HealthyFood Switch App

What are you putting in your mouth? | Healthyfood Switch Review

No matter where you shop there has been an onslaught of “healthy” food hitting the shelves. Low carb, no sugar, fat free…. but what does it all mean and how healthy are these items, really? Do you know how to read a nutrition label on the back of your food packaging? Turns out… there’s an app for that!


Free for download from the Google Play or Apple store.

What is it?

The HealthyFood Switch app was developed by the George Institute for Global Health and has been launched in SA in conjunction with Discovery Vitality. The app was originally launched in Australia before making its way to New Zealand and the UK. It started with 17 000 packaged foods listed but as users add food items that list has grown to more than 75 000 products.

HealthyFood Switch app

How do you use it?

The app is simple enough. You scan a barcode of an item and the app then gives you the nutritional information for a 100g serving. The information supplied includes energy, total fat, saturated fat, sugar, fibre, sodium and calcium. The app then “rates” the food item for you telling you how healthier it is. It does this via a star rating or, if you prefer, you have the option to utilise the colour rating with then marks it as either red, amber or green depending on how healthy it is (so green means good, red means you should stay away).

The app also suppliers healthier alternatives to the item you’re purchasing. So, for example, I scanned in the Safari 8 Funky Fruit Bars:

HealthyFood Switch app

You’ll see below that there is a listing for other items that are similar but rate as healthier on the star rating. The two “better” options to purchase would be a Safari Apricot Fruit Roll (it has a 3.5 Star Rating) or Woolworths Food Slimmer’s Choice Mixed Berry Fruit Bar. If I switched the rating over to colour indications, you can see that the problem on this particular item is the sugar and the Woolies offering has 16% less sugar:

HealthyFood Switch appHealthyFood Switch app

But should I download it?

Despite being the “editor of a tech site” I hate having a phone full of apps. I’m loathe to download new apps that clock up my phone and kill my battery. However, I actually liked using the HealthyFood Switch app. Scanning is a relatively easy experience and it wasn’t buggy at all (sometimes these apps struggle to scan or just become rather annoying to use). You do need to agree to share any information you record in app when you initially download which I presume would be to help build the database. Some items aren’t always available in app. The Steri Stumpie Milkshake didn’t show up:

HealthyFood SwitchHealthyFood Switch app

However, when this happens the app prompts you to share some photos of the packaging and nutritional information. I presume this is then shared with the developers who can then add the product to the database. Also, sometimes, there is no “healthier” option available. According to the HealthyFood Switch app I need to just not eat chocolate. Blagh:

HealthyFood Switch app

I think this app is a great way to make healthier shopping choices and I really liked that it gives you a host of “other” options that include a range of different brands. However, I do think it needs to include some pricing options. It’s all very well to say item X is healthier but if item X is 3 times the price of your initial item, you may be less inclined to change over. For middle class and higher income earning South Africans swopping out items for healthier choices is easy enough but for those that have a strict shopping budget, sometimes price dictates purchase. It would be great if they could build that functionality in and allow you to streamline your search to include healthier alternatives within budget.

Will Discovery Vitality spam me once I download this?

I’m extremely suspicious of apps from insurance companies. I sometimes find that they’re designed ONLY to farm data and then bombard you with sales calls and SMS and email spam. I’ve been using the HealthyFood Switch app for a week now and haven’t received a single cold call – so safe to say – you’ll be left alone.

Disclaimer: I was sent a small selection of items to try the app out on. If anyone wants a free can of sweetcorn – Holla! 

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