How to Develop a Diet and Nutrition App

18 MAY 2016
13 MIN


Let's face the truth: a mobile phone isn't only the mean of playing GTA or Angry Birds anymore! Mobile development industry has been growing so quickly, and now the smartphone is a thing capable of solving different problems in numerous areas of life. One of the fields touched by a quick growth of this industry is healthcare. People now strive to live a healthy lifestyle, and it seems that the building of an app focused on healthcare may pique entrepreneurs' curiosity. Since that we've decided to find out how to develop another application which can solve some of the users' problems (related to health, in the main), and make their life a bit easier.

It wasn't hard to guess that our today's goal is the building of a diet and nutrition mobile app. So right now we want to ask you to make yourself comfortable and prepare for the coolest story on how to construct your perfect food and nutrition tracker from scratch. I promise you won't regret it

About the fitness and nutrition application

Well, to one it may seem obvious, to another, it could be rather surprising, but the diet and nutrition app can be applied in more than one sphere of life (think sports) and used not only by athletes. Of course, it would be a great companion for those of us who decided to build a perfect body or are preparing for the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil, but food and nutrition tracking tools can be successfully used in medicine and daily life as well.

All the abovesaid means that food trackers can solve numerous tasks usually associated with the usage of a pen and paper, from the daily water intakes logging required when following a postoperative diet to building your grocery shopping list when planning an upcoming dinner with friends. But what do they feel like?

How to build a diet and nutrition app fitness and nutrition app

Normally, a food and nutrition tracking app is a tool which helps you log your daily food and liquid intakes, keep track of your activities, count the calories taken/burnt, and do more of wonderful things ordinary pen and notebook are not capable of doing. In a word, diet and nutrition apps help you out greatly in taking care of your body and moving toward your goals. Of course, their stuffing can differ. However, almost all of them have something in common. Considering this fact, we've decided to devote the next two blocks to describing the features that form our food journal app. Are you ready to dive deeper? I suppose you are :)

Features to build fitness app

As far as we've touched upon the subject of diet and nutrition app's capabilities, you might want to know more about them, don't you? If so, we will start with a handful of basic features every self-respectful digital nutritionist should have. We call it the minimum viable product, you can call it 'a normally working application which can attract a good number of users in the beginning'. So let's build the skeleton of our future food and nutrition tracking star.

Feature #1 Registration

And our first bone is a registration form. I've tried out numerous apps for tracking food, and they all start with asking you to fill in the questionnaire. In fact, you shall not pass until the application has the fullest info about your current state. Actually, this move seems quite logical. Because this is typically what you do when you come to a live nutritionist or coach.

However, our in-app registration procedure is a bit different and includes one more action to be performed before giving an exhaustive description of user's physical condition. I mean a standard signing-up via email or social networks. As usually, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and others are good for such purpose.

how to develop a diet and nutrition app registration form food tracker

Getting back to the questionnaire, we want to give you a basic idea on what is may contain. Thus, your application can interrogate a user about:

  • his/her age 
  • height 
  •  current weight 
  • desired weight 
  • allergies 
  • food preferences 
  • goals, etc.

Maybe the best but still the most hypercorrect registration form I've ever seen is the one provided by Eat This Much. They have all the abovementioned and two more points like body fat and activity level. Thus, a user can get the best recommendations as for his or her perfect diet.

But what I like even better is their animated tutorial in the very beginning. Actually, an introduction can play a significant role in gaining users' sympathy. That's why we advise you to provide them with a brief explanation on how your food tracking monster can help them out in solving their problems. Colorful pictures or animations are your best helpers at it.

P. S. It's very important to give users an opportunity to choose between the metric and imperial measure units. So you'd better keep it in mind if you want to expand your user base.

Feature #2 Food logging

Let's not forget that the main goal of our nutrition app is keeping count of what you've eaten or drunk. That's why we need some input fields, dictionary, and calories data book. Oh come on, why isn't clear enough?! That's obvious, your users don't want to type the whole name of a dish every time they want to log it. Moreover, counting calories on their own doesn't feel that pretty. So you'd better work out the fullest food dictionary ever and add some colorful pictures to make it look even better. Oh, and take care of a food calories calculator. Let's always learn from the greatest apps to track your food intake (like Ingredient1 or Noom Coach).

Feature #3 Dashboard

Actually, these two, I mean the dashboard and food logging, are deeply connected. Once input, daily stats should be visible. A dash of beauty and action is exactly what our application needs. That's why every user's move should be reinforced with a high-level visualization. The animation below may put an idea into your head :)

how to develop a diet and nutrition app food calotie calculator food tracker

Feature #4 Diet plan or user's goals

Most users expect your application to provide them with a useful info regarding right eating habits. So let's not let them down.

Once a user specified a goal, desired weight, and food preferences, you may suggest him or her one or another diet. In case you don't want to be responsible for all this stuff, you may redirect them to a real nutritionist. But that's another story (which will be discussed later).

Feature #5 External trackers support

Let your users connect the app with third-party devices, and they will be able to track how much calories have been burnt during a day. Apple Watch, Android Wear, Fitbit, and Jawbone are Ok, but our biggest secret is the collaboration with as many wearables and tracking devices as possible. However, we can always steal some data from the Apple's HealthKit and Google Health. Soon you will find out how exactly.

how to develop a meal and nutrition app wearables fitbit app food journal app

One of the most useful inventions of all times in fitness industry (yet) is the Fitbit Aria smart scale. Why is it smart? Besides the ability to measure user's weight, body fat, heart rate, or monitor the air quality, this device logs this data directly to a smartphone. That's even more convenient than logging via your Apple Watch or Android Wear accessory. One more attractive thing is that this scale supports the logging of multiple family members.

