Rate my food: Fooducates iphone app

By admin | January 27, 2011

This is cool stuff. I don’t have an iphone but I DO have TONS of students who want to know “How do I make good choices at the supermarket?”  I always suggest reading labels, doing research, eating minimally processed foods, shop the perimeter and other really useful tips. But as a busy momtrepreneur I TOTALLY understand the utter madness that ensues when shopping for dinner at 5:30pm with two hungry, tired kidlets in tow.  Read labels?  REALLY?

So this app might just swoop in and save the day.  I, for one, trust Fooducate because they’re willing to lift the rug, pull back the curtains and actually look at ingredients, not just propaganda on the label.  Here’s an email they sent to me explaining how the app works, how their rating system works, and how using this FREE app could help you, the consumer make better food choices.

If you’ve been using the Fooducate iPhone App you may be wondering how products are graded. We’ve received inquiries on this matter from consumers, food manufacturers, and nutrition professionals.

Fooducate’s philosophy is relatively simple, but the actual algorithmic implementation is quite complex. Here is a glimpse under the hood.

Fooducate grading:  minimally processed, real foods with intrinsic nutrients will score better than processed foods that are poor in built-in nutrients.

Fooducate’s  analysis is based on information that appears on a product’s package. This includes the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list. Fooducate does not receive any additional input from manufacturers.

The lowest grade in the system is a D, and the highest grade is an A.

Products are graded based on their nutrients, ingredients, category, and processing. We’ll explain:

Nutrients – Fooducate’s algorithms add points for nutrients to encourage such as fiber, calcium, and iron. The algorithms detract points for nutrients to limit such as saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Ingredients – The ingredient list is very important as it tells the story behind the nutrients. Imagine a piece of cardboard that was sprayed with 11 vitamins and minerals, then coated with “natural” flavors, peppered with an artificial sweetener, and colored with Red #40. Under some rating systems, this product would actually score very high as it is zero calories and full of nutrition.

Not at Fooducate. We look for real ingredients. Artificial colors and sweeteners detract from a product score. The use of whole foods adds points.

Category – Fooducate divides products into distinct categories, for example, breakfast cereal, yogurt, bread, fruits, etc… In each category, we look at the most relevant nutrients and ingredients and give them more weight compared to others. For example – fiber is a very important nutrient in breads and cereals, but really not to be expected in yogurt.

Some categories can span the entire range of grades from D to A. Others span a smaller range – for example fruits can rate between a B+ to an A, sweetened carbonated soft drinks from D to D+, and popcorn from a C to an A-.

Processing – products that go through heavy processing rate lower than products that you could probably prepare at home with household ingredients. For example – a snack bar with just dates and nuts will score higher than a bar with 30 ingredients, many of which are not found in peoples’ kitchens.

Fooducate’s algorithms also look for nutrients that come from REAL ingredients, and not as fortifications. For example, adding ascorbic acid (lab made vitamin C) to a product to reach 100% of the daily value of vitamin C, does not make the product “nutritious” by our algorithms. A red bell pepper that naturally contains high levels of vitamin C will rate high.

A note before we conclude. Our algorithms are constantly being evaluated and tweaked. Just as nutrition science is constantly evolving, so is our analysis. But the basic philosophy will not change – the less processed, more real a food is, the better it is for your health, and the better it rates on Fooducate.

If you think a product you scanned rated too high or too low, please let us know by emailing support at fooducate.

Some people have likened Fooducate to taking both your grandmother AND your dietitian with you to the supermarket for shopping advice. We like that.

What to do at the supermarket:

Whether you use Fooducate’s iPhone app or not, you can implement our simple philosophy in your shopping trips. Look for minimally processed foods with short and comprehendable ingredient lists. Check the nutrition facts label to see that you are not going ballistic with saturated fats, sodium, and sugars.

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