It All Adds Up: Nutrition Analysis Software Can Open the Door to Professional Opportunities

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    asanpoimportant attributes of nutrient anal-ysis software.

    Depending on work setting, Marr

    inventory control, and othersor in-formation technology standards, suchas client-server, Web-based, portabil-








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    Personal selection criteria may in-

    CostCost is frequently a factor when pur-chasing any type of product, evenfrom something as simple as a pack-

    This article was written by KarenSTeMtSTATEMENT OF POTENTIALCONFLICT OF INTEREST: Seepage S34.d

    Following are some questions an age of ballpoint pens to something asoi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.03.005

    2011 by the American Dietetic Association Supplement to the Journal of the AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION S31ity, security, and so forth.says, considerations may include in-tegration into a larger platform withadditional functionssuch as menucosting, medical nutrition therapy,

    clude factors such as cost, user friend-liness, and product quality:

    tein, MFA, a freelance writer inraverse City, MI, consultantditor for the Nutrition Careanual, and a former editor at

    he Journal.practicIt All Adds Up: N

    theis article is reprinted from the Feb-ary 2011 issue of the Journal (2011;1:214-218).

    ecause HR 3590, the PatientProtection and Affordable CareAct, includes a mandate (Sec-

    n 4205) that calorie information bested at the point of purchase fornding machine snacks and stan-rd menu items at certain types oftaurants (1)specifically, chaintaurants with at least 20 machinesestablishments across the coun-the nutrient values of restau-t offerings and how they affect the

    ily diet are back in the spotlight.wever, at these early legislativeges, this attention is mostly com-from government officials, health

    d nutrition professionals, and jour-lists, with the ultimate goal of cap-ing the attention of consumers

    ce these provisions are put into ac-n.s a result of this impending needaccurate nutrient information,

    istered dietitians (RDs) may soond themselves asked to providese data in a number of contexts,m the restaurant that seeks to de-mine calculations for its menuhether by mandate or choice) to theivate client seeking to make sensethis information. Provision of suchormation requires access to a reli-le, robust, and accurate nutrientculation software program. Butw does an RD go about selectingapplicrition Analysis SoDoor to Professiosoftware program that best suitsor her professional needs?


    cording to Liz Marr, MS, RDwhoads Liz Marr and Associates LLC, ad and nutrition communicationssultancy outside Boulder, CO, and

    ovides recipe development and nu-tion analysis information to food

    panies and restaurantschoosingy type of software can be dauntingcause of the number and variety ofailable platforms (see the Figure).wever, conducting the research invance will lead to more satisfactionth the purchased product.

    ote that many nutrient calcula-n software packages have the samesic features and functions, includ-

    intake analysis, recipe creationd analysis, client data tracking,d report generation (2). It is there-e necessary for potential users tove a strong sense of how they ex-ct to use the software in their prac-e.

    arr says that it is important tove a clear idea of the most crucialctions for ones particular practiceting before shopping around. Sheommends creating a spreadsheetrate the functions of various plat-ms.If you think about the end-productthe services you are providing asRD, Marr says, accuracy and re-

    rting capabilities are the two mostationsBUSINESS OF DIETETICStware Can Openal Opportunitiesmight consider when evaluating

    tware packages (3):

    oes the database contain all theoods and nutrients of interest?s the database complete for thesearticular nutrients?re the foods in the database ade-uately specific for accurate nutri-nt assessment?s the nutrient database main-ained for accuracy based on mar-etplace and data-availability up-ates?oes the software manufacturer

    ommunicate regularly with foodanufacturers for updated infor-ation?ow is accuracy ensured?

    Although database currency is aluable requirement, be aware thatith 800 new products hitting thepermarket shelves every month, itifficult for software manufacturers

    be fully updated at all times (4).Selection criteria based on softwaretures may include the following:

    oodservice management capabili-iesutrition assessment capabilitiesutrient analysis capabilitieseferenceenu production and management

    apabilitiesata regarding specialty popula-

    ionsitness programming capabilitiesunctionality on a portable digitalssistant

  • Fig


    S32ure. Information on nutrition software manufacturers and their products applications. Adapted from reference (5).

