A new app lets you track all your meals, gamifying eating healthy and making what you eat a social activity. Is this the new Weight Watchers?

by MORGAN CLENDANIEL

How much food did you eat yesterday? What about the day before? You probably know generally, but we’re in an age now of hyper measurements of personal data and it’s high time you could track what you had eaten every day and every meal. That’s what new startup Foodzy helps you do. There are also obvious health benefits. If you can measure your food, you can measure your calories, and then eat fewer of them. Especially if your friends are there keeping you honest.

Foodzy, a self-funded startup based in Amsterdam, launched in private beta in April and opened to the public this week. Users can save their data for a limited time for free, or get full access to your data, charts, and diet planning for $15 a year. Says Marjolijn Kamphuis, one of Foodzy’s founders: “Being a big food lover, I’ve always had a hard time keeping my weight steady. The problem is that in the long term, diets are extremely unhealthy and they are hard to maintain. The best way to stay fit is by eating varied, not too much and not too little.”

The app makes this more fun than other food tracking apps by giving calories a fun new name (bits) and using–what else–badges. Eat vegetarian for a day and get the “I <3 Veggies” badge, for instance. A bit translates into 20 calories. If you’re interested in losing some weight, you’re going to want to eat fewer bits than you did last week. Says Kamphuis: “By introducing game and social elements in your eating habits, we try to encourage people to maintain a healthy lifestyle over long term, and bring back the fun in enjoying food with friends.”

Sure, there are other apps out there that track your calories, and Weight Watchers has been gamifiying watching what you eat since before the Internet existed. What might set Foodzy apart, other than it’s cute Web 2.0 design, is twofold: the social connections and the crowdsourced database of food items.

As more and more people join (Foodzy is aiming for 30,000 users by the end of the year and 250,000 by the end of 2012), you’ll also start being able to see what your friends are eating. This could be a good way to keep your intake of bits down, not wanting to embarrass yourself in front of your friends as you binge on some cookies, but Kamphuis sees a more social aspect to it: “On my dashboard I am able to see what the ‘food match’ between me and my friends is, the same way Last.FM has been comparing me and my friend’s music taste for ages! I am now able to share recipes with my friends or hook up with them in real life for dinner because I notice we have similar taste.”

But if what you eat isn’t in the system, it won’t make tracking very easy or fun. Currently, the company has databases for different countries, with a total of 90,000 products. Users can also add their own food items, so as more people join the service, more and more items will appear. And since Foodzy is based in Amsterdam, it’s international. Travel to Paris, and you can just switch your home country to France and have access to a full database of correctly tabulated French foods.

As with most personal data trackers, Foodzy is going to work if people are willing to put in the time to track their behavior. If you do, the log of all you eat could be invaluable information to saving money, making friends, and being healthier. Says Kamphuis: “We recently received our first email from a guy who’s getting in shape for his wedding later this year who had already lost eight pounds using Foodzy.”

~Foodzy.com~