Traditionally, analysing or recommending diets or working through nutrient composition for recipes, meals and menus meant trawling through hard copy food composition tables, a food atlas, documents outlining population health targets and nutrient reference value tables.
As with most disciplines, nutrition and dietetics have moved with the times and evolved with new technological advances. One of the main advantages of this has been the development of nutrition analysis software – software that has been developed specifically for the field of nutrition to improve and automate time consuming analysis, rendering it more efficient and less susceptible to accidental human error, like incorrect calculations.
Most dietitians and healthcare professionals will find that a nutrition analysis software package is invaluable to their business and allows them to run an effective and efficient practice. A good software package should allow you complete a number of practices, including:
- Calculate the dietary intakes of individuals or groups for one meal, one day, one week or longer. The number of eating occasions per day can be selected as well as a number of days.
- Calculate the complete nutrient content of recipes. Check that there is provision for weight loss or gain on cooking, allowance for nutrient losses and values for less common nutrients (e.g. non-milk extrinsic sugars). Conversion from imperial to metric units, volume to weight, and household measures to weight.
- Analyse a complete menu. Enter the all the days that you need, including courses and menu options. The program should allow you to compare results to the standards that you need (DRV/EAR/RNI). Menus are commonly analysed by averaging the menu items offered by the number of clients. There are methods available that will calculate the true nutrient mean. Check which method you need and that the software will provide you with this option.
- Analyse food diaries for research purposes. All the required foods should be in the database for the experiment for complete accuracy.*
With all this in mind, what should you look for when choosing a nutrition analysis software package for your business?
Up-to-date food composition data
Ensure the food composition data that is appropriate for your geographic region is included in your chosen software. It is important to check if updates, revisions and new versions of the food data are supported and immediate. Check for supplementary versions of food composition datasets for access to complex nutrient sets like fatty acids and amino acids. Check for brand/manufacturer data, information on foods for special medical purposes used for clinical feeds and food supplements.
Using a cloud-based system will ensure you are offered automatic updates to the latest versions of data sets, bringing new features, food databases and guidelines online as soon as they become available. This means you are always using the best available data sources, and not relying on out-of-date information between software update cycles, as is the case with traditional (non-cloud) nutrition programs. However, be sure to get confirmation from your software provider that your existing data will not get over-written when updates occur (unless you acknowledge and request the update).
Appropriate supplementary information
Nutrition analysis software links food portion size information, population dietary reference values and nutrient calculations that are fundamental to dietetic practice to the food or the individual as appropriate. This has changed a once time consuming and manual task to a prompted, automated process.
Connectivity with your client
Easy generation of reports and communicating with your client via email or mobile are becoming preferable ways to provide support and feedback. Bridge the gap between professional and client – studies show targeted messages supported by automation via digital technology can improve adherence to dietary advice.
Choose a software package that not only supports you to do your job more effectively, but one that also supports your patient/client to record the data you need more accurately and in a way that can be synced to your analysis software. This is the gold standard.
Accurate recipe calculation
It is important to accommodate for changes that occur to food following cooking or processing. Vitamins and minerals are susceptible to varying degrees of degradation during cooking. Weight changes occur through both loss and gain of water or oil. These will have a huge impact on per 100g and per serving nutritional values. It is important that the software you choose can accommodate these complex changes to nutrition information.
Security, flexibility and administrative support
A high level of security should be offered by your software provider. In advance of choosing your software, request information on the level of security provided. At a minimum, software should use encryption technology and data should be hosted on accredited, dedicated servers. You should be satisfied that your provider takes security very seriously before you choose to use them.
Web based software offers many advantages over locally installed software. Local software may feel like it is more secure than web based software, but this is no longer the case. Local software requires installation, management and frequent data backup. Web based software is automatically backed up and updated as required, and modern encryption technology makes most online software even more secure than local software.
Choosing the right software can and should make complying with your obligations under GDPR easy. The added benefit for a busy professional is unrestricted access to the software from any device in any location.
After sale support is fundamental to the service provided by your software. Access to online learning, topic-specific courses and guidance on usability and the best ways to use the program are signs of a software service that care. Be sure to make use of these resources. Running a business isn’t easy – make your service providers work for you.
At Nutritics, we offer a comprehensive nutrition analysis software platform that can be customised to meet your brand requirements. Nutritics is cloud-based and easy to use, and offers the most comprehensive set of food reference databases available.
Deliver superior client results through complete and accurate diet logs. Generate evidence-based reports using the latest national and international dietary guidelines. Stay connected on the go; access your account from any device securely and reliably. Nutritics is developed by dietitians, nutritionists and regulatory experts, specifically for use by dietitians and healthcare professionals. Click through to try Nutritics for free for 7 days, or schedule a demo with one of our expert advisors.
*BDA Factsheet, Nutrition Analysis Software [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jul 05] Available from: https://freelancedietitians.org/wp-content/uploads/Nutritional-Analysis-Software.pdf