Feature #6 Notifications

Consider the fact that a food and nutrition tracker should be always on the lookout. I mean it can push users toward their goals. And the best way to do it is to remind them of yourself. It would be nice to hear from your app several times a day. However, your tracker shouldn't be annoying. 'Hey, sup?' or 'Get a refresh!' twice a day will be just enough :)

Feature #7 Help

Show that your users can always count on you. That's easy, just put the '?' somewhere (in the corner) and let your users refresh their memory in case they are confused with a number of buttons. The introductive tutorial can be not enough sometimes.

how to develop a diet and nutrition app fitness and nutrition application

Well, at this point, we need to proceed to the following block which includes the features that can be included after your application has grown a significant user base. So let's see how we can add seasoning to your product.

Features to add afterwards

Feature #8 Community

Talk about family members and other people trying to lose weight or live a healthy life together, here should be a social element making them want to return and use your application again and again.

The thing is, people use fitness apps for personal purposes but they do want to show off their results, share experience, and compete. In the case of an app to keep track of weight loss, we could add a food blog, like the best food and nutrition apps do, allowing users to share their favourite recipes and experience. Of course, scoreboards are well accepted. Let your users compete and become healthier two birds with one stone! Check out how it's implemented in MyFitnessPal.

how to develop a diet and nutrition app calorie counter app scoreboard

Feature #9 Linking to live experts

However heedful a diet and nutrition application may be, it won't be as severe as a live specialist. So you can integrate something like a real-time chat within your app. Take, for example, Rise (the best weight watching app) and it's strategy. The application pairs you with a dietitian coach which asks you to send him photos of the food you eat for reviewing on a daily basis. Depending on your goals, a professional works out a diet plan that fits you best and checks if the food you is really healthy. You can get the service for as little as $14.99. Sounds like another great way to earn money on your app.

how to develop a meal planner dieterian coach app nutritionist

Feature #10 Recipes

The in-app recipe book could be actually a good idea for your existing meal planner app. What's more, there is a chance to upgrade this improvement. How? Ask the SideChef developers. It seems that these guys have just found a new approach to making food. The app provides step-by-step voice instructions while you're completely immersed in cooking (or pan, who knows). If SideChef goes way too fast, you can ask him to repeat commands without having to get your device dirty.

Feature #11 Barcode scanner

If you seek to improve your application further, you can integrate a barcode scanning feature with your diet planner app. Fooducate has even surpassed itself at it by giving an opportunity to scan item barcodes and get a brief description on how nourishing it is.

Feature #12 Grocery shopping list

Just like in the case of food logging, you can embed a dictionary that will help your user out in building grocery shopping lists. Want to stand out? Well, you can learn from Thrive Market and their approach towards getting food shopping to the next level. For as little as $59,95 a year, users get the craziest deals on natural and organic products. They even make it possible for a user to shop online and get the order delivered right to his or her door.

how to develop a diet and nutrition app food tracker grocery shopping list

HealthKit and Google Health

Now it's time for geeking. As I've promised, I'm going to shed some light on data stealing. The thing is, providing their APIs, Google and Apple let other applications exchange the vital data on person's activities and state. Thus, your application doesn't have to query smartphone's embedded utilities every time it needs the data on the steps walked or calories burnt. Apple and Google Health apps do already have all the necessary info.

Apple Watch and Android Wear extension

Apple's and Google's wearables were actually developed to collaborate with mobile applications and be their deputies in case a user isn't able to carry a smartphone around. So why not develop a mini application for Apple Watch and Android Wear. I can't see any reason not to do so...

how to build a fitness and nutrition app calorie countong app

Monetization models

As always, the most interesting part was kept until last. So, how to earn... Here we have several options. The first one is selling you app for upfront money. Although, it's kind of risky. Trust me, the field of diet and nutrition apps is heavily saturated so we need to have something to impress your future clients and stand out. That could be easily implemented by using the following approach going freemium. You show what your app is capable of doing and ask your client to buy a subscription to get more of it's functions. And let's agree that the caption 'Free Calorie Counting App' looks much more tempting.

If you want a smashing monetization combo, you can always mix and match premium with the in-app advertising. However, it's not advisable. Because buying a subscription implies getting free of annoying ads. However, a handful of promos on the best deal from the nearest supermarkets can be quite useful.

Well, it seems that now you're fully weaponed and ready to get down to work. Remember, if you need someone to make your ideas live, we are always here waiting for your message, or call, or e-mail, or carrier pigeon :) In short, drop us a line anytime you need a piece of advice or something.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here's the list of basic features for a diet and nutrition app:

  • Registration
  • Food logging
  • Dashboard
  • Diet plan or user's goals
  • External trackers support
  • Notifications
  • Help

To create your own diet and nutrition app the main two points are to create a feature list and decide on a revenue model. Besides, it's also important to analyze the market and find a software development company that will build a product for you.

To make your app more sophisticated and broaden functionalities, you can create the following features:

  • Community interaction
  • Linking to live experts
  • Recipes
  • Barcode scanner
  • Grocery shopping list

Google and Apple provide their APIs to let other applications exchange vital data on a person's activities and state. Thus, your application doesn't have to query the smartphone's embedded utilities every time it needs the data on the steps walked or calories burnt. Apple and Google Health apps do already have all the necessary info.

Here's the list of monetization strategies for diet and nutrition apps:

  • Ads
  • Freemium
  • Subscription plans
  • Paid apps

Normally, a food and nutrition tracking app is a tool which helps you log your daily food and liquid intakes, keep track of your activities, count the calories taken/burnt, and do more of wonderful things ordinary pen and notebook are not capable of doing. In a word, diet and nutrition apps help you out greatly in taking care of your body and moving toward your goals.

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