What do people want from health tracking apps?

Health Apps survey results

We love learning more about the health apps market. Health, fitness, weight loss and nutrition are hot topics, and we’re keen to know what people find most helpful when it comes to improving eating habits in particular.

We carried out a short survey among those who are less familiar with Cook&Count but who have an interest in health and fitness. Some interesting insights have emerged from the results that we’d like to share.


1. Accuracy is key

When asked what would improve tracking apps used, the top response was more accurate data. Over half of those surveyed said that increased accuracy was important to them. This was followed by integration with wearables, increased nutritional information and healthy living advice.

It’s great to hear that people want as much accurate information and advice as they can get! The nutritional information for ingredients in Cook&Count is sourced from government databases and we pride ourselves on not using often inaccurate crowd-sourced data.



Improve


2. Trusted advice doesn’t just come from the doctor

Nutrition websites, blogs and social media are just as popular for healthy eating advice as speaking to healthcare professionals. A sign of the technological age, people are relying more and more on a wider range of information sourced from all over the web.

We just need to make sure that this information is as accurate and reliable as possible. At Cook&Count we work with trusted healthcare professionals to make sure the information we provide comes from true expert sources.



Advice


3. Digital recipes are the future

As expected, the internet has far overtaken books as a source of recipes. 89% of those who filled out the survey said they source recipes from the internet, while 57% say they use recipe books. One third of respondents get recipes from friends and family, but fewer use or are familiar with recipe sharing apps.



Recipes


4. It’s all about personalisation

People love to adapt recipes to suit their tastes. Our favourite finding – a huge 92% of people said they like to adapt recipes either for taste or health reasons. This is just what we want to hear! Cooking should be an enjoyable and experimental process. Whatever restrictions you may have on what you eat, adapting recipes allows you to still enjoy variations of all your favourites. Find ways to cut out some carbs or calories, or up your protein intake.



Adapt



In summary, people want accuracy, variety, availability and adaptability. It’s all about accessing the right nutritional information and advice, alongside sourcing the most interesting and adaptable recipes. Do you agree?

Our top recipes for batch cooking on a Sunday

Beef ragu

It can be hard to find time for home cooking during the busy working week. Full time jobs and family commitments can make it tricky to fit in a food shop and find time every evening to make a new meal. Our latest cookbook – Sunday Cook-in – is here to help with some of our favourite batch cooking recipes.

Set aside an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon, put some music on, and have a nice relaxing cooking session. Then you can stock up your fridge or freezer with these delicious and nutritious recipes that will keep you going throughout the week.


Founder Debs’ greatest granola recipe

Making two large jars and tasting ten times tastier than anything you’ll find in a supermarket, this will keep you going for weeks. Serve with cold milk and a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt, plus a sprinkling of blueberries or raspberries. And take some into work with you and eat a handful to keep you going until home time. This is a great alternative to popping to the vending machine or the shop to buy sweets.

Granola


Researcher Caroline’s lentil and chorizo pie with pesto mash

Full of veg and pulses with a herby mashed potato topping, this homely and comforting staple keeps in the fridge for a few days and also freezes well.

Lentil pie


Hannah’s favourite mixed bean salad

Beans, hard crunchy veg and citrus juice make this salad last for days in the fridge. It’s the perfect summer lunch that will keep you coming back for more.

Mixed bean salad



Download Cook&Count app now for iOS or Android to make your working week a little easier by cooking ahead!

Strawberry yoghurt – what’s the healthiest option?

strawberry yoghurt infographic

Yoghurt is often advertised as a health food. It’s full of “good bacteria”, vitamins and calcium. It aids digestion, helps your immune system and is high in protein. But not all yoghurts are created equal. To shed some light on this we’ve created an infographic to raise awareness of what’s really inside this popular dairy product (and watch sugar levels in soya versions too!).

We’ve compared nutritional information for three popular yoghurts to highlight the different options (values are per 100g). We know which one’s our favourite!


Standard strawberry yoghurt

  • Often advertised as a low fat option, turns out this is a low fruit and high sugar option as well! Low fat isn’t always the healthy choice. Increasing evidence is showing that it’s sugar that we need to watch to stay in shape.


Greek style strawberry yoghurt

  • Greek yoghurt tends to be higher in fat than standard yoghurt, but it’s also higher in protein. It has a thicker consistency and stronger flavour as it is more concentrated.


Natural yoghurt with fresh strawberries

  • You’ve guessed it, our number one option. High in fruit and surprisingly low in sugar, this is the most natural option. It might not carry a low fat or low sugar label, but it contains the fewest calories too!