    May 2011 Suppl 1 Volume 111 Number 5

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    BUSINESS OF DIETETICSplex as an insurance package.trient calculation software costs

    n run from close to $100 to approx-ately $700, and frequently theseices are for access for a single userd dont include additional fees suchfor updates and upgrades. But

    ile it may be tempting to purchasesed on savings, like most products,fewer dollars are paid for nutrientlculation software, then fewer fea-res are offered. For example, al-ough an RD may feel sticker shocken considering the higher-end soft-re packages such as ESHA Re-rchs (Salem, OR) Food ProcessorL, CyberSofts (Phoenix, AZ) Nu-Base 7, and Axxya Systems (Staf-d, TX) Nutritionist Pro 4, it is beste or she also takes practice needs

    o account: the pricier bundles onerage profess a greater number ofds in the database and nutrientsalyzed and availability of a down-dable trial (5). However, not all nu-tion professionals will need a pro-m as robust as these.

    Marr advises RDs to factor the soft-re costs into the annual budgetth the understanding that becauseongoing database and program-

    ng updates (a highly desirable fea-re), the software is not going to be ae-time expense but rather a licenseth periodic charges.For that reason, RDs should bereful not to overbuy a softwareckage beyond the needs of the prac-e; however, by that same token,nderbuying a software package oring to make do with free softwarell not have a successful outcome.ou get what you pay for, and youed to be able to stand by your ser-es, Marr says.

    r Friendlinessse of use is a frequent criterion fortware selection of any kind. Al-ugh new software applications fre-

    ently take some getting used to, es-cially if one is accustomed to anothermat, manufacturers demos are veryeful in determining how comfortables to work in a given program. Whilee manufacturers provide would-be

    ers a mini-tour, other companies al-full access to the programs func-

    ns for a restricted time period (2).Keep in mind, however, that demose frequently abbreviated versions of

    e software and may not accurately theect the extensiveness of the data-se; therefore, would-be purchaserse encouraged to look beyond theal versions for assessing databasepabilities (3).However, user friendliness mayo refer to how helpful the manufac-er is if problems should arise. Con-ting a software manufacturers in-mation line with pre-purchaseestions will provide a useful glimpseo the quality of its customer serviced indicate whether it provides clearpport or is unhelpful (2).While considering the actual inter-tion with customer support repre-

    tatives, if there are budgetary con-ns, it is also worthwhile to makete of any additional costs that cometh customer supportsome compa-s may opt to not provide a toll-freeone number, and some might offerly a limited number of free helplinells before charges are imposed (2).RDs who use a Mac (Apple Inc, Cu-rtino, CA) should note that optionsMac users are limited (6); however,

    rkarounds, such as personal com-ter emulators, are available (7).Whether via their Web site or uponsumer request, many softwarenufacturers provide informationarding recent updates, software

    tches (to fix glitches), and other im-rtant software-related news.Also important is the venue inich the RD seeks to use the soft-re. Marr notes that several soft-re packages are available in a cli-t-server configuration, whereasers are designed for standaloneputers that are not networked,

    d yet others are available via theb; thus, the RDs practice need willorm which version or installationthod is most suitable.

    duct Qualitys may learn a lot about the qualitya given software package by re-rching the available programs ortacting the manufacturers directlyask product-related queries of cus-er service. For example, the profes-

    nal background of the individualssulting on product creation gets atcredibility and potentially the reli-

    ility of the data as well as the func-nality of the software, says Marr.wever, the softwares intended ap-cation will determine who best serves

    product development team. Whereas clu

    May 2011 Supplement to the Journal ony software products might haves or food scientists on the team, formple, For software systems gearedmarily toward foodservice, involve-nt of individuals in other disciplines,

    ch as chefs and operations managers,uld be important.For RDs unsure of what to asken attempting to discern a prod-

    ts quality via a customer servicepartment, Marr recommends thelowing questions:

    hat type of training do you pro-ide initially and, if there are per-onnel changes, in the future?ow often do you provide databasend program updates?re software updates available foreb-based downloads?

    or larger operations and softwarelatforms, what level of onsite or re-ote software support do you offer?ow do you address database er-

    ors reported by customers?

