How to Build a Diet or Nutrition App?

Published: December 30, 2018

16 min read

Last updated: June 20, 2022

It’s difficult to deny that healthy lifestyle and nutrition are global trends now. Moreover, it doesn’t seem like a short-term craze since every year the popularity of nutrition applications, diet plans, and healthy recipes is only growing.

About 97% of Americans say that healthy eating is very (72%) or somewhat (25%) important”. - Pew Research Center

Many Startups try to catch this wave and find their niche in this growing market. I bet my avocado toast on the fact that you are one of them! If so, keep reading this article since we’re going to share useful insights on how to create a diet app MVP for your Startup!

📱 Key Nutrition App Features: Make a Backbone of Your MVP

One of the most challenging parts of developing a diet app is choosing the right scope of features for your application:

  • On the one hand, if you omit some essential features and your mobile Product lacks some functionality, it will probably neither meet users’ expectations nor solve their problems.
  • On the other hand, if you make your app too complicated and spend a lot of resources and time on development, it may not work out well since it’s a lot better to get a PoC and secure funding prior to adding some advanced functionality.

Сonsidering all of the above, we decided to split the features of nutrition app development into 2 categories: ones that fit the MVP-Scope and ones that can be implemented after you pitch your Project to investors and get resources for further scaling.

What are the key nutrition app features? Let's find out!

What are the key nutrition app features? Let's find out! (image by Briisk)

However, we understand that you have your own idea. Therefore, we’ve reviewed the development process of some generic diet app so you can have an idea of what the whole process can look like.

But first, let’s take a closer look at all the must-have features you should have to build a nutrition app.

🥇 Top 4 Nutrition App Features that Form the Core of Any App

The list of features below is quite basic and fits pretty much all diet applications. However, you may also add some features that make up your Unique Selling Point (USP) to take a specific niche on the market (we’ll review them a bit later).

# 1: Registration 📝

Personalization usually means a lot for users of health applications. To provide the most value, such apps should take their users’ age, sex, different health indicators like weight, height, and so on, into account.

Therefore, the registration process allows linking your application to each user’s specific needs and providing them with personalized content. This can be nutrition recommendations, calorie count notifications, etc.

To enable a sufficient personalization level, you can ask users to answer a couple of questions during the registration. For example, what their personal goals for using your app are (nutrition control, weight loss, muscle gain, etc.).

Your users expect to get personalized content

Your users expect to get personalized content (image by Johny vino™)

However, you should be highly attentive when working with and storing any personal data. The GDPR and other regulations in this field are rather strict, so we recommend you to store as little personal data as possible so you don’t have any problems with breaches and hackers.

We have an article dedicated to GDPR compliance if you want to dig deeper into the topic but the main aspect to keep in mind is that you have to comply with GDPR if you work with the data of any EU citizen (not depending on your business location).

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We also recommend you to implement a Social Login feature using an API like the one from authO or Firebase when you create a diet app. This will allow your users to quickly and easily sign in into their social media profile (like Facebook or Twitter) instead of having to go through the usual sign-up process where users are required to enter their first and last name, their date of birth, email, etc.

It will also ensure that the users’ data doesn’t get lost in case they change their device or reinstall your application. But just in case users won’t utilize Social Login, think about an alternative to let them save the data in their accounts. It can be an e-mail or phone number based registartion, for example.

# 2-3: Food Logging & Dashboard 📊

This is another essential feature of any diet application. Actually, it kind of works like Wikipedia or a food “dictionary” which stores information on how many calories there are in each meal/product. So, when users enter the type and amount of food they are planning to eat/have eaten, the app shows the average number of calories that the user is about to consume/has likely consumed.

Luckily, there are many different APIs that let you easily build a nutrition app with already existing databases integrated into it. We’ve listed some of them closer to the end of the article in the Tech Stack section.

Dashboard is one of the main screens of your diet app

Dashboard is one of the main screens of your diet app (image by Rupendesign)

Luckily, there are many different APIs that let you easily build a nutrition app with already existing databases integrated into it. We’ve listed some of them closer to the end of the article in the Tech Stack section.

To enable users to track their dietary habits, you can also create a Dashboard Screen as you make own nutrition application. It will allow users to check their daily/weekly calorie & nutrients intake and plan their further meals based on this information.

