, 2015 at 8:48 am Reply
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