Tips for selecting a mobile health application to support your health goals

Apr 29, 2020 | Ellen Bissonette, RN, CBN | @ecb | Comments (7)

Smart watch with man running

Written by Rose Prissel, a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian

Monitoring tools, such as online or app-based tools, smart watches and fitness trackers, can help maintain your weight and keep your activity goals on track. Using these devices along with an on-site, face-to-face weight loss program may have a synergistic effect on behavior change.

Users have noted availability, flexibility, ease of use, cost and time-effectiveness as benefits of using mobile health applications. The tips below can help you find the best application for your unique needs.

  1. What are your goals?

 Apps and devices are tools to supplement what you do offline. Therefore, it is important to identify what you need to do to achieve your weight loss goals. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this app help me achieve my goal(s)?
  • What type of feedback is most meaningful?
  1. Your research.

Once you have identified your goals, check out several apps before committing to one to determine which one provides the data and features to support your goals.

  1. Consider the accuracy and data management.

 Currently little quality control or regulations exist to ensure health apps are accurate in content, evidence-based or effective. This makes it important to ensure you do your research. This includes:

  • Determining if the app compatible with your smartphone (if it is on your phone's app store, it probably is) and computer devices.

- Checking the data privacy statement for the device and associate apps.

- Reviewing the app’s description, features, functionality, usability, user ratings and reviews.

- Determining if the developers consulted health professionals for the development of the app.  This will improve the probability of accurate content such as the use of nutritional databases from a reliable source.

- Verifying if the app or device clearly labels food items entered by other users.

  1. Determine if the app supports evidence-based strategies for weight loss

 Choose an app that uses one or more of the evidence-based strategies listed below. This increases the likelihood that it will effectively support you in making health changes.

  • Self-monitoring
  • Goal-setting with customization
  • Accountability, such as social support, daily reminders that pop up on your phone and personalized feedback
  • Motivational strategies, such as cues or push notifications, rewards or gamified design
  • Physical activity or healthy eating support, such as education

Connect with others talking about health fitness apps in the Healthy Living support group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Weight Management blog.

I have been trying to eat healthy and exercise plenty after a long stay in the hospital. (I also have diabetis). There are food and exercise trackers..BUT they fail to divide natural Sugar from added sugar or Saturated fat from the good fats. Do you know of any sites/apps that do this? My primary health focus is fats, sugar, and sodium.

REPLY
@pc2018

I have been trying to eat healthy and exercise plenty after a long stay in the hospital. (I also have diabetis). There are food and exercise trackers..BUT they fail to divide natural Sugar from added sugar or Saturated fat from the good fats. Do you know of any sites/apps that do this? My primary health focus is fats, sugar, and sodium.

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Way to start focusing your intake on some great metrics. All three of those items are key, especially related to heart health. Lose It is one app which does separate saturated fat from total fat if you click into "My Nutrients". I'm not aware of one that separates added vs natural sugar (this is unfortunate, but perhaps because that is a newer change in food labeling). Weight Watchers (WW) uses a points systems, though it does display a full label for each food, including different fats and added vs. natural sugars. Is there an app you are more comfortable with?

REPLY

Thank you for your response. I will take a look at My Nutrients. Myplate gives a lot of info and I had hoped it would have it but it doesn't. I cancelled my subscription to myfitnesspal. Apparently their 'fitness' means less weight but not less nutrition. It is frustrating if you are not trying to lose weight…just need to get healthy. Again, Thank you.

REPLY
@pc2018

Thank you for your response. I will take a look at My Nutrients. Myplate gives a lot of info and I had hoped it would have it but it doesn't. I cancelled my subscription to myfitnesspal. Apparently their 'fitness' means less weight but not less nutrition. It is frustrating if you are not trying to lose weight…just need to get healthy. Again, Thank you.

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I see what you mean! Eating healthy is a great goal within itself. Could you focus your efforts on watching these parameters (sodium, fats, added sugars) on nutrition labels and forgoing the apps? Foods without a label (fruits/vegetables/plain proteins) likely wouldn't be items of concern!

REPLY

That is a good suggestion if you have been trying to eat healthy for a long time. At this time, I have more of a feel of what is in what I eat than I had when I started but I don't 'just know', automatically. I started my own list of of nutrients when I first decided to cure my issues with food. I think I will organize it in an easier to use form and continuing tracking manually. It is about 6 pages long at this point and labeled with brand names.
I think I need to look at ingredient lists, too. It is the only place sugar alchohols show up, and I believe they cause interference with the gut biome. (I just had bowel surgery) I read a recent article that said the FDA had just banned some pesticide with nerve agents that was being used on tomatoes, which is one of my mainstays. The fda has known of the problem for 20 years or more. I also read an article that said, for some people, folic acid supplementation may save you from spinal bifida but may cause other serious problems that don't arise with folate. That's like saying an orange is just as good as a Vitamin C tablet. I don't think so. There is a lot of other things in an orange that go together to make them healthy. Sorry for the rant. I will keep working at it.

REPLY
@pc2018

That is a good suggestion if you have been trying to eat healthy for a long time. At this time, I have more of a feel of what is in what I eat than I had when I started but I don't 'just know', automatically. I started my own list of of nutrients when I first decided to cure my issues with food. I think I will organize it in an easier to use form and continuing tracking manually. It is about 6 pages long at this point and labeled with brand names.
I think I need to look at ingredient lists, too. It is the only place sugar alchohols show up, and I believe they cause interference with the gut biome. (I just had bowel surgery) I read a recent article that said the FDA had just banned some pesticide with nerve agents that was being used on tomatoes, which is one of my mainstays. The fda has known of the problem for 20 years or more. I also read an article that said, for some people, folic acid supplementation may save you from spinal bifida but may cause other serious problems that don't arise with folate. That's like saying an orange is just as good as a Vitamin C tablet. I don't think so. There is a lot of other things in an orange that go together to make them healthy. Sorry for the rant. I will keep working at it.

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Consider websites like calorieking.com and nutritiondata.self.com to help you find the information you are looking for!

I completely agree that whole foods do more for our bodies than supplementation alone. The nutrients in foods interact with each other!

Look for our article on the gut microbiome – to be posted in September!

REPLY
@taraschmidt

Consider websites like calorieking.com and nutritiondata.self.com to help you find the information you are looking for!

I completely agree that whole foods do more for our bodies than supplementation alone. The nutrients in foods interact with each other!

Look for our article on the gut microbiome – to be posted in September!

Jump to this post

I will watch for it. Thank you so much.

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