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Bournemouth University researchers develop app to help people consume their five-a-day

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
person scanning vegetables with phone app

A new app has been created by researchers at Bournemouth University to help people reach the recommended target of five portions of fruits and vegetables every day.

The SMART-5-A-Day app is free to use and has been developed to help people better understand the correct portion sizes and foods that contribute to this daily nutritional target.

To use the platform, users pick the fruit or vegetable they have eaten and the amount they ate. The app will then tell them whether they consumed a full or partial portion. It also monitors how close they are to reaching their five-a-day target.

Current Public Health England figures show that only one in three adults and 12% of 11 to 18-year-olds consume the recommended number of fruits and vegetables.

Other studies from Bournemouth University have also shown that even though most adults in the UK have heard of the five-a-day advice, fewer know how to meet the target, with many thinking they can reach it by consuming foods like crisps, chips and strawberry jam.

A survey published in June 2022 revealed that many young people are confused about what counts as their five-a-day, with 24% of children between 7 and 11-years-old and 17% of aged 11 to 16 thinking that chicken could be included.

Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology at Bournemouth University, who led the studies and the development of the new app said: “Almost everyone knows they should eat five a day, but when we looked a little further, it was clear that a lot of people did not know what counts towards the target, they did not know what a portion size is, and many did not realise that they needed to eat five different things.”

She added: “What is unique about this app is that as well as tracking daily fruit and vegetable intake, it teaches people about portion size, so they get to the point where they know what they need to eat themselves. We think this will be an effective tool to improve people’s diets for the long term, rather than simply for the short period that they use the app”.

An earlier trial of a prototype version of the app revealed that it improved the eating habits of some users as well as their understanding of what goes towards their five-a-day.

Digital platforms are being used more and more to help people follow healthier diets. Last year, in a bid to tackle growing childhood obesity in the UK, the Government launched the NHS Food Scanner App to help parents find alternative food and drink options to products that are high in salt, sugar and fats.

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