Dietary assessment and self-monitoring with nutrition applications for mobile devices

Can J Diet Pract Res. Fall 2012;73(3):e253-60. doi: 10.3148/73.3.2012.e253.


Nutrition applications for mobile devices (e.g., personal digital assistants, smartphones) are becoming increasingly accessible and can assist with the difficult task of intake recording for dietary assessment and self-monitoring. This review is a compilation and discussion of research on this tool for dietary intake documentation in healthy populations and those trying to lose weight. The purpose is to compare this tool with conventional methods (e.g., 24-hour recall interviews, paper-based food records). Research databases were searched from January 2000 to April 2011, with the following criteria: healthy or weight loss populations, use of a mobile device nutrition application, and inclusion of at least one of three measures, which were the ability to capture dietary intake in comparison with conventional methods, dietary self-monitoring adherence, and changes in anthropometrics and/or dietary intake. Eighteen studies are discussed. Two application categories were identified: those with which users select food and portion size from databases and those with which users photograph their food. Overall, positive feedback was reported with applications. Both application types had moderate to good correlations for assessing energy and nutrient intakes in comparison with conventional methods. For self-monitoring, applications versus conventional techniques (often paper records) frequently resulted in better self-monitoring adherence, and changes in dietary intake and/or anthropometrics. Nutrition applications for mobile devices have an exciting potential for use in dietetic practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Diet Records*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software*