The team here at Dr. Kara Fitzgerald’s clinic are always screening for new products and technologies that fit the Functional Medicine model. If we think something might be useful, out team puts these items through their paces: we test it out individually first, then come together to discuss as a group, and finally those we identify as outstanding are introduced into clinical practice. We’ve decided to take our practices ‘behind the scenes’ vetting process and make it available to you. We’d love to hear your experiences as well.
In today’s ever-connected world, we love to use technology to help us reach our health goals. If it’s something that will simplify a task or make our lives just a bit easier to manage, we’re all for it. Whether it’s combating stress, understanding food choices, creating a fitness routine or making better choices with our shopping dollars, there are some amazing Smartphone Apps to support us on our wellness journeys.
Below are a few of our favorite Apps for nutrition, mind-body and exercise. Do you have any that you like to use? Let us know in the comments below.
By MyFitnessPal, Inc.
PROS: A very user-friendly calorie counting App that tracks your food and exercise all in one place. It syncs with other apps such as MapMyRun and has a convenient note feature to record daily observations. It boasts a large database of foods and allows users to save frequent foods, meals and recipes for easy re-entry. It breaks down your macro-nutrient intake (handy if you’re wanting to stay low carb) and provides charts and graphs to track your intake and progress. It has goal setting features that help you meet your goals.
CONS: Unless you upgrade to the Premium version ($9.99/mo. or $49.99/yr.) you will need to deal with pop up ads. Micronutrient information is limited.
BEST FOR: Weight loss, low carb eating
MONASH University Low FODMAP Diet App
By MONASH University Low FODMAP Diet Team
PROS: This is a low FODMAPs diet database with a beautiful layout and an easy to follow traffic light system indicting the FODMAP content of foods. If you suffer with IBS symptoms, then a low FODMAPs diet may be helpful for you. The App is customizable to specific sensitivity levels and offers shopping lists, many different recipes and a 7-day challenge. The App is frequently updated and all proceeds from the sale of the App go back to the University for further research.
CONS: The App has a somewhat limited database of foods (not all foods have been tested for their FODMAP content) and cannot be used as a food tracking App beyond the 7-day challenge feature.
BEST FOR: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
By Dharmaworks Consulting, LLC
PROS: A food guide App developed with Dr. Allison Siebecker, ND to help manage more difficult cases of IBS. The App includes Dr. Siebecker’s clinical input and dietary recommendations based on a combination of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet AND the Low Fodmap Diet. It utilizes a traffic light system similar to the MONASH app. This is the app for you if you need to take a low FODMAPs diet to the next level for better symptom control.
CONS: No Android version available. The SIBO diet is very limited, and needs guidance from a nutritionist to ensure appropriate micronutrient intake.
BEST FOR: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
by Nutrino Health Ltd
PROS: This is a food and lifestyle tracking App with many personalized options for food preferences, dietary goals and specialty diets. It tracks not only food, but also sleep, exercise and stress and it syncs with many other Apps. Perhaps most unique about this App are the special diabetic features and its ability to sync with blood glucose testing devices. It makes personalized recipe and restaurant meal recommendations (based on GPS).
CONS: A relatively new App the interface is glitchy and crashed multiple times during the somewhat long set up process. The premium version requires a monthly subscription ($7.99/mo. or $39.99/yr.).
BEST FOR: Weight loss, personalized diets, blood sugar management
Free iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch/Android
PROS: This is a weight loss and calorie counting App. It provides basic nutrition and a calorie count from the food log you enter. It has an extensive list of foods and a handy barcode scanner. A new feature in Beta, called Snapit, allows you to take pictures of the food to enter into your log. It allows you to set goals and based on food and exercise logged, gives you up to date graphs to track your progress.
CONS: The app still requires input beyond the photo. Advanced features require a subscription, $39.00/year.
BEST FOR: Weight loss
by Wombat Apps LLC
PROS: This is a Low GI Diet Tracker with a glycemic index and load counter. It provides a visual (green is low GI) for each of the foods and has a daily total for both GI and GL. There is a search feature to aid in shopping as well as a daily log which will show your average GI for the day, total GL, net carbs, calories, macronutrients, plus GI and GL for each meal.
CONS: No barcode scanner is available. The database of foods is not as extensive as other Apps. The search function is a common complaint with reviewers.
BEST FOR: Blood sugar management
by Fooducate, Ltd.
Free iPhone/Apple Watch/Android
PROS: A weight loss coaching App which tracks your food, activity, sleep and mood. The database includes a barcode scanner for easy entry and personalized nutrition grades. It focuses on quality of calories not just quantity which we’re happy to see. It integrates with other Apps including Apple’s heath App. It offers community feedback, Q&A and food recommendations. It also has specialty diet features with the Pro version.
CONS: Advanced features (specialty diets, etc) require a subscription: monthly auto-renew ($4.99), annual auto-renew ($29.99), one-time purchase ($74.99).
