Friday, April 19, 2013

Shop Better With ShopWell

I have to tell you about a really cool app called ShopWell that I use when I go to the grocery store. I read about the app in the book The Real Skinny, and decided to give it a try because a) it is a free download in the Apple App Store and b) it helps you find foods that fit within your dietary restrictions. It's perfect for people on special diets, including gluten-free diets.

You set up the app with your personal profile. So if you're looking for foods that contain no gluten, that are low in sugar, that are high in fiber, etc., then you input all of that information and the app remembers it for you. You can then use the app before or while you are shopping. Here's how I use it:

Before I Shop
If I'm making up our grocery list and I want to know the ingredients in a certain product to find out if it's gluten-free or not, then I use ShopWell to search for that product. The app will then give that product a score based on how well it fits my diet criteria. For example, I searched for Hormel Chili with Beans and ShopWell gave it a score of 45. Why? Hormel Chili with Beans is an excellent source of fiber, made with whole grain, is an excellent source of protein, is a good source of iron, is a good source of Vitamin A, BUT it is high in sodium and contains added sugar. Now, I only really care whether or not it's gluten-free, and so far so good.

ShopWell will also tell me the nutrition information and ingredients so I can check it out and see if there is anything questionable in the product. In the case of Hormel Chili with Beans, everything checked out on ShopWell, and when I went to the store to purchase it, I saw that it does say "gluten-free" on the can!

While I Shop
Sometimes I plan on purchasing something that is gluten-free, but my grocery store doesn't carry the brand I need, so I end up having to find a substitute. But how do I know if the substitute is gluten-free, especially if the package doesn't say it? Well, I could do a Google search and read through lots and lots of listings that are generally not helpful, or I could use the ShopWell app.

With this app, you can scan the barcodes, and the app will pull up product information for what you scanned. For example, I wanted to purchase a can of Rienzi Red Kidney Beans, but because they were on sale at A&P, there were no more cans left on the shelf! So, I scanned a can of Bush's Best Low Sodium Dark Kidney Beans. ShopWell gave it a score of 71 based on my dietary needs, and there is no sign of gluten.

Just as a test, I also scanned a can of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. ShopWell didn't even give it a score for me. Instead, I saw a red circle with the word "Avoid" next to it. Why? Because it contains soy, gluten, and wheat - all things that I told ShopWell I didn't want.

The more you use the app searching and scanning things, the more "achievements" you unlock and you even earn special coupon rewards! The app will also suggest foods that have a higher compatibility score with your dietary needs, which is pretty cool, although none of the suggestions I got to replace the low-scoring Hormel Chili with Beans was available at my grocery store.

Don't have an iPhone? You can still use ShopWell on the internet at home!

I really like this app and find it very easy to use. It is a SUPER lifesaver for me when I'm making the shopping list and at the grocery store because it helps me figure out what foods are safe for me to bring home. I would highly recommend this app to anyone on any type of diet!

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