Student-built app to help with eating healthy in dining halls

The Tea more cafe is a new bubble tea and Chinese snack shop available to UConn students in Storrs Center on the corner across from Blaze. One UConn student has developed an app aimed at helping other UConn students eat healthier on campus. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

A University of Connecticut student has developed an app aimed at helping other UConn students eat healthier. The app, DishDash, is designed specifically for UConn, and it is currently available in Google Play.

“The advantage of DishDash is you can enter or calculate your diet specifications, such as calories/meals a day and protein, fat and carb goals, and the app will automatically download the day’s nutrition information and find foods to meet those requirements,” DishDash creator and eighth-semester economics major James Pickett said.

DishDash aims to simplify the process of eating healthier, Pickett said.

“I know there’s dining apps out there where you search a food and get nutrition information, but putting the data in manually or searching for various foods is rather time-consuming and is normally a barrier that will stop people from trying to eat healthy,” Pickett said. “So if you can take away that step, that’s potentially a big help.”

Pickett said his own personal challenge with trying to get in shape served as his main inspiration for creating the app.

“I actually had the idea freshman year when I had the goal to get fit, and it never actually happened. I was trying to figure out how to get fit and I knew that diet is a large part of that, but to eat healthy at dining halls you have to check the nutrition facts and calculate everything, which can be complicated,” Pickett said. “Often times it’s a lot easier to simplify and just eat a burger and fries, so that’s what I ended up doing. I realized that if you don’t have to think too much about dieting it would be a lot easier.”

While the app is currently in active development—meaning it’s still in its early stages—Pickett said he is currently working on some updates for it.

“We have a few features planned and my friend is currently working on an appearance overhaul, but we wanted to get it out and see what people thought before becoming fully committed to it,” Pickett said. “Now we’re trying to do some more serious work: there’s a few features planned such as favorite foods, where people can select dishes and see which dining halls have them. I’m also hoping to improve the history tracking feature, where you can log the foods you ate in the past.”

So far, the app has received a positive reaction, Pickett said.

“There’s been a good amount of Facebook likes, which is always nice. A few people asked for iPhone versions, which unfortunately won’t come out for a long time, if ever. We’re hoping to do a web version on a browser someday soon,” Pickett said.

Fourth-semester computer science major Kyle Barry said the app would be useful in reaching health goals.

While he often uses MyFitnessPal at home, it doesn’t translate well to keeping track of calories with the dining hall options while at school, Barry said.

“I know one of my own personal struggles, and a common struggle for others, is simply eating too many calories, which leads to easy weight gain or the inability to lose weight,” Barry said.

Pickett said he empathizes with tracking calories, as it is often easy to eat too many. Creating DishDash allowed him to really see the caloric intake of each meal, and he was surprised at how many there were, Pickett said.

“When I track my calories and compare it to what I’ve lost during the day and when working out, I find my weight loss efforts are much more successful,” Barry said. “I truly hope this app is able to be implemented successfully, and I think it would change the eating habits, lives, and overall happiness of many UConn students.”


Gabriella Debenedictis is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.