Thursday 1 February 2018

Making Smarter Choices With the Food Scanner App from Change4Life

When I was younger I never really thought about what I ate. I remember my mum always telling me that I needed to eat my fruit and veg but you know how it is when you're a child, you always seem to take what your parents say with a pinch of salt. Since becoming a mother myself, now I can see just what my own mum was trying to do, it wasn't that she wanted me to miss out on treats, it was more about having a balanced diet.

These days there is more of a focus on the foods our children eat, and this is because of all those hidden nasties, the sugars, the salts and the saturated fats. I've always thought that my own kids ate reasonably well. Yes, they have certain junk foods like chocolate, crisps, biscuits and chips but I have always tried to balance this out by making sure that they have fruit or vegetables with every meal and getting them to alternate their snacks so they'll get one healthier one if not fruit then something like cereal bars and then they get to have sweets or chocolate for the other.


Now in recent months we've seen it suggested that our children should be eating two snacks a day, containing no more than 100 calories each, this is the next step in tackling growing obesity problems in our younger generation. To help with this, Change4Life have recently developed their Food Scanner app. The idea of the app is to enable parents to scan the barcodes of the foods and drinks they buy, letting them see just what they contain. The app can then direct you to the NHS website to show alternative ideas which will hopefully get more people making smarter choices.

Of course you can scan more than just snack foods but they are certainly a good starting point. The app is free to download on both iOS and Android so last week I decided to download it for myself to see whether my own choices for my kids were as sensible as I thought they were and I'll admit that I was actually surprised at some of the results. If I'm honest, they weren't all quite what I was expecting them to be.


The way the app works is that it tells you using the traffic light system whether the levels of sugar, fat and salt are high, medium or low. It will also tell you whether their are two many calories in your choice and give an illustrated example of just how much sugar, salt, calories or perhaps fat your foods contain. What I really like about the app is that it is accessible to both adults and children. It enables the parents to see just what they are providing their kids with and to also use it as a tool to demonstrate to their child perhaps why they need to make a change.

You can then visit the Change4Life site via the NHS to look up sensible alternatives to the foods that you might normally buy.


When I first used the app, the initial items I decided to scan were the cereal bars that my children often eat and not just at snack times but at breakfast too. Now on the plus side they came out low for saturated fats and salt but worryingly they scanned high for sugar content. This certainly had me rethinking my choices and got me looking for alternative cereal bars that didn't have so much sugar within them.

My next choice for scanning was a tube of crisps. This one I got the kids to do with me, so unsurprisingly the crisps didn't come out well, not the best choice for a snack. To make a point to my children, I then got them to scan my own crisps, my own ones are made from chickpeas and passed the 100-calorie test. So, my snack of choice is indeed healthy but could I persuade the kids to switch their crisps for mine? I actually could! Turns out that they thought mine were just as tasty.


Realistically, I'm not going to use the Food Scanner app every time I buy a snack for my kids as I still think they should be allowed a treat sometimes but if the question is do I think I will continue to use it on occasion then my answer would be yes. Being on my phone its simple and convenient to use when out and about so it would take no time to quickly pop it on when in a shop or supermarket.

I do think it it's a rather helpful tool, especially when trying to make healthier choices, so like with my cereal bars, now I know that particular brands aren't especially good for you, I'd use the app to seek out a beneficial alternative. And that goes for drinks too because the smoothies and fruit drinks that we'd guess are a good choice could turn out to be a sugary nightmare.


We've already made our first change because of the app, the girls are now eating my crisps as a weekend snack instead of the ones they'd normally choose. They still feel like they're getting a treat because technically they are crisps however I now know that this choice is actually better for their growing bodies than what they were previously eating and it's nice that we all get to eat the same foods. This means that I'm actually saving some money on my shopping bill too which is a nice added bonus.

Seen as the app is free to download, you wouldn't be losing anything by downloading it and trying it out and who knows you might change not just your kids' diet but your whole family's diet for the better.


  1. That really is an eye opener. I now need to rethink some of our snack options

  2. I’m going to download the app right now. Thank you! Great, insightful post!

  3. i love those chippeas snacks! glad they swapped them hopefully you bought some more so you get some too! The app sounds really good will defiantly going to start scan some of our snacks now!


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