Finally, a nutrition app that is actually helpful.
I want to spread the word about the coolest app out there for understanding how to improve your nutritional purchases leading to an improved nutritional intake. OptUp is an app that encourages healthy eating. It can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play. To benefit from the app, you have to have a Kroger Plus card that you use when shopping at Kroger or one of the Kroger banner/chains such as Dillons, Smith’s, Fry’s or King Soopers. (A Kroger banner is in 35 states so I’m hoping most of you have a Kroger store nearby.)
You can learn more about the app by going to https://www.kroger.com/topic/OptUP. Its purpose is to help you follow a diet similar to that advocated by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. OptUP scores individual foods from 0-100. The scores are based on a nationally recognized nutrient profiling system that’s been enhanced by Kroger Registered Dietitians. This system helps to make sense of the information on nutrition labels, making it easier to compare similar products. Products with scores 71 or higher are “green” and considered “better for you” foods. These foods are lower in saturated fat, sodium, sugar and calories and may be higher in fiber, protein and contain healthy fruits, vegetables and nuts. Products between 36 and 70 are in the “yellow” or middle category having a bit more of the negative ingredients and less of the healthy ingredients. And products between 1-35 are in the “red” category and are high in saturated fat, sodium and calorically dense (more calories per ounce) and also the lowest in fiber and protein and lowest in fruits, vegetable or nut content. But all of that is about individual numbers. Here is why I think OptUP is so unique and helpful.
1. OptUP focuses on the total picture of purchases.
It takes all of your purchases and gives you a total score that indicates how healthy your purchases have been over the past eight weeks. Health and nutritious eating is about our total intake. No single food makes or breaks health unless you are allergic or intolerant to a particular food or class of food. The goal is to keep improving your total score and anything above a score of 700 is considered optimal.
2. OptUP provides realistic alternatives for improving your score.
It lets you see your individual purchases, their individual score, the nutrition facts for that item, and “better for you” alternatives (with their nutrition facts). The “better for you” items are not a big stretch from what you purchased. For example, I purchased a pasta sauce with a score of 58 and it showed me alternatives with somewhat less sodium with scores from 64 to 70. When I purchased the pasta sauce with a score of 70, I honestly couldn’t taste any difference.
3. OptUP helps you see that you don’t have to be perfect.
The OptUP dashboard will give you your percentage of items purchased for each color (green, yellow, red). The OptUP goal is to have at least 50 percent of items you purchase in the green category, 40 percent from the yellow category and less than 10 percent of the items you purchase from the red category. In looking at my app today, I can see my husband and I (my household) bought a candy bar, ice cream and some other “red” category items. Our current score is 793 and only 6% of everything I purchased was from the red category.
4. OptUP is transparent on how it comes up with scores.
On the “more” tab of the app, there is a section on “How are products scored” which goes explains the source of the scoring.
5. OptUP lets you compete with yourself or with a friend or colleague.
With OptUP, you can track your progress against your prior scores (compete against yourself), or you can set up a competition with friends or colleagues. My husband and I eat a healthy diet (although as mentioned above we do like to eat some “red” items in moderation). When I first downloaded the app, our score was 710 which is a good score. However, a friend had a score of 807. Our competitive nature had us purchasing more “better for you” choices, and before too long we scored 803.
In fairness to stating drawbacks, I can think of two.
This app is based on your household purchases. If you eat mostly foods from the green category but your spouse or child or parent requests you purchase items in the red category, you don’t get a fair account of your personal score. However, by making it a family affair, and similar to #5 above, you can create a competition within the family to move to higher scoring alternatives and raise your total score.
If you eat out a lot in restaurants and fast foods, or use convenient or other stores to purchase food, the OptUP app won’t be a true representation of your family’s intake.
This app may not be perfect, but unless you use a food record app to track everything you eat and drink, I don’t know of anything out there that beats OptUP.