    The number of items in the data-se itself may not be a useful tool fortermining the comprehensive qual-

    of a software package, becauseme systems include separate data-se entries for different forms of theme food (eg, solid, cubed, andted cheeses), for different prepara-

    ns of the same food (eg, fried,ked, or breaded chicken), or for theme food with amounts expressed inferent units (3).Food manufacturers avail softwarenufacturers of their products nu-

    ent data for incorporation into thetabase. Yet, despite the continuousolution of these productsin ear-r iterations of nutrition calculationtware, for example, ethnic foodsd vegetarian options were less com-nly included in the databases (3)ormation gaps do still exist. Thatsere an RDs knowledge comes intoy, says Marr. Being able to makeormed judgments for substitutionsimportant.

    FTWARE PACKAGES FOR DIFFERENTACTICE TYPESnoted previously, different types oftetics practice will be best serveddifferent types of nutrient calcula-n software programs. According torr, examples of practices benefit-from specific types of software in-de the following:


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    S34or RDs who plan menus forchools participating in the US De-artment of Agriculture Schooleals program, only certain soft-are programs have been approved

    or such use.*ome nutrient information analysisoftware is part of a broader soft-are platform that allows integra-

    ion of data, which have applica-ions in larger food and/or nutritionervices systems. The software mayllow for medical nutrition therapyanagement, diet planning, menu

    lanning, recipe development, andndexing as well as nutrient informa-ion analysis of menu items; how-ver, the programs may also includeusiness planning and operationsanagement components such as in-

    entory control, purchasing, order-ng, sales, menu and recipe costingnd pricing, and so on. ComputritionChatsworth, CA) is an example ofuch a program with applicationsor health care settings, whereashefTec (Boulder, CO) is used for

    estaurants and foodservice systems.ome software is designed to meethe food labeling regulations andreate food labels, whereas someoftware is primarily for nutrientnalysis of consumers food intake.or example, ESHA Researchsood Processor is primarily for nu-rition and fitness but includes aecipe analysis component, whereasenesis R&D, also from ESHA Re-

    earch, is used for product develop-ent and menu labeling.rivate practice RDs working di-ectly with consumers may use soft-are for nutrient and physical activ-

    ty tracking, diet and physicalctivity goal setting, and menu plan-ing. Some software packages mayave more detailed options for phys-

    cal activity, diabetes exchanges, My-yramid servings, and so on. RDshould consider which analysis andeporting options are most importantor the types of clients in particularractice settings. Behavior modifica-ion approaches may incorporate

    *The list of approved programs isailable at:

    May 2011 Suppl 1 Volume 111 Number 5elf-assessment tools, such as havinglients monitor their own food intake.Ds may want to explore the various

    ow-cost personal digital assistantPDA) applications available to con-umers as well as Web-based pro-rams that may be integrated with orompletely separate from profes-ional software packages.ecause of the legal implicationsreated by Section 4205, RDs work-ng with restaurants on nutrientalculations will likely need toainstakingly document how theyomputed these values. Just aboutll nutrient calculation softwareackages are based on the US De-artment of Agricultures Nutrientatabase for Standard Reference,ut RDs working in the menu label-ng context may require softwarehat also provides source informa-ion, sample count, and standardrror of the mean for all items inhe database (4).

    See the textbox on page S35 forre detailed information about nu-ent calculation software for RDsrking with restaurants.

    NTINUED PRODUCT EVOLUTIONtrient calculation software is con-ntly evolving. In the mid-1980s,

    fore widespread computer network-or Internet capabilities were

    ailable, the nutrient calculationtware was disk operating systemsed and for standalone PCs, notesrr, who adds previous versioning

    the software that was being testeds not computerized. Rather, it wassed on hand-calculations. Since itseption, the software has evolvedmany ways, from search and cal-

    lation speed to database size, to cli-t-server, to cloud-based, to PDAs,integration with other food-relatedct...


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