Since it’s going to be one of the most used screens in your app, make sure its design is minimalistic and its UI appealing. To foresee possible UX pitfalls and create a memorable visual identity, it’s crucial to spend some time on wireframing. You can check the article below to learn how we do it at Stormotion and reuse our tips for your own project:

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How to Wireframe an App: Guide


# 4: Hydration 💧

If it meets the scope of your Project, we also recommend you to add a Hydration Screen during nutrition app development. Adequate water consumption also means a lot to people who care about their eating habits.

Water intake is also important for your audience

Water intake is also important for your audience (image by Sergey Filkov)

The screen itself can look similar to the Dashboard Screen from the previous section. Taking into consideration a user’s parameters (height and weight), the app calculates the optimal water intake and visualizes it.

The way you do it is only limited by your imagination. For example, it may be the corresponding number of cups or just one big drop that is gradually filling up as the user enters new water intakes. Apart from water intake, you can also offer users to track other liquids consumption since it can impact their hydration level.

You can also add analytics features for giving users recommendations on combining eating with drinking. In case they only drink water while eating, it shouldn’t be a problem, but combining certain foods with other liquids like coffee or soft drinks has its limitations.

🔝 8 Extra Features For Your Nutrition Application

So, the features above make up the backbone of your diet app. This means that you should definitely include them in the scope of nutrition app development.

However, we’ve also listed some features that can help you define your USP and which may be added later when you scale your product. Let’s take a closer look!

# 1: Diet Plans 🗂

Many users expect your app to be a “healthy eating helper” rather than just a calorie calculator. Therefore, as we mentioned, it may be a great advantage from their perspective if you offer them a more personalized experience (e.g., if they need to lose weight or to build some muscle mass, etc.).

Diet Plans help users to understand how many calories they should eat a day

Diet Plans help users to understand how many calories they should eat a day (image by Nataly)

For example, you may use some automatic algorithms that will take your users’ body parameters and offer a more or less universal solution for maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Alternatively, if you have enough resources and experts, you can offer your customers private professional consultations, which can also be your USP.

If you do that, however, make sure to have a strict selection process for who you allow providing consultations in your app. In case that is something you’re interested in implementing, you can take a look at our Telemedicine App development article where we talk about remote healthcare applications in detail:

Read also:

Telemedicine App Development: How to Make a Telehealth App or Site

No matter which approach you choose, the Diet Plan Screen will look quite the same: the user’s current plan, their recommended daily/weekly calorie intake (you can update the Dashboard Screen with this info, too), and some general recommendations.

Surely, in case users have their own nutrition consultant or doctor prescription, they should be able to manage their diet plans accordingly. You can add a separate flow for food supplement intake.

We’d also recommend taking into account that some of your users might be suffering from eating disorders. So, you can regularly send notifications and warn users that features like calorie count or dietary plans can be triggering for people suffering from certain disorders.

# 2: Barcode Scanner 📸

This is a nice and seamless alternative to the manual food login. Your customers will get quite a few advantages if you create a diet app with this feature:

  1. When possible, users will be able to just scan a barcode which will significantly improve the overall UX.
  2. They will also get more accurate data on the number of calories since it won’t be just some average estimates but rather correct and exact calculations (such information can be provided by the producers).

Barcode Scanner (image by Rez Felix)

You can implement such a feature using dedicated API/SDKs like Can I Eat It? API or EDAMAM that were developed for food barcode scanning specifically. We’ll list them again at the end of the section so you have an overview of the potentially reasonable integrations.

# 3: Shopping List 📄

Want to encourage users to open your application even more frequently? A Shopping List Feature is something that can help you with this as you make own nutrition application.

The simplest option is to provide users with the possibility to manually enter their wanted/needed goods. However, the UX can be greatly improved if you allow selecting products right from your own food database.

Shopping List is a good idea for an extra feature

Shopping List is a good idea for an extra feature (image by Abolfazl Babaei)

Also, if you implement the “Diet Plans” feature, your users will be able to automatically import some of the recommended products that match their meal plan to the Shopping List.

Additionally, you can allow users to choose a certain meal (maybe even from the Recipe Book feature that we’ll talk about later) and add all the needed ingredients to the shopping list directly.

