While many people spend their time bashing “screens” as our children’s undoing, others, like my friend Dr. Sara Kirk and colleagues, spend their time trying to figure out ways to leverage reality to help with furthering public health goals. Recently she helped to design and launch a new smartphone app aimed at getting kids to eat more fruit and vegetables and I asked her if she’d like to share more about it here.
Helping Families Live Life on the Veg: A new, free, research-informed smartphone app designed to encourage families to eat more fruits and veggies!
We all want our children to have a healthy start and a healthy future. Healthy eating and active living are two of the most important things we can do to improve our general health and boost our overall feeling of well-being. As part of a healthy, balanced diet, a high intake of fruits and veggies (at least five servings every day) can reduce our risk for developing some types of chronic diseases. These include heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Although there are other things that we can do to be healthy, like cutting down on processed foods and sugary drinks and snacks, eating more fruits and veggies is an easy, positive change that we can all make for a big impact.
Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 Canadian children and youth are achieving the recommended intake of fruits and veggies. And our earlier research found that parents and youth reported that they were overscheduled in ways that limit options for healthy meal preparation. In other words, healthy eating was often being sacrificed due to scheduling of leisure-time physical activities, which took priority among busy families.
So we wanted to find ways to support healthy eating among busy, time-crunched families, using smartphone technology. Through support provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Heart and Stroke to the Healthy Populations Institute (HPI) at Dalhousie University, and informed by our earlier research, we worked with a local developer to craft the Froogie app for families to track their intake of fruits and veggies in an engaging way.
The Froogie app is designed to provide a fun and interactive experience for children and families to eat healthily together. A combination of the words “fruits” and “veggies”, Froogie offers tips and reminders to promote daily fruit and veggie intake and help meet age-appropriate goals. With each animated Froogie character having a special twist for families to discover, regular use can encourage families to eat more fruit and veggies, so they can live life on the veg!
You can learn more about Froogie by visiting www.froogieapp.ca. The app is free to download on the App Store or Google Play and was featured as a “New and Notable” app on the App Store shortly after launch.
Dr. Sara Kirk is a Professor of Health Promotion and the Scientific Director of the Healthy Populations Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. She also holds cross-appointments with the IWK Health Centre and Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax. Originally from the UK, Kirk worked as a registered dietitian for several years before entering academia. Having moved to Canada in 2007 she now runs a multi-million dollar research program to understand how we can create supportive environments for chronic disease prevention.
Kirks has led several nationally funded projects that focus on the environment within schools and has over 100 peer-reviewed publications in her academic career. Through her vibrant and highly policy relevant program of research, Dr. Kirk has mentored a new generation of applied health researchers, and was recently the inaugural recipient of the 2015 Dalhousie University Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.
You can also follow Sara on Twitter!