Smartphone diet apps may not be following recommended nutrition guidelines

By Rebecca Burton • Published: February 7th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s an app for just about anything these days, from starting your car to tracking your sleep. With the rise in popularity of health-tracking devices such as FitBits, more Americans are using their electronic devices to manage their health. But new research suggests you may want to have a closer look at the new diet app you just downloaded.

According to a preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, most smartphone apps that claim to improve your diet are not following science-based guidelines. The research team evaluated 32 health and fitness apps to see whether they were based on the U.S. Government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Of the apps studied, about 75 percent failed to comply with recommended daily amounts of food groups such as grains, dairy and vegetables. Eighty-four percent did not comply with food subgroups such as dark green vegetables.

However, the findings weren’t all bad. Seventy-two percent of the apps were based on the five broader eating pattern components listed in the recommendations, such as healthy eating patterns, calorie limits, nutrient-rich foods and drinks, having a variety of different food and drinks, and community outreach and social support.

The researchers hope this finding will prompt app developers to look more closely at science-based evidence when creating their diet and health apps.

Looking for a more trustworthy way to track your diet? The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed an online food-tracking tool based on the government’s guidelines, which can be found at