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How to Make a Diet App?

Some businesses are lucky enough to have an established customer base to tap into. Other businesses have to create a market from scratch. While the latter are likely to have far less competition, they do need to work harder to create a market need for their product.

Between 1500 AD and 1800 AD, human life expectancy in Europe was somewhere between 30 to 40 years. Today, most industrialized countries have a life expectancy of more than 75 years. Read more about this statistics in “A guide to longevity throughout history, from the prehistoric onward”. What is clear from the statistics is that we have dramatically improved our living standards over the last century or so.

However, industrialization has come with an increased awareness of the need to do more to look after our health. To this end, having a good diet is a key component. Thanks to increasing awareness of the damage that high fat/sugar diets are doing to our health, the desire to eat well and exercise is stronger than ever before. Diet apps have built their market on this perception.

They have created a niche within the larger health app market. A 2017 report states that the health app market grew by 330% in the preceding 3 years. Read “Health and fitness app usage “grew 330% in just 3 years” for more details.

You too can tap this growing market by creating a good diet app. In this article I will outline how you can create a diet app.

Contents

Features desired in a diet app
Examples of popular diet apps
Diet app development approach
API options for developing a diet application
Diet app development team
Project management approach
Important tools

Features desired in a diet app

Users of diet apps either are or intend to become more responsible when it comes to their dietary habits. You can assume that they will already be trying to take care of their health through a proper diet. However, a little extra help goes a long way, especially when it comes to keeping track of what they have eaten.

Given this backdrop, let‘s first review the features such an app should have. Consider including the following features:

  • A directory of nutritionists and dietitians.
  • An ability to hire nutritionists and dietitians.
  • Diet planning.
  • Suggestions for healthy food.
  • An ability to track water consumption.
  • Ability to track food intake, including number of calories.
  • A journal for food entry.
  • An organizer for healthy food shopping lists.

Read more about key diet app features in “Diet apps: the one feature to look for”.

Examples of popular diet apps

I will describe a few popular diet apps to help you get design ideas for your venture. Check out the following examples:

  • FatSecret: This is a free app that comes in both Android and iOS versions. It make calorie counting easy. It provides a food diary as well as healthy recipes. The app provides nutritional information about different foods, brands, and restaurants. It also has weight charts and journals.
  • Fooducate: This app has a basic free version. However, there are also different paid versions that offer additional features. The key feature of this app is the health tracker. It has a catalog for healthy food products and interesting suggestions for what to eat to maintain a healthy diet. Recipes and trending discussions are other key features.
  • Lose it!: This has all key features that a diet app should have, for e.g., a food database, dietary plans, barcode scanner, calorie tracking, exercise tracking, community access, etc. There is a free version and a premium version. The premium version has integration with fitness apps such as Fitbit, ’Nike+ Run Club‘, etc. The company has both Android and iOS apps.
  • Lifesum: This is a paid app besides, they have both Android and iOS versions. Diet plans, recipes, shopping lists, dietary suggestions are some of their features. The app has more features like a journal for food and exercise tracking, feedback and support from a community, etc.
  • My Diet Coach: This app has a free version as well as a premium version too. There are several features, for e.g., diet diary, inspirational quotes, and the ability to set daily healthy lifestyle challenges. Some of the other features are rewards, reminders, diet diary, charts for body weight and measurements, etc. The company has both Android and iOS apps.
  • Diet app development approach

    In this article, I will follow a development approach that uses ’Application Programming Interfaces‘ (APIs). APIs are important tools in the modern-day application development landscape. Developers can use API services for commonly used functions. Businesses and organizations have data that they can monetize. They build APIs so that developers can access that data.

    This allows developers to save time since they don‘t need to reinvent the wheel every time, so to speak. If you are interested to read about APIs in greater detail, consult our guide “How to build RESTful API for your mobile app?”.

    You will need to develop the mobile app front-end hence, you need UX/UI designers. UX/UI design is critical for mobile apps since users need simple interfaces that are also attractive and useful. Check our guide “Mobile navigation menu examples” for more details. You will also need iOS and Android developers for the front-end development.

    Next, you need to address the mobile backend. While you can develop it in-house and manage it yourself, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, mobile backend development takes time hence, your ’time to market‘ will be longer. Secondly, mobile backend management is a complex and involved task requiring significant effort.

    I recommend that you use a ’Mobile Backend as a Service‘ (MBaaS) provider. It will help you in many ways, for e.g.:

    • MBaaS providers integrate multiple proprietary systems, thus saving you time.
    • Multi-platform compatibility is a key area where an MBaaS provider helps.
    • User management is simpler with an MBaaS.
    • Many common functions like geolocation, push notification, etc. are provided by MBaaS providers.
    • Infrastructure and storage management becomes easier when you use an MBaaS.
    • For scaling, many apps need to use microservices architecture. MBaaS providers can make it easy.

    There are several MBaaS providers of worth considering, for e.g., Google Firebase, AWS Mobile, Kinvey, SashiDo, and Kumolos. Check our comparison guide “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?” for more details.

    API options for developing a diet application

    I will now explain a few API options in your journey to create a nutrition app. You can address several common functions with these APIs hence, let‘s take a deep dive.

    API option #1: Nutritionix API

    Nutritionix has a large verified nutrition database, and they offer the Nutritionix API suite which which developers can develop a diet app. The API suite offers the following features:

    • Convert spoken words into nutrition analysis using the ’Natural Language‘ processing.
    • Autocomplete features for search.
    • Databases with common nutritional foods.
    • Databases with branded foods.
    • A team of verified and registered dieticians.
    • Restaurant geolocation for users to search for restaurants offering healthy menus.

