Lately, it seems like the word “healthy” is on everyone’s mind. Whether it’s choosing to go low-carb, low-sodium, meatless, Mediterranean or pegan (yep, that’s a thing), people are choosing to redefine the way they eat.
But when you head to the supermarket, where there are literally thousands of ingredients within reach, it’s not always the easiest thing to determine what’s going to be good for your body and what’s not. Common sense says a bundle of kale is better for you than a tub of ice cream—how do you know which pasta sauce is the healthiest? Or if your protein bar is actually a candy bar in disguise?
Allison Kuhn (M.S., R.D., L.N.), Director of Retail Nutrition at Kroger explains, “Eight out of 10 customers are confused about nutrition and regularly doubt what they’re putting in their mouths. Less than half of them can connect a food or nutrient to a health benefit that they care about.” That’s why Kroger has stepped in with a new piece of technology: the OptUP app.
Developed a dedicated team of registered dietitians, analysts and experts, the OptUP app gives you access to comprehensive nutrition information for thousands of products in a super user-friendly way. Kroger’s goal? Make healthy eating more simplified.
Each food item is given a simple 1-100 rating. Less healthy items like a Hershey’s Bar fall to the bottom of the scale, while all fresh produce is ranked at the top of the list (because splitting hairs over the calorie difference between apples and oranges should be the least of your worries). With the click of a button, you can see more detailed nutritional information.
“This is not about telling people what’s good and bad, what you should and shouldn’t eat, instituting food guilt or anything like that,” Kuhns explains. “This is that guidance around balance and intuitive eating.”
How It Works
When using OptUP, you can either search for ingredients or scan items at the store. Let’s see the app in action:
Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts—especially this Peanut Butter Oatmeal. While I was at the store, I quickly looked up the ingredients I needed in the app: old-fashioned oats, honey, flaxseed—all healthy choices, wahoo! When I got to the PB, I was shocked to see the results. Some of the usual brands I reached for were actually pretty unhealthy.
I compared my favorite peanut butter—which I had thought was pretty healthy—to the other peanut butter brands on the list and was surprised to find that it was one of the least healthy options I could buy. The app then introduced me to a new brand that had a much higher nutritional rating. Hello, healthy creamy peanut butter.
Nicole Doster / Taste of Home
The app also allows you to highlight personalized dietary labels on each product such as Heart Smart, Gluten-Free, Keto-Friendly, No Artificial Sweeteners and more. You can toggle these labels on and off depending on your own specific dietary needs.
Tracking Your Shopping Habits
Another special feature Kroger built into the app—and one I find most appealing—is the ability to track your shopping habits over time. By connecting to your grocery store savings card, the app automatically tracks your purchases and gives you a breakdown of just how healthy your shopping trip was as a whole.
After you shop, you’re able to view your own personal OptUP score which averages the nutritional value of your groceries on a scale of 0-1,000. It even tracks your weekly progress over on a nifty chart. See mine below. Pretty good, huh?
Nicole Doster / Taste of Home
This system makes grocery shopping almost game-like, as you’re urged to raise your score each time you shop. If my score fell a few points, I made sure that my next visit was even better by stocking up on these simple healthy ingredients dietitians always have on hand.
(If you’d like even more grocery guidance, Kroger’s registered dietitians can help.)
Should You Try It?
After testing out this app for a few months, I’d say that it helped me be more mindful at the store—especially when it came to shopping in the packaged goods aisles. However, if you’re one to keep a food diary, know that this isn’t a replacement. Since you’re not technically logging what you eat and to what extent, you might end up overindulging in even the healthiest foods in your shopping cart. Learn about the 12 healthy foods you should only eat in moderation.
Another possible downside is that when you’re purchasing groceries for your friends or family, their eating habits might affect your own OptUP score. But, hey, maybe your healthy choices should rub off on them, anyway?
That all being said, I’d suggest giving the app a go. You might find yourself making healthier choices—or even find a new favorite brand of peanut butter. Download OptUP in the App Store or on Google Play.