Swapping ingredients to increase fruit and veg content in your meals and snacks, and reduce added sugar, is a great way to improve your health. Low fat diet advice is facing a lot of contradictory evidence, suggesting it isn’t always the best option. The best thing to do is to keep an eye on the nutritional information of what you’re eating to ensure you’re getting a balance of all nutrients.



What’s your favourite type of yoghurt? Have you checked the sugar content? Use Cook&Count on iOS or on Android to find out the nutritional content of all your favourite home cooked foods.

22nd March 2017 Tags: ,

Five healthy swaps for a healthy life

Hannah healthy swaps

Healthy eating advice and messages in the media can be confusing. We’re sold simple solutions when the underlying problems are far more complex. Content Manager Hannah shares her healthy swaps for a more balanced life and diet…

Since joining the Cook&Count team I’ve realised just how complex the world of health behavioural change is! It’s hard to keep up with all the contradictory messages and diet advice that’s out there. I’ve always aimed to live a healthy lifestyle, my biggest weakness being a sweet tooth (maybe that’s where my surname comes from!).

I read a lot of health news as part of my role in the team, and it’s pretty overwhelming. One week “all natural” is best, the next “butter leads to type 2 diabetes”. Then we hear “sugar is the enemy” but “artificial sweeteners increase appetite”. It’s hard to know what advice to pass on to friends looking to improve their diets.

While making a real effort to read up on the science behind claims and avoid simple messages, I do believe in simple switches and small steps leading to big changes. It’s all about habit forming. So here are my top 5 healthy swaps:


1. Squash to water

As a teenager I could never seem to get used to the taste of pure water, but after a short period of conscious effort I’ve come to drink barely anything else. My trusty bottle of water goes everywhere with me. Sugary drinks aren’t so good for hydration, as after the water has been absorbed, some of it must be used to digest the carbohydrate. Find some more sugar reducing swaps, plus learn about how sugar is affecting our kids, on NHS Change4Life.


2. Refined to whole grain

I automatically buy wholemeal bread and pasta and brown rice whenever I can. It baffles me why restaurants don’t often have the option of brown rice or pasta! Whole grains have more of the good stuff left in than refined grains. From vitamins and minerals to healthy fats, protein and fibre. It’s National Nutrition Month this March, so what better time to make the switch!


3. Milk to dark chocolate

I’m a big chocolate eater. I like to claim it’s for the iron and magnesium, but I really just like to end a meal on something sweet. It took a bit of getting used to, and it may be a little pricey, but 90% cocoa dark chocolate is now my top choice. Even 85% cocoa solids tastes a tad too sweet! And the sugar difference is surprising. While standard milk chocolate contains 56% sugar, some of the darkest chocolates contain just 7%. Here’s a nice infographic from Prevention.com examining the pros and cons of dark vs milk chocolate.


4. Step it up (swap the lift for the stairs and the bus for the pavement)

Walking, to me, is one of the most powerful tools for health and fitness. Few of us enjoy the gym, and walking is something everyone can fit into their daily routine. I know a number of people who’ve had huge weight loss success simply by increasing their step count. As a team we always try and take the stairs when we can! Check out the NHS 10,000 steps challenge to get walking more.


5. Watch your mood (swap snacking for sleep)

We all experience how tiredness and stress affect our mood and eating habits. When I’m low on sleep I’m always craving food to keep up my energy levels. It’s an obvious one, but the benefits can’t be overstated. Keep well rested to control your cravings! As it’s Sleep Awareness Week next month in the US, take a look at this video How much sleep we really need? from the National Sleep Foundation.



What are your healthy swaps? Download Coo&Count on iOS or on Android to see what changes you can make to your home cooked recipes to improve your health.

Ellie’s story: Home cooking for a healthy family

mother and teenage son

A working mum with two sons – including 13 year old Luke who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 10 – Ellie tells us how relaxing in the kitchen (and using Cook&Count app!) helps her to feed her family…


Healthy eating and home cooking

Healthy eating was important before Luke’s diagnosis anyway – we’ve always cooked healthily and had a healthy balanced diet. We’ve never been into any kind of fad diets at all, but when you have type 1 it is partly about making sure you can carb count accurately. We aim for a low fat, healthy, balanced diet, and the way to get that is home cooked food.

Part of why I enjoy home cooking is relaxation. I’ve always enjoyed cooking but I work so I don’t have time to cook every night. I usually just potter around in the kitchen on my day off and make a batch of food for the week. I enjoy cooking for appreciative hungry boys – they’re very easy to feed! It can get a bit tedious doing the same day in day out, so I like to mix it up a bit.


