While technology is often blamed for making people lazy and unhealthy, smartphone apps have the capability to do just the opposite. In fact, studies have shown that committing to a digital diet can help people shed more weight than traditional approaches. How? Apps make improving health interactive, which helps users stay on track, say Florida Atlantic University researchers.
Here are our top picks:
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MealSnap ($2.99): This calorie-counter is like Instagram with nutritional feedback. Users snap a photo of their food and instantly get a calorie estimate. Not sure if you’ve earned dessert? MealSnap also tracks total daily calories so users can decide if they have wiggle room for a sweet treat.
Fooducate (free): Not sure which peanut butter is the healthiest? Simply scan a food’s barcode, and Fooducate will display its nutritional profile. The app also warns users if a product has too much sugar or too many additives or is highly processed. Based on the food’s nutritional value, the app assigns it a letter grade from A to D, and offers similar but smarter choices.
GymPact (free): Chances are you want a thin waist—not a thin wallet. That’s the idea behind GymPact, an app that charges users an agreed-upon amount for skipping workouts and pays cash to those who stick to their fitness plan. There’s no cheating, either. The GPS-enhanced app knows when you’re at the gym and how long you stay. If you leave before the required 30-minute workout, your sweat session is void. The only exceptions are injury and illness. A doc’s note can eliminate the fines.
GainFitness (free to download; exercise packs $2.99+): This app creates personalized workouts based on user’s goals, interests, body type, time constraints and fitness level. It can also customize workouts based on what equipment is available. Bonus: The 10-minute, equipment-free “Quick Plan B” option is perfect for last-minute conflicts that could otherwise cause exercisers to miss a workout.