Sure, Facebook is great for seeing family photos of your third-grade boyfriend's kids and throwing virtual snowballs at someone with whom you've never actually had a conversation. But you can also get some health utility out of your multiple visits per day. I've been beta-testing Med Makeover, a new application launched by the food advocacy group Oldways and the Mediterranean Food Alliance, and the widget is now available for everyone: Search for "Oldways" or "Med Makeover" on Facebook.
The goal is to get your eating more in line with the Mediterranean diet, which studies have associated with a host of good health outcomes—including lower rates of heart disease and cancer. It and other traditional eating patterns—including the Latin American, Asian, and vegetarian diets—emphasize plants, fish for those who opt for animal protein, and whole grains rather than the processed food and meat that are common in the Western diet.
Now, whenever I log in to Facebook and go to my profile, I see a little "nudge" message that is based on the three goals I've chosen: Eat more fruits and veggies, pack my lunch and bring it to work, and curb my sweet tooth (there are 10 goals to choose from). So, today, the nudge is, "Prep your lunches in bulk. Prepare five lunches on Sunday night and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer until you need them." You can change your goals and the appropriate nudges will start popping up. Or, if you have a great idea, you can submit it and it may find its way into the collection (you'll even get credit). If you don't use Facebook, you'll be able to access Med Makeover later this month at oldwayspt.org.
I hadn't previously looked for other diet and fitness options on Facebook, but a quick search comes up with My Diet, which lets you keep a food diary and an activity log, among other functions, and a handful of fitness applications. Tell me which Facebook nutrition, diet, and fitness apps you prefer, and I'll follow up if favorites emerge.