Before I switched to a plant-based diet meal plan, I’d decided to eat cleaner foods and less fatty and processed junk. For my family, that meant no more pasta dishes with heavy red sauce, no more mini pizza bagels … but what could I eat? I started relying on the great big internet for help (mostly Pinterest!). But it’s a bit different when you’re out and about. How do you know from glancing at a label that what you’re about to purchase is good for you, good for the earth, and free of surprises? That’s why I have an army of apps to help me! Here are 5 vegan apps ones to help make your life a little easier.
And one last thing … all of these apps are FREE to download from both the App Store and Google Play! Yessss!
1. Is It Vegan?
This handy vegan app utilizes a barcode scanner to scan any food or drink and point out if an item is Definitely Not Vegetarian, Definitely Vegetarian, or Definitely Vegan. It will even break down the ingredients by category for you! By scanning or entering the product code, you will receive your answer in seconds, made easy by the little meter on top. If it’s smack in the middle of the meter, it’s Definitely Vegetarian, so anything less will raise your vegan eyebrows.
In my example here, I scanned a snack pack of cookies (whoops), and they are Definitely Vegetarian. One interesting feature of this app is that you can choose whether or not you consider sugar to be vegetarian or vegan, so that affected my outcome. If a product doesn’t exist in their database, you can add it; it can only get better as it becomes more popular and its users more involved.
Fooducate works in a very similar way to Is It Vegan, but on a much larger scale. Rather than instantly rating its vegan-ness, it rates the overall quality of a food product based on its ingredients. If there’s anything funky in your food that you might not know about, Fooducate will tell you. While it is not tailor-made to vegans, you can easily indicate whether you are eating vegan, and each food item’s description will then mention whether or not it is. This works with very few exceptions, but I found one of them: in the example, I scanned Whole Foods’ regular 365 Crunchy Peanut Butter, which says that it is only vegetarian. But the label on the jar says it’s vegan, so the description isn’t quite right.
What I love about the Fooducate team, however, is that they will actually respond to your questions, requests, and concerns. I find that the community on Fooducate is larger and more present than Is It Vegan, thanks to the commenting system and speed of user-added submissions. This is a very well-built vegan recipe app with a lot going for it.
Edamam is a rather popular recipe app that helps you pick out something yummy based on what you’re craving – tofu, pancakes, smoothies – and any caloric or allergen restrictions. Luckily, it has both vegetarian and vegan offshoots that you can download, giving you access to everything you want without having to sift through non-veggie recipes! Key ingredient recipe reader shows up as a checklist, so you don’t have to remember or even import them onto some other note-taking app to make a list. What I like best about this app in particular is that it gives you a nutritional breakdown of everything in the dish, including all of the essential vitamins and minerals.
Unlike some other recipe or food apps, all of the recipes on Edamam are from reputable sites, so you know that the thumbnail for each one looks nothing short of delicious. If anyone ever gives you a hard time about “rabbit food,” just show them this! They’ll drool, too.
It’s the 21st century. People Instagram their meals and spend about as much time making the pictures look perfect as they do eating the darn food. If your homemade food has always been so good that you felt it needed its own Instagram-like app – here’s Snapdish! This is great for two things: one, gazing longingly at the fluid stream of food pictures, which you can mark as “Yummy!” or “resnap” (think retweeting or reblogging), and the user base of very vegan-friendly foods. Snapdish is made by a Japanese developer, as will likely be obvious to you the moment you visit their website or open the app, so I haven’t had any trouble finding interesting tofu or seitan dishes here. The site itself has a “vegan” filter to save you time.
How is this app most like Instagram, though? When you take a picture of your food, you can “cook” it – the photo, that is! None of the filters go overboard with the adjustments as some photo editors can; it’s all very well-balanced. Below is a mediocre picture of my breakfast that I cooked to be “well-done.”
Looks delicious now, right?
Last but not least, what I believe should be a staple of smartphones, the official PETA Cruelty-Free list. This is a simple and fairly comprehensive list of companies who are certified cruelty-free. I’ve found this most useful when I’m looking for something specific, such as toothpaste, and can use the Products tab to find out what companies make cruelty-free dental care products.
There are a couple of caveats to this list, however: it seems to be somewhat out-of-date, so I hope that we can rally to update it soon and ask PETA to either add more certified companies, or get to doing that. It also does not take into account some brands whose parent companies are NOT cruelty-free. For example, Tom’s of Maine is a nice and natural company who are certified and on this list, but I know for a fact that they are owned by Colgate. Colgate are not cruelty-free and engage in animal testing. So, you have to be careful, or know a thing or two.
If my experiences with these apps has taught me anything, it’s that community engagement is key to making these products better. As it stands, though, having this tool is much better than going into a store unarmed.
Do you guys have a favorite app, vegan or otherwise?
Related: 7 Best iPad Apps for Foodies
Photo: Jen Lowinger