    Nutritionix provides comprehensive documentation for their APIs. This includes their ’Natural Language for Nutrients‘, instant endpoints, and ’Natural Language for Exercise‘ APIs. Check their API terms and conditions here.

    They have a free plan for their APIs, however, it only offers limited features, for e.g., ’Monthly Active Users’ (MAUs) will be limited to 2. On the other hand, their paid plans have more features. They also include an uptime guarantee (SLA) of 99.9%. Check out their pricing plans here.

    API option #2: INRFood API

    INRFood offers an API platform. Developers can use it to make a diet app for iOS as well as Android. They provide REST APIs to a vast database of consumer food products, ingredients, and micro/macro-nutrient categories.

    Users can use these APIs to find suggested food products and ingredients to take best care of their medical, health and dietary requirements. The API suite offers the following:

    • Access to their product and ingredient databases.
    • Data enrichment has already been done with respect to health, medical, and dietary concerns. The APIs offer this enriched data.
    • The API suite provides food products and ingredients suggestions.

    For a demo of their APIs, and for pricing details, you need to request more information on their website. To do this, you need to provide an email address on their landing page for their sales team to get in touch with you.

    API option #3: FatSecret APIs

    FatSecret, i.e., the company with a diet app, also provides an API platform. They have databases for common foods, packaged foods, and restaurant foods. Their food and nutrition APIs allow different kinds for accesses. For e.g., consumer device manufacturers, digital publishers, and health & wellness providers can access these databases via these APIs.

    You need to register with them first. They provide REST and JavaScript APIs. Access their REST API guides here. You can check out their JavaScript API documentation here. There are terms and conditions for using their APIs and you can access those here.

    FatSecret platform REST APIs are accompanied by a wide range of libraries. Developers can use these libraries to take care of several management aspects, for e.g., authentication, profile integration, etc. They have libraries for Ruby, Python, Java, .Net, and PHP. You can access these here.

    The company prices their APIs using a Freemium model. There is a basic version available for free, however, it contains limited functionalities. It allows the database access, search capability, up to 5,000 API calls per day, etc. The higher-priced plans have many more functionalities, such as advanced food and brand categorization. The premium plans also offer unlimited API calls besides, they impose no throttling limits. You need to request them for their pricing information, and you can do that here.

    API option #4: MyFitnessPal APIs

    MyFitnessPal provides APIs for various health app use cases including diet app development. It‘s a set of private APIs. You will need to enter into an agreement with the company. During this process, uou will need to provide certain information about your business, and what you intend to use the APIs for. You can provide them with this information here. After you reach an agreement with them, you can request pricing information and API documentation when you sign-up.

    API option #5: Nutrino APIs

    Nutrino, a provider of nutrition-related data services, analytics, and technologies offers their APIs for building various apps in the healthcare and well-being products including diet apps. The company has partnerships with industry leaders like Medtronic and Abbott. They also have a partnership with IBM Watson business unit (BU).

    Their ’Food Analysis System‘ uses scientific literature and runs ’Machine Learning‘ algorithms to analyze food and menus. Individual inputs like sleep habit, activity trend, mood, glucose & insulin levels are also combined with aggregate scientific literature to produce insights.

    From the diet app standpoint, you can get food trend information, wellbeing improvement, and weight management insights from their database and APIs. The company complies with industry regulations like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of the US, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU. To get their API pricing plans and documentation, you need to contact them via their website.

    Diet app development team

    I mentioned earlier that you need to onboard UX/UI designers, iOS developers, and Android developers. Additionally, you need business analysts and testers. This is a mobile app development project and mobile apps are ’Systems of Engagement’ (SoEs). ’Agile’ methodology is recommended for project management. I recommend you build an ’Agile’ team. Check our guide “How to build an Agile development team?”.

    You need to onboard a PM to manage the project end-to-end. The PM should be well-versed with PM best practices. Check our guide “Project management: 10 best practices”.

    Project management approach

    I recommend you use the ’Scrum’ technique for project management. In this technique, the PM acts as the ’Scrum Master’ whereas the ’Product Owner’ (PO) provides the requirements of features. The features are collated into a ’Product backlog’. The team estimates the features, following which a ’Sprint’ is planned, which includes developing specific features. Remaining features will be part of subsequent sprints and the work will progress in an iterative manner.

    During the execution of a sprint, the project team will conduct a ’Daily stand-up meeting’ to discuss the status and resolve issues. In a ’Sprint review meeting’ at the end of the sprint, if the features are all working in a demonstrable manner, then the work is approved. The team conducts a lessons-learned exercise called the ’Sprint retrospective meeting’ after a sprint is over. Read more about this technique in our guide “How to build a scrum development team?”.

    Important tools

    I recommend that you use the right tools to make the project management and development easier. JIRA is a good PM tool. You can find a comprehensive list in our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools in 2018”.

    You need to use a good test automation tool. I recommend QMetry. I recommend that you use a good DevOps tool for managing your builds in an iterative manner, besides one that will support you in smooth deployment. Chef is a good DevOps tool besides, it has a wide usage.

    You need to publish your production-ready apps to app stores. Check the ’Google Play’ app “Launch checklist”, and the Apple “App Store Review Guidelines” for more details.

    The cost to build a nutrition app

    How much does it cost to develop a diet app? There are a range of factors that will influence your apps cost. However, you can get a rough cost by adding up the cost of the key components. MBaaS providers publish their price points on their website. API providers either publish it on their website too. The development effort will depend on the app complexity, for e.g., how many features you want to include in your ’Minimum Viable Product‘ (MVP). Email a development company your project outline and they will be able to give you a rough quote in regards to development costs.

    Your geography and local labor market influence your development labor costs. Hiring some of the development skill sets required could be hard at times due to local labor market conditions. If you need to take professional help, consult our guide “How to find the best software development company?”.