A World of Food Choices in the Palm of Your Hand | Omega

Food writer and editor of Edible Hudson Valley, Eric Steinman, helps you use your mobile device to make the best decisions for grocery shopping, cooking, and dining out. 

When choosing what to eat, it is safe to say that 90% of the time such choices are not made in front of our computers, scrutinizing the latest analytics about sustainability and pesticide concentrations. No, these choices are more often made on the go, when we are standing in wonder amongst the menus, farm stands, and variety of food options we are to navigate on a daily basis. Thankfully we have that 21st century tool, the smart phone app, that aggregates and delivers information about the food we eat with just a few swipes of our finger. It helps us find the restaurants that matter as well as the foods that are the safest and most nutritious to consume. Here is a list of some of the most indispensable and helpful food apps available today that make split second decisions about what you eat more than just an educated guess:

Epicurious: Free

The reigning king of recipe apps, Epicurious culls recipe wisdom from years of back issues of Bon Appétit and Gourmet magazine, along with the seemingly endless backlog from Epicurious.com (with 100,000 recipes and counting). You can search by category (summer dinners) or simply by ingredient (kale) to find a wealth of recipe options. Each recipe provides explicit step-by-step instructions, along with an ingredient list that can be ported over to an interactive shopping list that is always at the ready. One of the better features of this recipe app is the (sometimes) lengthy recipe reviews posted by fellow app users that provide constructive criticism, useful workarounds, and even a few cautionary tales of kitchen mishaps.

Local Eats: 99 cents

Travel often drops us in locales that are unfamiliar, presenting a food landscape of chain restaurants and uninspiring dining options. The Local Eats app endeavors to bring some native wisdom to the search providing listings of well-regarded dining spots that aren’t chains, but tried-and-true local eateries, from pizza to Pakistani food. Using the GPS tracker in your phone, Local Eats will allow you to search restaurants by category, by price range, or alphabetically to find locally owned food options and steer you away from the mediocrity of corporate chain dining.

How to Cook Everything: $6.99

Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and famed cookbook author, turns his culinary tome of the same name into an invaluable smart phone app. With over 2,000 recipes from his stable, this app feels a bit pricey compared to some of the free comparable recipe apps. However the value of this app is not in the sheer number of recipes, but the personality, expertise, and culinary tutelage that comes loaded into the app. While often it is enough to have a well-written recipe, sometimes you need a little hand-holding and culinary instruction to get you successfully through braising techniques and something as tricky as deboning a fish. Bittman’s app lays it all out with step-by-step instructions and illustrations that make the hefty price of admission worth it.

Fooducate Plus: $4.99

An app for the supermarket shopper, Fooducate is intended to clear away the fog and confusion that comes with reading ingredient labels while trolling the aisles. This app functions as an indispensable resource for shoppers who are trying to make the best/healthiest choices when shopping. Its appeal is its simplicity: use the camera function in the app to scan the bar code of anything you are considering buying and you instantly get information about calorie content, and whether the product contains genetically modified ingredients, gluten, and nonvegetarian ingredients. In addition, the app makes suggestions for better and healthier alternatives to choose from and provides each item with a letter grade. And even if the item of interest doesn’t come packaged or with a bar code (for instance, a banana), Fooducate gives you info about possible pesticide content and other health concerns that may impact your decision.

Seafood Watch: Free

Making sustainable and healthy seafood choices feels about as easy as catching a fish yourself. Seemingly, today’s sustainable option is tomorrow’s endangered species. Monterey Bay Aquarium has long been publishing their Seafood Watch wallet cards that provide consumers clear information about the best and worst seafood choices to make. They have since moved into the app realm providing a more dynamic interface, providing frequently updated information about the sustainability of everything from abalone to yellowtail. In addition there is a complete sushi guide as well as local guide that directs you toward restaurants offering sustainable seafood options.

© 2013 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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