BEST FOR: Weight loss, all-round healthy eating and living
by Cronometer Inc.
PROS: Similar to MyFitnessPal, but this database is more whole foods based. Although the App is not free, full use of the App does not require an ongoing subscription. The graphic layout is easy on the eye and syncs with the online version which provides comprehensive nutrient information for individual vitamins and minerals, something that’s missing from most other apps. You can easily adjust and set goals for specific nutrients as well as overall intake. The reports and information provided are top-notch and if you’re working with a nutritionist, this app is one of the most user-friendly ways to share your food intake information.
CONS: The food database is not as extensive as some others. The nutrition information on the App is basic; you must refer to the web site version to see the comprehensive nutrient information.
BEST FOR: Personalized diets and targets, micronutrient information, working with a nutrition professional.
PROS: This is an amazing shopping App. It allows you to scan food labels and pull up a rating for all the foods in the database. The rating is based not only on the food’s nutrition but also on ingredient concerns and degree of processing. A detailed list of each food’s score itemizes the different components of each rating. The database is also searchable. As an added bonus, the App also incorporates the Skin Deep database that rates personal care products based on the toxicity and safety of its ingredients. Ratings for food and products are based on 1-10 ratings and color coded for quick reference.
CONS: The Food aspect of the App is somewhat new and a bit limited. However, the database is continually growing.
BEST FOR: Healthy shopping choices on the go
Stop, Breathe & Think
by Stop. Breathe. Think.
PROS: This is a great meditation App originally designed for teens but suitable for all. You can “check-in” with your current mood and get recommended guided medications, yoga and acupressure videos. There are many to choose from or you can simply time your own self-guided meditation and track your meditation time.
CONS: Free meditations are limited and many are offered via in-app purchases. Meditations purchased in bundles or via premium subscriptions as high as $41.99/6 months.
BEST FOR: Stress management, stress-triggered symptoms, abdominal weight, meditation novices
Stress and Anxiety Companion
By Companion Apps Limited
PROS: An App providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), in a simple and accessible format. It features a visual exercise to help control breathing, an interactive platform for reframing negative thoughts, mindfulness and muscle relaxation recordings and brain exercises to interrupt negative thoughts and anxious moments. The photo card creator is a really fun feature is allowing you to create your own positive reminders and mantras to reference and share with others.
CONS: It is not available for Android devices. The App is a great resource but a bit limited in variety.
BEST FOR: Stress management, stress-triggered symptoms, abdominal weight
Nike+ Training Club
by Nike, Inc.
PROS: This App offers personalized and customizable training programs with many different types and styles of workouts. The workouts are guided with instructional videos and range from 15-45 minutes. Some are timed-based, some are rep-based and include everything from weight training to high intensity interval training (HIIT) to yoga. Many workouts require no equipment which makes this a wonderful tool while traveling or at home. The interface is easy to navigate and makes choosing a workout or setting up a training plan very simple.
CONS: While the App offers 150+ workouts many are very similar and after continued use may start to feel repetitive.
BEST FOR: Fitness/health, busy schedules
by Skyfit Sports, Inc.
PROS: This App is like having a trainer in your ear. It offers audio workout classes with the guidance of a trainer and motivating playlists. It can be useful for keeping your treadmill workouts varied and interesting and as a companion for many other cardio, interval training, and yoga sessions. Sessions can be as quick as 7 minutes, so there’s always a way to squeeze one in. It has training programs for 5Ks up to full marathons and has a tracking feature to follow your progress.
CONS: This App offers a free 7-day trial and thereafter requires a subscription at $9.99/month, $99.99/year or lifetime membership for $399.99. It is audio only so there are no instructional videos of visuals to offer additional guidance.
BEST FOR: Fitness/health, weight loss, busy schedules, non-beginners (audio can be harder to follow than video)
Fitness Blender Workouts
by Fitness Blender
Website, Apps in Development
PROS: Fun and engaging workouts that blend cardio, resistance, and flexibility training into each workout. No need to do different workouts for each! There are HIIT options too. It’s easy to use, has options to choose your difficulty level, and many sessions don’t require equipment. The instructors are personable and offer many sessions with no repetition for ‘people who get bored easily.’
CONS: OK, so a website isn’t technically an App. Fitness Blender does have app versions for Apple and Android but technical issues abound. Keep an eye on this space though, as the company works through those challenges, because if they can replicate what they offer through their website, this will be a super option.
BEST FOR: Fitness/health, weight loss, people who get bored easily
This article was co-authored with Karen L. Herb, MS. Karen earned her Master’s Degree in Functional Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT. She joined Dr. Kara Fitzgerald as a nutrition resident in January 2017 and is working towards her Certified Nutrition Specialist Certification. Evidence-based nutrition and functional medicine are the cornerstone of her whole food, mind-body approach to nutrition and wellness. True to her name, she loves Herbs and essential oils and is just as likely to be in her kitchen whipping up laundry soap or toothpaste as she is whipping up dinner.