A Healthier U, Drexel’s program for improving wellness across campus, launched a mobile app to help students make decisions about nutrition while dining on campus.
The app, which for now is only available to iOS users, gives users information about the nutritional content of meals available on the University City Campus. Information compiled by experts in the Nutrition Sciences Department and the School of Public Health is combined with United States Department of Agriculture recommendations to provide suggestions about healthy eating choices.
“We’ve already done the homework for you,” Victor Tringali, executive director of the Office of University Wellness, explained. “We’re going to make it really simple for you so that you can have this information in front of you at any time.”
Although available in the App Store since the start of October, the application got its official launch Oct. 23 during the second annual Drexel Food Day, held in the Recreation Center. The well-attended event, which featured several on-campus eateries including Chick-fil-A, Currito and the brand-new Vegetate, as well as others, highlighted the healthier choices offered at each restaurant. Subway sampled vegetarian sandwich options, and Taco Bell highlighted menu items that were included in the Healthy Selections program run through A Healthier U.
The A Healthier U Selections program highlights foods available from Drexel retail partners on campus that are high in fiber but low in saturated fat and sodium, Tringali said. The application is an extension of that program.
“We had this healthy selections program in place,” Tringali said. “[The app was developed] to make it more convenient and to get more bang for our buck as far as getting it in front of people so that they were aware of it. It really was an inexpensive and simple way to impact a large population.”
The application, titled “Healthy Selections” in the App Store, includes an easily browsable map of the University City Campus. Tapping each restaurant will provide a list of healthy choices at that location as well as a list of “good alternatives” for meals that are still healthy but might not be healthy enough to meet the criteria for the first tier.
For example, Seasons, the restaurant on the first floor of the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, has choices like roasted red pepper salad and Tuscan white bean with spinach soup listed in the app.
There are also tips in the app for eating healthy, like choosing ketchup over other sauces at Chick-fil-A or getting a smoothie instead of soda at Currito.
Tringali said that ideas for future features for the app include adding tips about exercise or adding an activity tracker so that the app encompasses a more holistic view of health in addition to the diet focus.
Drexel alumnus Nick Pirollo, a 2013 graduate in electrical and computer engineering, developed the app.
“I spent a lot of time in the rec center,” Pirollo said of his start on the project. “I’m a gym guy; I was approached by the manager of the gym.”
Pirollo viewed the information from the Selections program through the eye of a recent graduate while he was developing the app.
“The mission of the app is to provide healthier eating options on campus,” Pirollo said. “It’s 2 a.m., and only a few things are open. ‘Let me see what’s near me and what the healthier menu options are.’ It’s a simpler way to eat healthy.”
Pirollo mentioned that although all of the information on healthy choices was available in pamphlet form before the rollout of the app, it was much easier to access the information via a smartphone app.
The application fits in with the overall mission of the A Healthier U campaign, which has a myriad of programs for students, including meditation and a walking club.
“The mission is to encourage healthier behaviors and create a culture of better health and well-being,” Tringali said. “To create an environment where people can enjoy living and working and learning.”
“By default, there are opportunities for people to be active and eat healthier,” Tringali said.
Informing students about their choices for healthy eating can help those who want to increase their wellness. The Healthy Selections program also puts logos that mirror the information found in the application on menus at the physical locations of each Drexel restaurant.