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South Texas Living

Apps for food, activity, and helpful websites

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Charles Stuart Platkin, PhD.
June 11, 2014 | 3,612 views | Post a comment

Moves (phone app)

Overview: Have you always wanted a Fitbit or some other wearable fitness device? Well, the smartphone app Moves is fantastic, and it’s a free download. As long as you have your phone with you (which most people do these days), it will track all your walking and will convert it into steps, calories, or miles. It will also track your cycling and other activities. The app also knows when you are walking, as opposed to cycling.

Notes: What a wonderful design. So simple to use! I’ve tested and tried many apps over the years, and I love this one. It’s no wonder that it was just purchased by Facebook. I’m not sure how that affects the company or the app, but it seems to be working the same way it always did. Keep in mind, knowing how much exercise you’re doing will actually inspire you to do more. Accountability helps.

Where you get it:

Cost: Free

Ted Talks Playlist: “A Better You”

Overview: “Ready for a change? These well-researched (and heartfelt) talks offer ideas and inspiration for all aspects of your life, from creativity to vulnerability, from competitive sports to collaborative games.”

Notes: These are very inspirational and powerful videos. I play them for students and friends, and I think they can help to kick-start any behavior-change program, including weight loss. Skip the Larry Smith and John Wooden lectures if you’re short on time.

Where you get it:

Cost: Free

Overview: National Geographic has launched an online food portal for “exploring the future of food.” According to National Geographic, the site is “dedicated to exploring issues surrounding how we eat today and how we can provide food for all as the world’s population grows and climate change impacts growing seasons and planting zones.”’s noted bloggers, who contribute weekly to a food-related blog called “The Plate,” include José Andrés, a chef; Mary Beth Albright, a food policy analyst; Maryn McKenna, a science blogger; Jasmine Wiggins, a casual foodie; and Rebecca Rupp, a food historian.

Notes: National Geographic is a wonderful institution that provides great reporting and photographs. Their attention to food issues highlights the food movement’s growth. It’s too bad they’re only going to fund this for eight months. Hopefully, they will decide to continue it after that.

Where you get it:

Cost: Free

Coach Alba

Overview: This is a text-based program to help you lose weight. There is a lot of research supporting the use of text-based outreach to change behavior. According to the website: “Through this smart text service, Coach Alba users receive custom messages to help identify and overcome individual ‘crucial moments’ when they are likely to give in to temptation. Powered by a team of behavior modification experts, Coach Alba’s platform uses adaptive texting to learn more about users with every text message, offer increasingly personalized strategy and support, and celebrate users’ progress to help them stick to any weight-loss plan they choose to follow.”

Notes: I tried it very briefly. It’s still too early to tell if this would be helpful. I do know that if it were a live person who responded immediately, it would be amazing, but this program is automated. Text-based applications can be very powerful and are being tested frequently by academic institutions.

Where you get it:

Cost: $29.95 per year.

Fitbit: Fitbit has a free app that works off iPhone 5’s technology (meaning you don’t need to use a bracelet). This is also a pass. If you want a pedometer function app, Moves is much better.

Grocery iQ: This app can create grocery lists and has an autocomplete feature. Although it is useful -- and free -- I found the paid ads a bit annoying, and while the “scan it” feature is nice, I feel that it could be more intuitive design-wise. I’ve already taken it off my app list.

Argus: The app has features that are similar to Moves, but Moves looks and feels like it works much better.

What’s On My Food? If you really want to know what pesticides are on your foods, this is the app for you. It’s basically a list of foods and what’s on them. Very useful.

Charles Platkin, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public-health advocate and founder of

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