2012-06-14

Co.Exist

A Pocket Nutritionist To Tell You What To Eat

Finding it hard to stick to your diet? Nutrivise is an app that will give you recipes with the exact right nutritional profile, or tell you what to get at a local restaurant.

There is no shortage of smartphone apps designed to help people calorie count and lose weight. But there’s a problem: These apps only help users stay in a certain calorie range--they don’t generally take into account how healthy your foods actually are (though some try). That means you could binge on potato chips all day and still meet your target. Most people at least attempt to eat better than that, but in a supermarket or restaurant filled with the caloric, fatty foods that we love so much, how can you make good choices without a pricey personal nutritionist? Soon, there will be an app for that.

Nutrivise, a nutrition platform designed by a handful of programmers and nutrition buffs, is essentially a pocket nutritionist--give it information on your age, weight, lifestyle, and location, and it spits out meal plans based on your specific nutrient needs (low-carb diet, vegetarian, etc.) Don’t like the food items that Nutrivise suggests? You can always swap them out for others. The app goes into serious detail, taking into account the prepared foods you like, the types of cuisines you enjoy, and what restaurants you go to.

"There’s obviously a huge demand for weight loss products and weight management systems, but there are not a lot of things to not only tell people what to eat but give them diet suggestions," explains Nutrivise CEO Laura Borel. "Most diets today are one size fits all. [For example] Weight Watchers is just points and not personalized to needs. It doesn’t go deeper into body type, age, and activity level."

I recently signed up for the Nutrivise beta to see what it would recommend based on my meat-free diet, penchant for a variety of world cuisines (including Thai, Indian, and Japanese), favorite local restaurants (the app is limited at the moment to national chains and local restaurants in the Bay Area), weight, sleep habits, body type, and more. Nutrivise’s recommendation for today: french yogurt cake for breakfast, dilled spinach crepes with avgolemono sauce for lunch, and a salad from Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. If I planned on eating at home the whole day, I could swap out that salad for a prepackaged food or a recipe (in this case, roasted salmon with lentils).

All of the meals are chosen based their nutritional makeup--carbohydrates, protein, calories, and fat--and what your body specifically needs. If you don’t trust Nutrivise, detailed nutritional information is available for each food item. According to Borel, all the recipes (sourced from Yummly) can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

The beta version is just the beginning for Nutrivise, which recently raised $750,000 in funding. There are already over 1 million food items in the database, but the startup is working with Stanford nutritionists and professors to reverse engineer the calories in various restaurant dishes--eventually, the app will be able to recommend foods at the local spot on the corner that would never bother to release its nutritional data. It wouldn’t be hard for Nutrivise to quickly expand their restaurant listings; they would just need the menus. "We’re talking now with menu aggregators," says Borel.

Soon, Nutrivise will also be able to offer location-based information about where and what to eat. Data about snacks and beverages won’t be far behind.

Initially, the startup will stick to the Bay Area, but Borel expects to grow rapidly. "One of our biggest focuses is scalability of product. It’s already scalable if you don’t take into account local restaurants," she says.

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