Many of us are entering 2013 with resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier or lower our blood pressure. Whatever your goal, there's an app for your phone or tablet to guide you and track your progress. In many cases, these apps are free.
Studies show that people who monitor their headway are more likely to meet and maintain their wellness goals. The key is to use the apps as tools to help you stay on track — and to not get overwhelmed by their bells and whistles. The best ones are simple and useful, motivating you to stay on course. (Don’t forget to check with your doctor before embarking on a new fitness routine.)
Here are 10 of the top diet and wellness apps to consider for the new year:
(Free; for iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle)
An ad-free, effective alternative to more formal diet plans, LoseIt lets you set a calorie budget and track how well you meet it based on your food choices. You can also log your physical activity, note your blood pressure and sync data with other devices and diet and fitness tools. A social component can connect you with others on the weight loss journey.
(MORE: The Fiftysomething Workout: 10 Top Fitness Apps)
(Free; for iPhone and Android)
This is for anyone who wants to learn more about the foods they're buying and eating — that should include you. Fooducate enables your smart phone to scan the barcode on packaged foods before you buy, giving each item a grade on its health and nutritional values, along with suggesting healthier alternatives for choices that fall short. Fooducate also offers apps for those living with diabetes or food allergies.
(Free; for iPhone, but cables and adapters must be purchased separately)
This logbook tool for diabetes patients helps you track your glucose levels by taking your data straight from your glucose monitor via a cable and adapter (sold separately). It also enables you to share readings with your healthcare provider. Find out if your monitor is compatible with the Glooko app before downloading.
(Free; for iPhone, iPad and Android)
This is the mother of all medical information apps, with more than a million users already. iPharmacy includes a database of more than 20,000 medications, along with photos and dosage guidance, to help you learn more about the medications your doctor has prescribed. The app also offers reminders to take medication and tips on how to save money on the prescriptions you purchase.
(MORE: Beware Unnecessary Health Care)
($2.99; for iPhone and Android)
Cell phones are enormously beneficial, but their constant use can be a source of tremendous stress. So where better to house the mobile meditation app Buddhify, which puts relaxation at your fingertips. With guided meditation and mindfulness tools, Buddhify offers a range of options for relaxation breaks, including choices for the type and length of meditation you prefer. You can even choose location-specific meditations.
($1.99; for iPhone)
Getting a good night's sleep is a crucial piece of every wellness and weight loss plan. Several monitor apps on the market can use your iPhone to discover what quality of rest you are really getting. Sleep Cycle, for example, not only measures the quality of sleep you are getting but can wake you gently (within a set 30-minute window) when the app determines that you are in your ideal light sleep cycle. You can also set the alarm to wake you up to the song of your choice from your iTunes library.
($3.99; for iPhone)
Smoking cessation is, along with weight loss, one of the most common resolutions every January. MyQuit Coach from LiveStrong helps you tailor a personalized plan to finally succeed at giving up cigarettes. The app can evaluate where you stand, set attainable goals for gradually quitting or even assist you in going cold turkey with inspirational messages and support. The app also connects to your Facebook or Twitter accounts so you can draw on support from others.
Weight Watchers Mobile
(Free for members; for iPhone, iPad and Android)
In line with the program's emphasis on encouraging people to track what they eat, Weight Watchers Mobile makes it easier to log in points and physical activity time. Your input on one device gets synced to your home computer, iPad or other tablet. A newly added feature makes it possible to scan items in the supermarket and see their point values before you buy. (The app is free, but many interactive features are for Weight Watchers participants only. Recipes, "cheat sheets" and other materials are available to all.)
(Free; for iPhone, Android and Blackberry)
If you're looking for a physician in a major metropolitan area, ZocDoc might be the app with the answers. Using the same strategies as popular restaurant apps, ZocDoc uses your location and patient reviews to connect you with a doctor when you need one. The app also facilitates making (and canceling) appointments straight from your phone.
(MORE: Pharmacy on a Chip)
($4.99; for iPhone, iPad and Android)
For those going through menopause and seeking to manage, or at least better understand, the symptoms, MyPause is the app. It provides information on what’s happening in a woman’s body during menopause, with videos and text, as well as tips for monitoring and handling the effects. Like many of the other valuable apps we've covered here, it enables you to exchange information with your doctor and to connect with other users via Facebook and Twitter.
Andrea King Collier is a multimedia journalist and lead author of The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health.