The importance of accurate carb counting (and the benefits of calorie awareness)

The reason I’m interested in knowing the nutritional content of my food is predominantly for carb counting. Even if you look at recipe books that have the carb content per portion, I’ve noticed they can be way off, or not include the portion of rice that it comes on the side. The information out there can be quite misleading, so actually doing it yourself is the best way to guarantee that you’re getting the carbs right. If you get it wrong when you’re matching it with insulin, you risk having your blood sugar shooting up or plummeting down. I was quite shocked when Luke was first diagnosed that his dietitian said that he needs to be within 10 grams of carbs of accuracy in what he’s counting. It sounds dramatic, but it is important.

I don’t diet at all and I don’t do fad diets, but I have to say that when I want to lose a bit of weight the only way that I think works is doing a calorie counted diet. So I’ve been using the calorie content as well which is an added bonus! One other thing that is important on the nutritional content is fat. It’s good to have an awareness of whether your food is particularly fatty.


Making life easier

I couldn’t believe the irony of Luke being diagnosed as my maths is really not strong. I had all these scribbles – ratios worked out on the backs of envelopes in the kitchen, and I would go through packets of rice and packets of sugar, working out whole recipes by hand on a calculator. This wasn’t particularly time efficient, but then I’d write them all down for future reference. It’s much easier to have it calculated for you.

I discovered Cook&Count app on Twitter. It was quite early days and Luke had only just been diagnosed. Cook&Count app is helpful if I’m doing a new recipe from scratch to work out the carbs. I recently went through a period of thinking I had it all sorted – I’ve got all my usual recipes off the top of my head now – but he’s growing all the time. When you’ve got a teenager with type 1, they suddenly start eating more and the portion is one and a half times the size. It’s being able to adapt the sizes that’s really useful. You think you can carb count in advance, but then actually you might want seconds and a bit more pudding, so it just gives you that flexibility.


It’s all about portion sizes

The most important thing for me is the ability to carb count based on weight and portion sizes. Sometimes you’re not going to be near scales, so you can just judge it by portion size and divide it up – that’s really helpful. I haven’t seen anything like it. I know other health and fitness apps have carb counting, but it tends to be more about takeaway and restaurant food rather than actually being able to create your own food at home.

The only thing to improve Cook&Count app for me would be to be able to use it online on my laptop – I think that would be useful!



Try out Cook&Count app for free for yourself from the App Store or Google Play.

Lemon heart biscuits for Valentine’s Day

lemon and chocolate heart biscuits

A tasty heartfelt gift for the one you love this Valentine’s Day – lemon biscuits dipped in dark chocolate – created by our founder Debs…

Visually striking, with dark chocolate part coating the buttery lemon biscuits. These crisp biscuits have a refreshing zing of lemon and rich chocolate flavour that go perfectly together.

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 300g plain chocolate

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas mark 3. Line two baking trays with baking paper and leave to one side.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl before adding the lemon zest. Mix for 30 seconds then stir in the egg.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder and keep stirring. Gradually add the milk to turn the mixture in to a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes if the kitchen in warm.
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface so it is 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes and transfer on to the trays. Bake for 15- 20 minuets, when turn lightly golden remove them the oven and transfer on to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a microwave. Half dip each biscuit in the chocolate then return it to set on a new sheet of baking parchment.

 

Lemon biscuits

 

Enjoy this sweet treat with someone special, or share the love with your friends, family and colleagues!

Check out the nutritional information in the app – you’ll find this delicious recipe in the Baking section.

 

Download Cook&Count for free now for lots more tasty creations, all with accurate nutritional information, available for iPhone/iPad and on Android.

13th February 2017 Tags: , ,

New Cook&Count Android release goes live!

We’re pleased to announce that the much anticipated Android release of new Cook&Count is now available!

Offering gluten and dairy filters for those with special dietary requirements, along with lots more tried and tested recipes, Cook&Count provides nutritional information for all your home cooked favourites.

Here are some of our favourite new recipes…

 

Baked herby falafels from the Fakeaways cookbook

Baked herby falafel

Falafel are a great fast food. They are a traditional Middle Eastern food, very nutritious and versatile. Serve with a flatbread, salad and hummus. They’re also great for snacking or served as part of a mezze tray.

 

Cheesy potato pancakes with mizeria from the Cheap & Easy cookbook

cheesypotatopancakes 710x440

Potato pancakes are a popular Eastern European staple. This is a Polish recipe, which we recommend you serve with mizeria, a yoghurt and cucumber salad. This makes a perfectly balanced meal.

