The Dent

"We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?" - Steve Jobs

Moderation Review: Meal Tracking For The Rest Of Us

Trying to eat the right thing, and improve my health has been a constant battle for me over the years. As with many things in my life, I often turn to technology to help me through. To this end, I’ve tried a lot of food tracking apps over the years, however none have ever stuck with me for more than a day or two.

The issue with most food tracking apps is that you already have to be very familiar and au fait with the food you’re eating. Unless you’re eating a meal from a packet, in which case you can simply scan the bar code, you need to be able to enter the measurement of what your eating, along with an approximate calorific count. Let me tell you, if you know how to measure an amount of food by sight alone, and know the calories contained within you don’t need to be tracking your calories. You’re already on top of it.

These are the exact reasons why I’ve never stuck with a food tracking app for long, and is also the reason why I was so pleased that Dominic Williams, the developer behind Moderation, shared the details of his app with me.

Moderations tag line is: ’A Radically Simple Food Diary’, which sums it up pretty well actually. Moderation is a food diary for the rest of us. It’s an app for people that are either just starting their journey towards a healthier diet, or for those just looking to maintain some top level detail about how well they’re eating over a certain period of time.

When you open Moderation you’re presented with a very clean, simple, yet beautiful main screen. On this screen, for each meal you have, or are having, throughout the day you simply need to indicate if it was ‘Healthy’ or ‘Unhealthy’, and that’s it! This basic approach to recording how healthy each meal is will likely not be enough for real health freaks out there, but it works ideally for me.

After a few days of use you will start to build up a very clear indication of how healthy your meals have been across breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. With this information to hand you will have a better idea of what needs improving without a large, and laborious, data entry dance after every meal, which you’d have in a more traditional food tracking app.

As well as the main ‘Food’ tab where you record the information about each meal, there is also a ‘History’ that allows you to see a month by month view of your eating habits. The calendar view is colour coded for each day you’ve recorded some information, so you can see at a glance how many red (unhealthy) or green (healthy) days you’ve had in that period along with a helpful bar graph detailing a breakdown of meal healthiness from your entire history. Finally, this page can display a historic view of your best and worst days, which can help you identify which days you’ve really excelled or let yourself down.

I think one of the things I like most about this app is that it’s not there to shame you, or make you over think your dietary short comings. It’s simply there to provide some top level analysis which you then fill in the blanks on. You don’t record what that meal was, or how many calories it included etc. You may, sometimes, mark a high calorie meal as ‘healthy’ because it is healthy in relation to your usual diet, or if you have a reason that you need high calories on a given day. The way you record things in Moderation allows the user to be far more subjective than other tracking apps, in what is healthy or unhealthy for you and your diet, may be completely different for someone else.

There is some light gamification included as well, in that you can start building up a streak after at least two successful ‘healthy’ days which is a nice touch. There are also achievements available as you progress. While the achievements pop up on screen as you obtain them, I don’t believe there is currently a way to view them. It sounds like, however, this is coming soon.

From a design point of view the app is also a joy to use. It’s clean, lightweight and includes a lovely dark mode theme, which is always a winner for me. When Dominic contacted me about his app, he told me he’s working on a big update to Moderation that will include:

  • Smarter Notifications: Understand if you have logged a meal already
  • Interactive notifications
  • Reminder for when you didn’t log your food yesterday
  • More variety in notification messaging
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Achievement cabinet
  • Better Insights: See your 7 day Healthy % Monthly Summary Card
  • Meal Summary Card
  • Streak Summary Card

That’s certainly a strong development pipeline, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Moderation continues to develop.

While I’m a big fan of the app, one big omission for me is a Apple Watch app. Given the simple ‘healthy’ / ‘unhealthy’ approach to meal logging it feels ripe for a basic Watch app so you can quickly rate a meal at the time of consumption. Including this in the Siri Watch face so it surfaces a button around breakfast, lunch, and dinner time would be really helpful. Interestingly it doesn’t seem to be in Dominic’s immediate development pipeline, but that’s not to say it’s not something that could come at a later date.

The app is currently free, but I would actually like an opportunity to pay something for the app, perhaps in exchange for some custom icons or themes. I’m a real sucker for paying for cosmetic unlocks in an app, as a way of supporting independent developers, whilst also getting something for yourself (beyond the app itself of course). I definitely think Dominic is missing a trick here. He’s built a gorgeous, and extremely helpful app which I’m sure people would be willing to pay for. I can totally understand leaving the core app free, but I would personally look to add some options for those of us that want to give him money and support for his efforts a way of doing so.

Unlike any food tracking app before it, Moderation has slipped easily into my day to day life. Updating my meals is a real breeze and it’s already making me a lot more mindful of what I’m eating. Moderation is a free app, with a rare 5/5 score on the App Store currently, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking it for a spin.