We all want to make better choices when we go out to eat. It’s difficult. When you’re looking at a menu at a restaurant, you never know what type of fat and calories are in a dish. You can guess, but really, you don’t know unless the restaurant provides that information.

It’s a little easier when you’re picking food out at the grocery store because you can see the nutrition information on the package. Still, it takes time to look at the nutrition labels on every loaf of bread or on each can of soup.

The folks from Men’s Health who brought you Eat This, Not That are trying to make it easier for iPhone users to make better food choices with their Eat This, Not That app ($4.99). They sent me the app so I could check it out.

I think that if an app is going to cost $4.99 it better be pretty darn useful. Fortunately, this one is full of useful information and warrants the price tag. Here’s what you’ll get with it.

Restaurant information – Grades and information for many popular fast food and chain restaurants like Applebees, Boston Market, McDonalds, Burger King, Denny’s, Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday and many more. There are overall grades for each restaurant’s adult menu and kid’s menu as well as grades for each menu item.

Supermarket information – Many of the top national brands are rated and given grades. In the bakery category, for instance, you can find out which bread has the most fiber for the least amount of calories (Nature’s Own Double Fiber Wheat) or which tortilla has the most fiber and the least amount of sodium (La Tortilla Factory).

Calorie Logger – You can input your personal information – age, height, weight (gasp), and activity level, then tell the app if you want to lose weight, stay the same, or gain weight. The app will tell you how many calories to consume each day. You can then keep track of your calories from your iPhone.

Swaps – Swaps are specific items that you can eat or drink in place of something else. For instance, if you stop at a Starbucks during the holidays, their Venti Peppermint Café Au Lait (210 calories, 8 g fat) is a better choice than their Venti Gingerbreak Latte (400 calories, 15 g fat). Both sound kind of gross to me, but you get the picture. In a quick glance at your phone, you can make a better choice.

My Foods – You can create grocery lists and keep track of food you’ve compared in this section.

Best and Worst Lists – A while back I wrote about their 20 Worst Foods of 2009 list. They’ve put out several lists of good and bad foods, and the app has those lists in it.

I’ve only begun to delve into everything that is in this app, but so far, I find it very useful. The nutrition information for the various restaurants is really handy. It is especially handy if you’re on a program such as Weight Watchers where you have to calculate points based on nutrition information. I can’t promise you that the information is completely accurate, but even if it’s close, it’s a big help for programs like that.

I’ve written about taking the responsibility yourself to find out what is in the food you are eating instead of relying on the food manufacturers to tell you what is healthy. This app can help you figure some of that out especially when you are out to eat.

Making your food from whole ingredients in your own kitchen is still the healthiest way to go the majority of the time. But I don’t know anyone who does that 100 percent of the time. We all go out to eat from time to time. Most of us buy packaged bread or canned soup once in a while (or frequently) instead of making them from scratch. The Eat This, Not That app gives you information that can help you make more informed decisions.

Image: eatthis.menshealth.com 

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