A new app has been developed to help people reach the recommended target of eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
Unlike most apps aimed at encouraging healthy eating, this new product tells users whether they are eating the right portion sizes, as well as the right foods, to meet the recommendations in the UK.
Previous studies from Bournemouth University found that whilst most adults in the UK are aware of the five-a-day message, their understanding of how to get to it is low - with some people thinking crisps, chips and strawberry jam count as a portion.
“Almost everyone knows they should eat five a day,” said Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology at Bournemouth University, who led the studies and the development of the new app. “But when we looked a little further, it was clear that a lot of people did not know what counts towards the target, they did not know what a portion size is, and many did not realise that they needed to eat five different things.
“Our studies also showed that lower knowledge was associated with lower consumption of fruits and vegetables,” she added.
Figures from Public Health England have shown that only a third of adults, and 12 percent of eleven to eighteen-year-olds eat the recommended amount.
The free SMART-5-A-DAY app has been created specifically to help people understand portion sizes and see how the amounts of fruits and vegetables that they eat contribute towards their daily target. Users select the fruit or vegetable they have just eaten and will then be asked to enter how much of it they ate. The app will then tell them whether that amount made up a full or partial portion and how much more would be needed to take it up to a full portion. It also keeps a running total of their progress towards the five a day target.
“What is unique about this app is that as well as tracking daily fruit and vegetable intake, it teaches people about portion size, so they get to the point where they know what they need to eat themselves. We think this will be an effective tool to improve people’s diets for the long term, rather than simply for the short period that they use the app,” said Professor Appleton.
A peer-reviewed study of an earlier prototype version found that it had some benefits to users’ eating habits and their understanding of what is needed to reach the daily recommended intake.
The version released today incorporates several updates from feedback after the prototype trial, which the researchers hope will lead to bigger changes in eating behaviours among its users.
SMART 5-A-DAY will be in the Google Play Store for Android phones from 29 December.