Elizabeth Laseter Elizabeth Laseter
October 10, 2014

Each Friday, we share five things that are getting buzz around the Cooking Light offices—from what we’re reading around the Web, to what’s hot on Instagram, or even our latest favorite ingredient.

Smartphones are great tools in helping you maintain a balanced diet, stick to an exercise routine, or manage stress, but let’s face it—it’s far too easy to get lost in the sea of apps out there. Many are useful and innovative, and others are just plain silly (ie: the Melon Meter). To simplify your search, we’ve scoured our smartphones for the best health and wellness apps in existence. Best of all, they’re free. Here’s what we found:

1. ZocDoc: Forget the hassle of searching for the right doctor or having to wait weeks for an open appointment. ZocDoc allows you to search for doctors in your area based on their specialty, what insurance they accept, and more. You can also easily view available appointments for each doctor and fill out necessary paperwork in advance. We also like the Well Guide, a personalized to-do list of preventative care appointments to make based on factors like age and gender.

2. Pact: Created by two Harvard students, Pact uses positive and negative reinforcement to motivate users to exercise or eat healthier. The premise is simple—enter a goal amount of workouts or veggies for the week and an amount you’re willing to pay for slacking off. Each time you visit the gym, go for a run, or eat leafy greens, check in or submit a photo to prove it. If accepted, you’ll earn money. Miss a workout, however, and you pay the price. Pact also integrates workouts from apps such as Runkeeper and the Jawbone UP, making it easier to meet your goals.

3. Fooducate: With the scan of a bar code, Fooducate helps you make smart choices at the grocery store by identifying the nutrition and ingredient quality of food products. The app also points out worrisome ingredients, such as preservatives and artificial flavors, and suggests alternative products. You can even log your meals during the day by searching the app’s database or scanning in the product’s bar code.

4. Duo Lingo: Whether it's during your morning commute or at the end of a long day, Duo Lingo is lets you learn a new language on your time. Easy-to-learn games focus on categories such as popular phrases, foods, adjectives, and more. Plus, you can compete against yourself by passing levels, making it far too easy to get hooked. If anything, Duo Lingo is a simply a fun way to refocus your mind —plus, a recent study showed that speaking a second language can improve brain function, and may even help keep you sharp later in life.

5. Headspace: A meditation app that’s anti-hippie sounds like an oxymoron, but Headspace aims to make mindfulness approachable. Ten-minute guided sessions take into account a busy and hectic lifestyle, tackling common stressors such as work, eating, relationships, and more. An attractive design makes the app easy to use, and there’s even an “SOS” feature, 2-minute sessions designed to confront a sudden mini-meltdown or anxiety attack.  

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