 

Gluten free orange and almond cake from the Gluten Free cookbook

Orange almond cake 710x440

A classic recipe, first published in A Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1968. It remains popular nearly 50 years later. Easy to make, low in fat and gluten free. This works well as a dessert or cake.

 

Completely free to download, you can give Cook&Count a try by adding three of your best recipes and following many of our own. Then for just 79p per month (£7.99 per year) you can access the full range of recipes and save as many of your own as you’d like to.

Download the brand new Android version here, or the iPhone/iPad version here, and get cooking!

8th February 2017 Tags:

How cooking burns calories

calories-burned-while-cooking

We believe in cooking from scratch not just for healthier eating, but for a healthier life. Getting active in the kitchen requires a bit more effort, but you’ll burn a good few more calories too!

Here at Health Apps, the Cook&Count app team don’t believe in strict calorie counting, but we absolutely do believe in calorie awareness and portion control. We need to know what we’re taking in in order to adjust our portions and daily exercise accordingly.

So does shopping for, preparing, cooking, serving and clearing a meal really count as exercise? It certainly does.


Food shopping

Wandering up and down the supermarket aisles or around the local shops is a healthy walk. You can burn close to 90 calories simply on your weekly food shop. And over 100 calories carrying your bags home or up some steps. Don’t ignore the effect of this routine exercise. It’s not just about the calories, it’s the movement and activity that really counts.


Preparing the dish

Thought standing around in the kitchen while you chop veg was a waste of time? Think again. From fridge to oven to sideboard and back again, you’ll be burning calories you didn’t even know about. Put some music on and you might even find yourself having an extra little jig!


Post-meal tidy up

Food bought, meal prepared and you thought you were done. But there are still more calories to lose. Laying and clearing the table then washing up will keep you moving and burning energy. The numbers may look small, but they all add up to a more active life.



That’s a grand total of 337 calories simply from creating a tasty meal! And that’s just an average. Calories burned will vary depending on your weight, so take a look on CalorieLab.com.

Cook&Count app has some tasty recipes for you to try and will show you how many calories are in any size portion, plus lots more useful nutritional information. Download Cook&Count app for free now!

31st January 2017 Tags: , ,

Susan’s story: Cutting out the carb calculations

case-study-susan

Susan has had type 1 diabetes for 45 years, and was diagnosed as having Coeliac Disease and an overactive thyroid 8 years ago. But this wasn’t to be the last of her health issues. A keen cook who values healthy eating and nutrition, Susan discovered Cook&Count app while searching for an easier way to carb count when home cooking. She shares her story with us…



All was good until 2010 when I detected a breast lump which turned out to be cancerous. I’m glad to say, because I found the lump early, I’m alive and kicking!

As a result of my various health conditions, healthy eating and nutrition is really important to me. I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Though of course there are times when I’m in a hurry or have a low blood sugar when I tend to grab whatever I can.

I try as much as possible to make my own gluten free soup, bread, cookies and cakes with reduced sugar. When I make my own products I know exactly what goes into them, especially ingredients like sugar, salt and fat. I keep only gluten free flour and baking powder in the cupboard so I can’t ever get mixed up with normal flours.


The problem: Too many calculations!

Knowing the nutritional values of food was always important being a type 1 diabetic, but now more than ever as I’m on multiple daily insulin injections. It is imperative to know how many carbohydrates are in everything I eat before I inject. If I underestimate the carbs in a food, and so don’t inject enough insulin, it can lead to elevated blood glucose. While if I overestimate I can inject too much insulin, causing low blood glucose levels. I have often miscalculated in the past – there was a lot of guess work and sometimes I’d cook the same meals as I’d know how I was going to react.

I find it so annoying that many companies give nutritional values per 100 grams rather than per portion. Diabetics have to do constant calculations – see what blood glucose is, try and assess carbs in meals they’re about to eat, and then decide how much insulin to give. Other factors like alcohol, exercise and illness may need to be factored in too!


The solution: Save your sum-free recipes

In desperation I went to Google to see what I could find on counting carbs. There was loads of stuff on calorie counting but that was of no use to me. I often said to my husband you nearly need to be a diabetic to understand all the calculations that need to be done. I came across Cook&Count app, read some reviews, saw that Deborah is the parent of a Diabetic son and was sold!

The app makes life so much easier, especially for home baking. Many gluten free recipes have a lot of ingredients, but once you get into the hang of how the app works it’s a great resource. Some ingredients aren’t on the database but you can easily insert them in yourself. I love the fact that I can keep my usual recipes or even my favourite breakfast cereals saved there. It’s so great to type in the weight of the food you want to eat, which might not be the standard weight, and not have to do the sums!

