ISU Dietetic Intern Program Partners with App to Provide Nutrition Coaching

AMES, Iowa – You've been able to track your food and count your calories online or through your smartphone for years. Now, an application provides nutrition coaching from nutrition experts, and Iowa State University Dietetic Interns will help low-income families through the app.

ISU Dietetic Intern Emily Wisecup is one of the interns training to be virtual nutrition coach. She said, "Rise is an app, and it is used to coach clients on healthy lifestyle changes."

Anyone can pay a subscription to use the app, but through Partnership for a Healthier America, low-income families will get to use the service for free. "Rise contacted Iowa State University to ask if we wanted to partner with them to provide these opportunities for low-income families to be able to have healthier food choices, and just some smarter eating ideas,” said Director of Dietetic Internship Program Jean Anderson.

This is how the app works: clients take a picture of everything they eat. The coach rates it with a green, yellow or red. "If it was a meal, I would look for at least three food groups to look for something balanced," explained Wisecup.  “I'll look for a grain, I'll look for a protein, and I'll look for a fruit or a vegetable.”

Coaches also provide feedback at the end of the day. "I can comment, hey, you did a really good job with protein today, let's work on getting a few more whole grains," said Wisecup.

Partnership for a Healthier America is looking for about 200 families to do the 12-week session between September and November. It will recruit about 300 hundred families to start using the app in January. You just have to meet certain criteria. "That they meet income guidelines, and also they have a family because we want to make sure we're impacting not just the adult individual, but also the children. Most of the families will have some overweight or moderate obesity, and we're trying to help them become healthy before they become so ill," said Anderson.

The goal is to help families make better choices while providing interns like Wisecup a chance to practice valuable skills. "Everything is kind of moving to telemedicine and telehealth, so I'm really excited to be a part of this project and be on the front end of things with technology and health promotion," she said.

Fourteen ISU dietetic interns are training to be coaches. Clients need an iPhone to use the app.  You can find more information about the 12-week free nutrition coaching on the Rise website.