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Scanning your way to a healthier diet with FoodScanner

Calories do count, and if you are among those who keep track of your daily intake and want an easy way to log what you eat, FoodScanner [iTunes link] may be just the iPhone app for you.

On a trip to the grocery store or just your fridge, FoodScanner reads the bar code and matches it to a large database of food items. If the app is successful in finding a match, you'll get the product name, amount of calories in a single serving, fat, carbohydrates, and protein content. You can that information to a daily list to keep track of what you are eating, without the pain of doing it all on pencil and paper.

While on a trip to my local Safeway, the bar code recognition worked really well. It just took a second or so to capture the info, and then match it to a database claiming to list over 200,000 food items.

In many cases, the scan returned several items, but it was a simple task to select the correct item by name.
There are a few downsides to the app. A trip to the butcher shop or the fruit stand won't give you any bar codes. You'll have to enter those items manually, but when you do FoodScanner supplies some educated guesses on calories and nutrition. If your grocery store has a metal roof or poor cell phone reception, you're out of luck, unless you want to do all the scanning at home later.

The technology to grab the bar code is from Occipital, which has created some other scanning apps for the iPhone. It looks as if they have improved the software, because scanning seemed quick and more accurate than earlier apps. The app runs on any iPhone with version 3.1 software.

Sometimes the bar code couldn't be linked to anything in the nutrition database, so hopefully the database will continue to grow. The app is on sale for US$0.99 and I don't think it's a risky purchase for people who want to track what they are eating. I would think that getting this level of detail may help you make better choices while you are roaming the food aisles.

Of course, you could always just look at the labels of any foods you buy. The nutrition info is displayed prominently, but you wouldn't have the list to take with you without spending more time writing than you do shopping.

Check the gallery for some more screen shots:

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