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How a new app could help people eat more fruits and vegetables

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Based on the UK 5-a-day recommendation, the new SMART 5-A-DAY app helps people increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Nadine Greeff/Stocksy
  • Researchers recently launched the new “SMART 5-A-DAY” food tracking app to help people increase their fruit and vegetable intake.
  • A pilot study of the app found it could lead to modest increases in fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Researchers hope the app will provide users with knowledge that encourages more fruit and vegetable consumption.

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing certain health problems.

Despite government guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable consumption around the world, consumption in Europe, the United States and globally remains low.

Recently, researchers at Bournemouth University launched a new app called “SMART 5-A-DAY” to help users track and increase their fruit and vegetable intake.

Professor Katherine Appleton, professor of psychology at Bournemouth University and one of the creators of the app, said Medical News Today:

“The app is based on the UK 5 a day recommendations, and fruit and vegetable recommendations may vary around the world depending on local fruit and vegetables available, local portion sizes and other local nutritional concerns. The recommendations to consume plenty of fruit and vegetables apply everywhere, however.

The app was released on the Google Play Store for Android phones on December 29, 2022.

Research shows that knowledge about the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption is lacking and related to reduce overall consumption.

Potential factors that hinder the consumption of fruits and vegetables may include:

  • bad knowledge or confusion around nutritious fruits or vegetables
  • portion sizes for fruits and vegetables
  • the Number servings needed per day
  • the need for a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • benefits of high fruit and vegetable intake

Increased awareness of what constitutes adequate fruit and vegetable consumption could help individuals improve their overall health.

To use the application, users enter the fruits and vegetables they ate after each meal and in what quantity.

The app then converts consumption to match UK guidelines of five servings of different fruit or vegetables per day. The app allows users to track their daily consumption over time.

“The app only includes fruit and vegetables that count for UK recommendations, so those that don’t count for UK recommendations, such as potatoes, cannot be added,” explained Dr Appleton. .

She added that one of the main benefits of the app is that it will help users recognize how little fruit and vegetables they consume, which can inspire them to improve their diet.

“Our hope is that using the app over several weeks will increase understanding of these elements so that the app is no longer needed, but people themselves know what to do,” he said. she declared.

Possible advantages

A 2019 study of the SMART 5-A-DAY app found a slight increase in participants’ knowledge of fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations.

Since then, researchers have incorporated several updates based on user feedback and expect this to have a positive impact on overall fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Research has also shown that tracking a health-related goal is linked to a greater chance of achieving the goal,” Debbie Fetter, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition education at the ‘University of California, Davis, not involved in the study, told DTM.

“Using an app can give consumers a place to document their efforts and see their progress add up. However, using an app is not mandatory; tracking a health-related goal with a pencil [and] the paper also works very well,” added Dr. Fetter.

To learn more about how the SMART 5-A-DAY app can help individuals improve their diet, DTM spoke with Sara Kostelnick, MS, RD, an athletic performance dietitian at the University of Kansas Health System (not involved in the study).

“As a dietitian, I often find that fruit and vegetable intake gets overlooked when making healthy lifestyle changes,” Kostelnick said.

“Many studies have looked at tracking as a way to increase accountability and achieve the health goals you set for yourself. Translating this to meet fruit and vegetable needs can help users increase their daily fruit and vegetable intake,” she added.

DTM also spoke about the new app with Dena Champion, MS, RDN, registered dietitian at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University:

“This app looks colorful, simple to use and interactive. It includes a calculator that gives a goal of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This can be a useful visual for people who are trying to increase their fruit and vegetable intake , but aren’t sure about portion sizes or how close they are to that goal.

Champion noted, however, that not everyone may find the app useful.

“Everyone learns differently and is motivated differently. Some people thrive on this type of app that requires food tracking and provides feedback, while others find it boring or unnecessary,” Champion said.

Amy Brownstein, MS, RDN, registered dietitian at Plus One in Oakland, Calif., unstudied author, shared her thoughts on the app. (Plus One is an Optum company, which is affiliated with Healthline Media and DTM).

“The [2019] A pilot study found limited impact of the app on knowledge and consumption of fruits and vegetables,” Brownstein said.

“However, the study did notice a change in the behavior of fruits and vegetables rated based on the beverages participants chose (smoothies instead of water or soda) when they were onsite for the assessments.”

Brownstein further noted that while there “appears to be limited direct impact of the app on knowledge and consumption of fruits and vegetables, the app may serve as a subtle, subconscious reminder to choose a fruit or vegetable. rather than other less healthy options”.

Dr Fetter added that due to the large number of smartphone apps available, apps that are not routinely used can be overlooked.

“Incorporating more fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve health, and an app can help people achieve their goals,” Dr. Fetter said.

“However, it’s important to ensure that the health-related goal is personally meaningful to the consumer and to start small and grow from there. Living a healthy lifestyle is about creating healthy habits that last a lifetime,” she concluded.

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