The Best and Worst Food Apps and Services

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“There’s probably an app for that.” How many times have you said or heard that sentence before? Truthfully, no matter what you are talking about, there probably really is an app for it. And, the way we plan for and purchase food and meals is no exception.

While technology can make our lives easier in a lot of ways, it’s not always helpful. So which web and app-based food and meal services are worth exploring, and which ones should you scroll past? Find out here.

Meal Kit Delivery Apps & Services

Meal-kit services such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Green Chef, and Sun Basket, deliver a box with recipes and all the necessary ingredients, pre-portioned, to your door each week. These meal-kits have gotten so popular that new companies with slightly different options and plans continue to pop up seemingly every day! Most meal-kit brands let you choose your recipes and manage your account online or via a mobile app.

Should I try it?

There are definitely some perks: No need for planning or shopping, and there’s lots of variety already built-in. And, for what you get, the price point is pretty reasonable, averaging about $10 per serving.

Meal-kit programs can be helpful for getting dinner on the table if you are someone who is really busy, feels overwhelmed by meal planning, hates grocery shopping, or all of the above.If you want to learn how to cook, they might help with that, too. Recipe cards, and/or online instructions and videos give step-by-step instructions. (That said, you do have to prep the ingredients and cook the food! So if your goal is to avoid pulling out the cutting board or doing the dishes, a meal kit delivery program may not be what you’re looking for.)

The abundance of companies now offering these services might make picking one feel overwhelming—but keep in mind that most offer a discounted first week. So you can always try a few and assess each for things like preparation and clean up time, recipe complexity, ingredient quality, taste, and value to figure out which one works best for you.

Pro tip:

One thing to keep in mind when choosing meals from these companies: To appeal to a broader audience some of these services are starting to cater to trendy diets (I’m looking at you Whole30 and Paleo). But because we know diets don’t work we don’t want one of these otherwise helpful services to lead you astray! Be sure to select meals that are balanced. By that I mean they include ALL major food groups—a starchy vegetable or grain, fruits and/or vegetables, a protein source, and a fat source.

Grocery Delivery Apps & Services

Grocery websites and mobile apps like Instacart, Peapod, and AmazonFresh let you order your groceries online and get them delivered directly to your doorstep — sometimes in as little as an hour for a small delivery fee. Some local grocery stores offer this service, too.

Should I try it?

If you don’t mind meal planning and prepping but find that a big barrier to making meals is getting to the grocery store, a grocery delivery service might simplify accessing the foods you need to support your well-being. Same goes for those of you who may find being in the grocery store a triggering experience.

If you’re always strapped for time, you’ll definitely save time by ordering online—no traffic or long lines at checkout—and, you can fit the shopping in whenever works for you, like on a lunch break. Of course, if you’re a picky produce shopper, you might not love the idea of someone else selecting your strawberries, so that’s definitely something to consider. If you find yourself prone to making impulsive online purchases, this service might not be all that supportive for you.

Meal Planning & Grocery List Apps

Food Shopping AppsMobile apps like PepperPlate, Yummly Recipes & Shopping List let you search for and save recipes, create weekly meals plans, automatically populate shopping lists, and even track the supply of your pantry items. (These two are free; Paprika Recipe Manager and MealBoard are both available for a small fee.)

Should I try it?

If sitting down with a blank piece of paper to map out weekly meal plan feels overwhelming or impossible, or you find yourself getting stuck in the rut of making the same recipes repeatedly, then this more structured approach to meal planning might be helpful.  All of these apps have different features you might want to experiment with a few to find the one that works the best for you.

But remember: Meal planning is meant to be a process to support you, to reduce stress in your life, and to enhance the satisfaction you get from your eating experiences. It shouldn’t be just another attempt to tightly control or manage your eating. So whether you are meal planning using an app or not, if the process is making you more stressed about food, then it’s not helpful! If you find that you’re using meal planning is to control or reduce what you are eating, I recommend working with a professional like a nutritional therapist to find a more sustainable, stress-reducing approach. (Did you know we do Skype sessions for alumnae?)

Along those lines, I advise against using any program that creates meal plans based on specific calorie or nutrient goals.

When populating your meal plan choose recipes that:

  1. Look and sound good to you
  2. Are not above your skill level (unless you’re looking for a challenge!)
  3. Don’t require more time than you have to prepare
  4. Offer a balance of nutrients

Calorie Counting Apps

Most of these apps are a variation on the same theme: You input information about yourself—sex, age, height, weight, activity level—and the program either calculates an estimated calorie goal for you, or asks you to set your own. Then you log all of your food and drinks to estimate your caloric intake and expenditure.

The problem with these apps? Well, there are several. In short, we know that counting calories doesn’t work for promoting long-term, sustained weight loss or for supporting overall health. We also know that trying to control eating through counting calories or points can lead to food preoccupation and set the stage for disordered eating behaviors, not health-supportive ones.

Should I try it?

In a word, no. These are apps I highly encourage people to steer clear of. They just aren’t helpful and can actually do a lot of harm. That’s not to say that all food journaling programs are bad—apps that help you make observations about your eating patterns, to draw connections between non-hunger cues to eat and food decisions, to support you in reconnecting with your body can be useful. Two popular options to try: Rise Up, and Recovery Record.

The bottom line about food apps…

These services are most useful if they help you nourish your body in a way that feels good and supports your well-being. But if you use them to try to control or restrict food intake, then they stop being helpful, and may even be harmful.

Read Which Fitness Apps Can Help (or Hurt) Your Journey for more app reviews.

If you need help reconnecting with and rebuilding trust in your body, learning how to tune into your internal regulatory system rather than relying on external tools and controls to drive food decisions, Green Mountain at Fox Run’s pioneering non-diet program might be what you’ve been looking for. Call one of our Program Advisors at 802-228-8885 to learn how our program can help you heal your relationship with food and put an end to your weight worries.


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2 responses to “The Best and Worst Food Apps and Services”

  1. Quirina says:

    I completely agree with! Finally someone thinks in the way I do!

  2. Dana Notte says:

    Thanks, Quirina!

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About the Author

Dana Notte, MS, RD, CD

Dana has dedicated her career to helping individuals establish a balanced and healthy relationship with food. She has extensive training and experience in coaching for behavior change, mindful eating, and motivational interviewing. Dana has spent years leading group-based behavior change classes, developing and leading interactive workshops for worksite wellness programs, and providing nutrition counseling to individuals struggling with eating, weight, and chronic health conditions. Her practice style is client-centered, compassionate and empowering, with the goal of helping individuals develop the confidence to achieve their health and wellness goals. Dana is the Nutrition Lead at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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