Unhealthy diets are a leading contributor to poor health all around the world. People are leading busier lives and looking for more convenient options including packaged, processed foods.
But these foods can be full of salt, fat and sugar and are fuelling epidemics of chronic disease across Australia, particularly in regional areas where access to fresh food is sometimes limited. Rates of adult overweight and obesity in 2017/18 were 72 per cent in inner regional, outer regional and remote Australia – approximately 7% higher than adults living in major cities.
To help shoppers navigate their way around complex nutrition labels, The George Institute for Global Health has developed FoodSwitch, a mobile app that helps consumers to make healthier food choices. Using the large and growing database of information behind the app, it is also encouraging manufacturers to improve the food supply.
FoodSwitch gives shoppers immediate information about the nutritional value of packaged products at the point-of-sale. It also suggests healthier alternatives to 'switch' to. It’s free to download, and easy to use.
How do you use FoodSwitch?
The FoodSwitch App is free to download from the App Store. You then use your phone camera to scan the barcode of any packaged item of food. FoodSwitch will calculate and display simple information based on the nutrition content of the food using evidence-based algorithms. It will also present a list of similar foods in the same category that are healthier options, making a better choice much easier.
FoodSwitch results are presented as either a simple 'Health Star Rating' that scores a food between 0.5 stars (least healthy) to 5 stars (healthiest), or as colour-coded 'traffic light' icons that report nutrients such as salt, saturated fat and sugar as green (low ), amber (medium), and red (high).
How does FoodSwitch work?
FoodSwitch is a data-technology platform powered by a large independent database of packaged foods, compiled by nutrition and health policy experts at The George Institute for Global Health.
You can choose to use different variations of FoodSwitch according to your dietary needs, such as SaltSwitch, EnergySwitch, FatSwitch, SugarSwitch, or GlutenSwitch. The algorithm adapts the results based on the amount of the relevant nutrient (for example, salt for SaltSwitch). Each product in the FoodSwitch database is rated by widely accepted nutrition standards on its amount of total fat, saturated fat, total sugars, and salt, as well as protein, dietary fibre, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content, and for some products, calcium.
The long-term goal of FoodSwitch is to improve the healthiness of the food supply by influencing stakeholders across the system to improve the nutrition composition of their products, while also enabling consumers to make healthier food choices.
Download the FoodSwitch App today and see if it changes the contents of your shopping trolley – you might be surprised!