We all know that reading nutritional labels is very important – let’s face it, advertising claims can be misleading and comparing nutritional tables is the only truly factual source of information we have. It is quite a process comparing one brand to another, however, particularly when trying to judge the overall “healthiness” of the product. It is easy enough to compare the salt content alone, or the saturated fat content, for example, and make a switch based solely on that, but it becomes a little more complex (and time-consuming) to compare all the nutritional data and make a judgment on that as a whole.
Foodswitch is a smartphone app, developed by The George Institute for Global Health and also supported by Astra Zeneca, the American Heart Association and Verily, which aims to take all the hard work away and compare similar products for you. It is currently available in 8 countries around the world – just recently released here in the US. Put in a nutshell, it scans the barcode of a product, using the camera on your phone, then tells you whether it is less healthy, okay or a healthy option based on its total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content and much, much more! It will then give you a list of healthier options.
Let’s face it, sometimes the supermarket aisles are a little overwhelming with the amount of choice available, so having this little tool in your pocket can help you make the switch to healthier options in seconds. Plus, if you don’t like the first brand you try, you have others, but at least you are safe in the knowledge that any switches are made for the overall benefit of your health!
The whole premise is based on the fact that making small changes to our diets, such as consuming less salt and added sugar, eating less (bad) fat and energy that we don’t need (excess calories) could prevent many health problems in the US – including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and type 2 diabetes. In turn, this could help reduce incidents of heart attacks, strokes and even some cancers.
How it works – Start by scanning a product’s barcode:
Then choose whether to see the ratings in Health Star or Traffic Light mode.
Traffic Light Labels show how foods rate using colors. In ‘Traffic Light’ Labelling mode, you’ll see colour-coded ratings to let you know if a product is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) for key food components (total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt). Red is less healthy, Amber is OK and Green is a healthier choice.
Health Star ratings give an overall star rating of the food, from 0.5 to 5 stars, the higher the rating the more healthy the food.
No matter which filter you’re using, healthier choices are first identified by comparing the overall nutritional value of foods based on the Health Star Rating score algorithm, taking into account a range of different factors important to general health including saturated fat, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fibre, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes (FVNL) content, and for some products, calcium.
You can then save your healthy options on a (shopping) list for when you go to the grocery store next.
There is also the option (if you’re like me and buy many less well known brands) of adding products to their database, by sending them photos of the label and nutritional table – simple!
Oh! Did I mention, the FOODSWITCH app is FREE??? Completely and utterly no cost to you to get a healthier lifestyle. What could be better than that? Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure, so get on board and download the app. Take the first step towards a healthier you. (It is like a gym membership though – just downloading it is not enough, you do have to actually USE IT😊) It is available for both Apple and Andriod, on the App Store and Google Play and yes, FREE on both. You really do have every reason to try it and I cannot think of one reason why you wouldn’t. It could save your life. Remember, small changes can make a big difference.