I’ve been using Cook&Count app for a year now and overall I can honestly say it was a great find for me.



Try out Cook&Count app for free for yourself from the App Store or Google Play.

Ten top tips for a healthy lifestyle

Just in time for the new year, Cook&Count app founder Deborah Wilder-Wood shares her ten top tips for a healthy lifestyle in 2017…

Over the last two generations our lifestyles have changed dramatically. We can’t ignore this anymore. 60 years ago food was scarce and we were trying to get our hands on as much as we could. Now there is a lot of food. Most of it is cheap, convenient, and calorie dense. There are also so many labour saving devices, technological advances and home deliveries that most of us are not moving around enough. If we want to lose weight and be healthier, we need to forget about dieting and permanently change what we eat and how much we move.


1. Say no to ‘Good and bad’

Stop punishing yourself! Feeling annoyed because you’ve eaten something ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ is not going to help. Most people are eating too much sugar and could do with reducing their intake. But the occasional treat will not hurt. We just need to remember that we are animals. We need to eat and we need to move. We can have our cake and eat it. Providing we’re active.


2. Cook at home

Cook your own meals from scratch, rather than eating ready meals and takeaways. It will be rewarding, more nutritious and it’s a great way of controlling what’s in there – no chemicals, lower or no sugar, and so on. Aim to eat at least 4 portions of veg and 1 portion of fruit a day. Do not count fruit juice and smoothies – they contain too much sugar.


3. Snack on veg

Snack on raw vegetables like carrots, celery, beetroot and radishes. And try other nutritious foods, in smaller amounts, such as fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate (at least 70%), and grainy crackers. Do not starve yourself – if you miss meals your metabolism may slow down as your body tries to store all the nutrients because it doesn’t know when the next meal will come.


4. Physical Activity 5 x 30 minutes

Physical activity is not just for weight loss, it will help prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. It will help keep your bones and muscles strong and your mood good. Do at least 5 thirty minute sessions of moderate intensity physical activity a week. Moderate intensity activity examples are: fast walking; hill walking; swimming; dancing, cycling; vacuuming; mowing the lawn; or digging the garden. To make it achievable and maintainable, fit as much of it as you can into your daily routine, such as walking and cycling to work. Stick to your intentions by writing down what, when and where you’re going to do something. Don’t be overambitious. And make plans together with a friend so that you can’t wriggle out of it. Check out the NHS One You page for some more tips on getting active.


5. Limit booze

Stick to the recommended maximum 14 units a week for women and 21 for a man and make sure you have at least two days off a week. This limits can be tough because the alcohol content of many wines and beers has increased. And serving sizes too, with the standard size for a glass of wine now 175ml. Which means there are 2.3 units in a standard glass of wine with 13% alcohol! Take a look at the World Cancer Research Fund Alcohol Calorie Counter to find out the number of calories in your drinks.


6. Cut smoking

At the moment e-cigarettes are very popular, but as they are so new there’s little research into their long-term side effects. They are not approved or regulated and recent research shows that this kind of nicotine use could lead to heart disease. If you are using one that contains nicotine, make sure you gradually reduce the strength of the vapour. See it as a tool to quit smoking rather than replacing one dependence with another. Just because e-cigarettes are ‘healthier’ does not mean that they are healthy.


7. Take a break

Get out every day for a brisk walk, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t convince yourself that you’re too busy – a few minutes getting some fresh air, burning off some adrenaline and releasing some endorphins will make you feel more energetic, clearheaded and happier!


8. Ditch the scales

Give them to the charity shop, or take them round to a friend’s house and use them no more than once a month. Your weight is not about a number, it’s about how you feel and look. And remember that if you’re doing more exercise, you may be building more muscle which weighs more than fat.


9. Deal with stress

Stress isn’t always a bad thing – in the short term it can provide mental alertness, motivation and efficiency. Focus on the things that are within your realm of control. Live in the present and the future, there is nothing you can do about the past. When you do feel stressed, burn off the extra adrenaline by taking exercise.


10. Do a job you find fulfilling and challenging

Our work takes up most of our waking hours. If we don’t enjoy it, it will spill over into the rest of our lives and may lead us to become negative, demotivated and stagnant. Challenge yourself and be proactive about taking responsibility for your life. Do not say “I’ll try” or “I’ll see if I can”. You are already setting yourself up for failure. Say “I’ll do that” and then do it!



The Cook&Count app team wishes you a happy and healthy 2017! And for top tip number two, download Cook&Count app for free from the App Store and get back in the kitchen!