hands coffee smartphone

hands coffee smartphoneWhether you need help figuring out where that chocolate bar came from or how long you’ll need to run in order to work it off, a new app makes food data a lot easier to understand.

Nutritional labels offer a lot of information — so much, in fact, that it sometimes seems easier to just ignore them altogether.

After recognizing that the black and white column on the back of your favorite cereal box was in need of a facelift, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a redesign of the 20-year-old nutrition label in May 2016. The revamp included updated serving sizes, the inclusion of “added sugars,” and new daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D.

Though the changes were a definite improvement, what if there was an even better way to view and familiarize yourself with food data — in a format that made sense beyond daily percentages? And what if that information could empower you to make food decisions based on your personal values and needs?

Nutrition Labels? There’s An App For That

Or rather, a website. Sam Slover, Shilpan Bhagat, and Stefan Mirea had just this goal in mind when they co-founded the Sage Project, an online platform that makes food data more accessible to the world. Their vision for the interactive web app is that it will serve as a personalized resource for people looking to find more information about the food they eat.

They also hope that by making the basics of food labels easier to understand (things like calories, nutrients, ingredients, allergens, and even country of origin info), people will be more empowered to use food data to make good decisions in their daily life. The app accomplishes this by breaking label information down visually, into infographics and animated blurbs, and then presenting this information according to the needs or interests of the user.

Nutritional Information That Caters To You

Unlike traditional labels on the backs of food products, all of the data in Sage (such as calorie and fat percent daily values) are customized to the needs of the user, so you’ll never have to scramble to calculate what the default “based on a 2,000 calorie diet” means for them.

Every food item in the Sage database (over 20,000 and growing) has its own webpage. When a user clicks a food item, the first thing he sees is an infographic of the calories per serving, the number of ingredients, how many allergens are present, and the product’s “badges.” Badges are associated with the user’s preferences and include categories like “heart-healthy” or “vegan.” After this, with the help of some colorful graphs, the nutritional information is visually broken down, as are the types of calories present and quick facts about what nutrients the product contains.

One of the most playful components of the page appears below the nutritional info: an animation detailing the exercise equivalents to burn off one serving of whatever product the user is reading about. For example, if the user wanted to burn off one serving of Tate’s Bakeshop chocolate chip walnut cookies, they’d need to run for ten minutes (represented by a container of running french fries) or do 43 minutes of yoga (represented by a pear wearing a sweatband).

Scrolling further, the user will find a detailed, annotated list of ingredients, allergens, what diets the food product is friendly for, and a map displaying the headquarters of the company that distributes the item and the location where the product was made or produced.

The Future of The Sage Project

While dozens of food apps exist in app stores, the Sage Project hopes to inspire loyalty by providing as much information in as simple a format as possible. Ultimately, the team wants the app to provide people with nutritional knowledge they can put to action. It’s about more than just re-recreating the food label; it’s about making the food shopping process smart, simple, and personalized.

Over time, by putting the data in context alongside a user’s personal health, activity, and fitness goals, the Sage Project team hopes people will gain a better understanding of food data, and use it to their advantage to navigate the often confusing world of nutrition. The Sage app will never directly tell you not to eat something — but they certainly want to keep you informed about the potential benefits (and risks) of what you’re eating everyday.

Do you have an idea for how to make food information more accessible? Learn how to get started on do-it-yourself app creation with Infinite Monkeys, the original way to #MakeAnApp.