By: Nicole Heller / Staff Writer
FIU is launching an app designed to help people identify healthy and unhealthy snacks using a scoring system based on a USDA guideline for healthy snacks.
“Snacking is a very important part of the diet and studies suggest that students consume a lot of snacks just because they are available, cheap, and convenient,” said Cristina Palacios, the principal investigator of the Snackability App.
Palacios also mentioned that studies have shown that 94% of Americans consume snacks daily, contributing to almost one-third of their total energy intake. Around 98% of college students consume snacks daily with a frequency of 4 times per day.
Obesity is a major public health concern in the United States, particularly among college students. Palacios referred to the famous expression “Freshman 15” which is the amount of pounds gained during a student’s first year at college.
“Freshman 15 is real. We hope that by making students more aware of how healthy or unhealthy a snack is, we could help them,” Palacios stated.
“The Snackability App provides you with a score ranging from 1 to 11 points. The higher the score, the healthier the snack is,” she explained. The app also provides breakdown scores with a feedback message to help users improve, gamification features as self-motivation and reporting features as goal-setting, and self-monitoring to improve the quality of the snack.
Snackability was developed by students and experts in computer science and nutrition and was funded by a small grant received from the office of research at FIU.
Although the app has already been launched, the team is currently seeking volunteers who are interested in participating in the Snackability study which aims to determine the effects of the app for 12 weeks on the quality of snack intake, the general diet quality, and weight in college students as compared to the control group.
Participants will receive information on how to identify healthy snacks based on the USDA guidelines and learn about healthy snacks. By the end of the study, students will receive a snack bag, a water bottle, and a $10 gift card.
Palacios encourages all FIU students to click here to see if you qualify to participate in the study.