Coventry University’s call for families to trial its new healthy eating app, supported by Warwickshire County Council, has received a vote of support from one of the food and nutrition industry’s leading voices.
Jamie Oliver’s Foundation has lent its backing to the uni’s appeal for 400 families to download and try its new Innovate UK-funded Health Heroes app, which uses games and goal-setting features to help parents – and their kids – manage meal portion sizes and achieve a balanced diet.
Parents are being invited to complete a short survey before and after using the app, during which they will be asked what they think are some of the factors influencing portion sizes – for example existing habits, or use of household objects to guide how much food is on the plate.
The app is aimed at families with children aged between 5 and 12.
Designed in consultation with parents and developed by Warwick-based health app specialists Evolyst, Health Heroes is underpinned by research carried out by academics in Coventry University’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research (CTEHR).
Health psychology experts from the centre drew from their own research into behavioural science, designing the app to encourage families to monitor their own eating and dietary habits and change them in a proactive, positive way.
The app invites users to log what they eat using colour-coded food groups and hand portion sizes, and gives feedback in the form of an infographic detailing the proportions of food groups being eaten, and suggesting food group goals for the following week.
Visual aids, a built-in quiz and daily tips also help families build their knowledge and understanding of nutrition and portion sizes in a fun and engaging way.
It is widely recognised – including by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – that current evidence points towards smaller portions of nutritious food being an important part of an effective approach to tackling obesity, particularly in children.
Dr Kristina Curtis, from the university’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research said:
“Jamie Oliver is one of the most trusted and credible voices in the food industry, so it’s great that he’s backing our efforts to help families improve their eating habits.
“We are in the midst of a global obesity epidemic, and while the public has a wealth of health promotion apps at their fingertips purporting to offer guidance on healthier lifestyles, very few of them are supported by solid research and fewer still by behaviour change theory.
“The health psychology research underpinning the Health Heroes app is what sets it apart. We worked closely with parents to design it, and it became clear that while mums and dads are very aware of issues around healthy eating, many admitted having scant knowledge of age-appropriate portion sizes and had little confidence in making dietary changes.
“Hopefully the app will encourage families to take part in managing their portion sizes and eating habits together in a fun and engaging way.”
Laura Matthews, Head of Nutrition, Jamie Oliver Group, said:
“The Health Heroes app will help and support busy parents who want to help their kids choose the right foods at the right times in the right portions but might not know where to start. This app will help make sense of all the information out there and present it in an easy to use, accessible way which will make it easier to make those food and meal choices.”
The Health Heroes app, which is being supported by Warwickshire County Council Public Health, is currently in its final trial stage.
It will be available to members of the public to use from Thursday 6 July at healthheroes.co.uk
The website includes information about how to download it to Apple and Android devices.