# 4: Integration of Wearable Devices

Many people not only want to know how many calories they eat but also how many they burn during a day. That’s when you should remember about wearables while developing a diet app. Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch and Android Wear are the main and most popular ones, however, we’d recommend covering as many options as possible to satisfy users with less popular devices, too.

Integration of wearables (image by Andrew Rosek)

Although this feature doesn’t directly relate to nutrition, it can be rather useful to your audience. People who track their weight are usually active and engage in sports. Seeing the difference between burnt and eaten calories can help them to figure out whether they’re having positive dynamics or should change something about their eating/sports habits.

In case you’re interested in integrating wearable devices into your application, you can follow the link to our article dedicated to a related topic:

Read Also

How to Integrate BLE-Based Fitness Devices into your App

# 5: Recipe Book

For many people, the hardest part of healthy eating is that they have to cook on their own because ready-to-cook meals are usually not very healthy.

Good Recipe Book will encourage users to open your app more frequently

Good Recipe Book will encourage users to open your app more frequently (image by Jeff Lloyd)

A book of fast-to-cook or pre-made healthy recipes is something that can help your audience, save them a lot of time and give even more reasons to use your app frequently.

It’s possible to go as far as you want with this: just limit yourself to written recipes with photos or implement step-by-step voice instructions like in the Sidechef app.

Think about adding recipes for the vegan/vegetarian, the lactose intolerant, etc. It also might be reasonable to add features that will allow filtering recipes based on whether or not they contain certain ingredients.

6: Live Experts

You can also build a nutrition app with a “Live Experts Feature” for those who are seeking professional help and want a personalized interaction with your app as much as possible.

Your dietitians can provide consultations either through an in-app chat or via video calls, which will bring the UX to a whole other level.

Live experts feature (image by (syful islam ✪)

Moreover, this feature can be used as an additional monetization solution. It will cover the needs of the ready-to-pay audience that is in need of professional guidance from experts.

This actually can be quite an extensive section of your application since you can develop a whole separate version of the application for live experts so they can track their clients’ progress, be in contact with them within your application, give advice, access their medical files if there are any, etc.

Alternatively, you can just leave the management up to users without adding any extra features or building a separate application version for the specialists. However, you should enable a separate registration flow for the experts to enable a sufficient level of qualification authentication and maybe even perform face-to-face interviews via the application.

# 7: Audio & Video Functionality

In case you’d like to have live streams or provide personal consultations in your application, you’d need a special functionality for that. So, the functions can include:

  • Video.
  • Audio.
  • Turn on/off buttons.
  • Chat for questions.
  • Reactions (like laughing emoji, clapping, etc.) & others.

Audio & video (image by Dmitriy Groshev)

In case certain consultations or events would be out of the scope of the subscription plan, you can also integrate Payment Gateway using APIs like Stripe or Braintree.

# 8: Blog | Dietary Tips

Another extra feature that you can implement when developing a diet app is a Blog:

  • For newcomers, it will be a great source of information about healthy eating habits - what to eat, how often, at what time, and so on.
  • The experienced audience may use it to read news and actual research on this topic.
Tips are quite useful for many users

Tips are quite useful for many users (image by Barbara Kalinka)

Blog articles can also have a great marketing effect - if people enjoy the content you give them, they’re likely to share it on social networks and become promoters of your brand among their families and friends. In case they enabled the Social Login feature, sharing on social media would be significantly easier.

You can make this feature part of your monetization model. For example, you can have free content for all users but add different subscription levels or memberships for some premium content from guest experts, access to research information from sources (but you have to be partnered with the source, of course), etc.

In case you’d like to learn more about implementing membership elements into your diet app, you can check the article we’ve written about developing a Membership Website. There, you’ll find more information about related features and hopefully inspiration for the development of your own application:

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How to Create a Membership Website

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# 9: Gamification

When it comes to mobile apps, people like challenges more than anything. Gamification elements give your customers a sense of competition and encourage them to be active users and obtain new achievements.

Badges, points, tiers, ranks, titles - it all works well if you want to keep your retention rate high.

To achieve even better results, you could make own nutrition application in which gamification elements would be connected with some real benefits. Users would be more motivated to collect points if they could exchange them for a personal diet plan, limited access to paid features or a consultation with one of your nutritionists.

