Healthier Eating, One Download at a Time

Mobile apps already play a major role in how we interact with food. From ubiquitous calorie-counting tools to the USDA’s FoodKeeper, an app that gives users information on how long different food items will stay fresh, we all have hundreds of thousands of apps to download on our smartphones, designed to improve our diets and other aspects of our health and fitness. As the technology advances, some of these tools are beginning to incorporate advanced forms of artificial intelligence, allowing us to personalize our diets and make healthier choices.

AI Comes to Your Phone

Calorie Mama is one of a suite of AI health apps from developer Azumio. Using your smartphone camera, you take a picture of your food, which is then processed by Azumio’s Food AI API. Those same photos also immediately become part of the API’s training sets, helping it continuously improve its food identifying capabilities. With this technology, users can get a better sense of the nutritional value of what they’re eating, just by taking a quick snapshot.

Bringing AI to the world of meal planning, FitGenie generates personalized nutrition plans, making targeted algorithmic adjustments to offer users better food suggestions for meeting their individual health goals. For FitGenie co-founder Keith Osayande, traditional calorie counting apps miss out on key information: “Rather than just create a simple calorie calculator, we also process all of your data and take all aspects of dieting into account including, body composition, adherence, weight change rate trends, hunger, fatigue, and a handful of other metrics.”

In the grocery store, Shopwell helps people make healthier food choices. In particular, the app lets users develop individual Food Profiles. Then, they can scan individual item barcodes to see whether certain items match their dietary needs in real time.

Date-Driven Challenges

To get the most reliable, targeted, and useful results from these apps, users have to share potentially sensitive individual information about their health, objectives, and preferences. As with many other data-driven technologies, users are faced with a set of trade-offs, looking for scenarios where they can both trust that their data will be protected but also reap a sufficient benefit from using the app.

Regional differences in how data is treated can also affect what tools users can access. Calorie Mama developer Azumio allows users to integrate their data with the DNA-driven health-focused Helix Platform. However, that functionality is only available in the US.

The Future of AI and Healthy Eating

Deciding what to eat is one of the fundamental choices each of us has to make, multiple times a day. We live in a world of myriad options, endless data, and conflicting theories about how we should make those choices, along with a basic intuition that what works for one person might not work for another. Given our busy lives, those challenges are unlikely to abate. But apps like these, using AI to help each of us cut through the noise and find workable, personalized solutions, can help us begin to rethink our relationship with food.

Ben Thelen
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