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NUTRITION: Technology in the kitchen can help us eat healthier

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Starting with food preparation, smart scales and cutting boards can inform us of correct portion sizes and then send those portion sizes to food tracker apps to record our daily intake. One common limitation of online food tracking apps is inaccuracy of measuring and recording portion size. A smart scale takes all the guesswork out of food recording. There is one smart board on the market that claims to be a cutting board with the ability to display recipes, weigh ingredients, and it even says it can tell you if the food has been cleaned enough to prevent food poisoning.

New advances in cooking utensils such as food thermometers can help prevent food poisoning. Smart thermometers monitor the temperature of food while it’s cooking and will send alerts to your smartphone when the item has reached proper temperature. We never have to worry about under- or over-cooking again. Smart ovens, grills and Crock-Pots also provide assistance in cooking. Many of these products contain barcode scanners and a catalog of programmed recipes so your appliance knows exactly what temperature it should be at and for how long.

There are some appliances which are not necessarily “smart” but just more recently accessible to home cooks such as sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) cookers and air fryers. Sous vide cooking is sealing food in a vacuum sealed bag and then cooking the food in temperature-controlled water. Sous vide is a very healthy way to cook because it often does not involve any added fat. The vacuum-sealed bag holds in the juices and nutrients that may be lost using other cooking methods. An air fryer uses very hot air to crisp food instead of submerging the food item in oil. If you are already consuming a lot of fried food, an air fryer might be a good investment for you because air frying is healthier than deep frying. However, if you are not already consuming fried foods, I would not recommend starting.

As we sit down for our meal, smart devices can even assist us at the table. A smart portion plate claims to have the ability to use photo recognition technology to identify, analyze and track everything on the plate. There is even a fork that alerts the eater with lights and vibrations when they are eating too quickly. This fork also syncs to a website that tracks eating patterns.

As you clean up, scan the barcode of the used item on your smart garbage can to help generate your shopping lists. There are also smart refrigerators that will add items to your online grocery list when the stock is getting low, and some will even automatically reorder. Having assistance with your grocery list can help with meal planning and healthy eating throughout the busy work week.

I try to avoid naming specific brands, but the Hello Egg seems too exciting not to mention. Hello Egg is a smart “egg” that sits on your kitchen countertop. It promises to plan weekly meals according to your dietary preferences, organize shopping lists by tracking your pantry and order grocery delivery. Then it provides step-by-step video recipes. If you are frequently purchasing meal kits boxes, I think the Hello Egg would be a great substitution.

I do preach that newer doesn’t always mean better. Make sure you evaluate your household’s cooking patterns and needs before investing in smart appliances. However, despite being a non-tech person, I am very excited about the potential for healthier and simpler cooking with the rapidly advancing technology of smart appliances.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.

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