The nutrition matter is quite sensitive for some people so implementing competition-encouraging features like leaderboards is a risky move. As an alternative, you can offer users to take part in harmless challenges like “Drink your advised water intake daily for 2 weeks in a row”.

# 10: Push Notifications

You can use push notifications for reminding users about daily activities like drinking water, tracking calorie intake, walking, etc. Generally, it’s quite a universal feature that can be used for multiple purposes, one of them being marketing.

Push notifications (image by Markus Gavrilov)

For example, you can send users personalized offers, recommend certain events or experts according to their goals, improve user engagement by sending daily “Have a great day” notifications, etc.

You can implement such a functionality using APIs like those from OneSignal or Pusher.

⚙️ Tech Stack

We at Stomotion can recommend using the following tech tools to build a nutrition app:

  • You will definitely need to integrate some Food Products & Ingredients Database. For example, it may be INRFood, USDA Food Composition Databases, MyNetDiary, CalorieKing or any other you’d like. If you aren’t sure which one fits your Product best, get in touch with us and we’ll help you to make the right choice.
  • Pay special attention to the Edamam Dev Platform. It provides a bunch of APIs for different cases, including food database, recipe search, meal recommendation engine and a few others.
  • Calorie Mama API enables instant food recognition via devices’ cameras.
  • In case you’re thinking about integrating wearable devices, Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Garmin, Nike+, Misfit SDKs and APIs are essential (depending on what manufacturer you choose).
  • If you don’t plan to integrate wearables, you can still get info about users’ daily activity (including walking distance and burned calories). You can use Google Fit (for Android) and Apple HealthKit (for iOS).
  • For sending push notifications, you can use OneSignal or Pusher.
  • Payment Gateway can be enabled using Braintree or Stripe.

💰 Cost to Build a Diet App

Here are our estimate of costs to create a diet app. Check it out:

MVP Features Estimated in Hours
Using React Native

⚙️ Features

⏳ Min Hours

⏱ Max Hours

🛠 Setup Technical Foundations



👋 Onboarding



🔐 Sign Up Flow



Choose a goal



Provide personal data



Social sign up



Forgot password



👤 Personal Profiles Flow



Add a photo



Update your weight



See the weight chart



Check the stats



Upgrade the plan



📄 Plans Flow



Plans list



Plan details



Choose the plan



🥗 Diet Flow



Diet dashboard



Add meal



Search meal



See meal info



Barcode scanner



💧 Hydration Flow






Add water intake



Schedule water intake



🔔 Push Notifications



📋 Extra features



Shopping List



Blog (Dietary Tips)



Chat with dietitians



⏱Total Hours



💵Approximate costs



So the diet app development costs are between $16-22,000 without the extra features like blog and between $21-28,000 including them. We calculated the costs to create a diet app using the $45/hour rate that is standard for Eastern Europe. However, this is an approximate estimate so if you want to get an accurate numbers for your project, drop us a line!

💡 Conclusion

Now you know everything you need to make your own nutrition application. This market is booming right now, so you have all the chances to find your customer and occupy a prosperous niche.

The Stormotion Team would recommend you to follow the scenario below to succeed:

  1. Start with defining the core elements of your Mobile Project: who are the users, what is their diet/nutrition problem, and what solution will your product offer them. Don’t forget about your monetization model and USPs, as there’s a lot of competition.
  2. Find a reliable Dev Agency that will be your contractor and tech partner for the time being. Let them prepare an Estimate & a Roadmap and pick up the right Tech Stack. Then you’ll have a clearer picture of your Idea’s Time-To-Market - approximate costs and deadlines are quite predictable.
  3. Create a Diet App MVP with your Agency and check whether it solves the pain of your TA. Iterate until you find a Product-Market fit.
  4. Pitch your working Product to investors, secure funding and scale your application further!

We at Stormotion are ready to help with developing a Diet App. Drop us a line by hitting the button below and together we’ll build the next big FoodTech-Unicorn!

Build Your Diet App with Stormotion!

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They were a delight to work with. And they delivered the product we wanted. Stormotion fostered an enjoyable work atmosphere and focused on delivering a bug-free solution.

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