Everywhere I go these days, the hot topic is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Schools? They’re trying to stop students from using AI to do their homework. Job seekers? They’re using it to write better resumes and look for jobs. Developers? We are building out products beyond our wildest dreams! It really has brought an age of innovation. Despite the many, many, ethical concerns. Another way that AI is helping people in their everyday lives, including myself, is with the way we buy and consume food. Health education, generated meal preparations, and fitness apps are growing fast. I firmly believe that this is the most important adaptation of the technology right now.
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Health Education in the United States is a nightmare
Many things come to mind when one thinks of healthy eating in the United States. Most are not good. The United States is plagued with food deserts, highly processed foods, a rise in cardiovascular and other preventable diseases, and a serious lack of resources for those who want to get better. Some of these problems are only getting worse as we deal with the effects of COVID-19 on individuals who may also be battling additional health issues. While there have been campaigns in the past to address some of these issues, AI has the most promising outlook. Technology has already started to help food deserts with the rising popularity of food delivery apps such as Instacart, Walmart+, and Amazon Fresh. What if we could also use AI to fix what we are eating?
Enter the AI seeking to help us eat healthier
Several apps have been on the market for a little while that helps you track your macronutrients such as Lose it! and myfitnesspal. With these apps, you can scan or type in the food that you are eating and get a complete breakdown of the nutrition information and how healthy you may or may not be eating. They can even calculate how long it will take you to get to your desired weight level (if you are doing this to lose weight) based on a week’s worth of eating information. There are also incentives such as rewards for meeting your goals, cross-use with exercise apps, and the ability to share your progress with your doctor via the cloud! Some of the newer apps take it a step further and even completely choose meals for you based on your macros/diet.
When I wrote about the introduction of Google’s AI, Bard, I mentioned that I compared it to ChatGPT by getting it to generate a week’s worth of meals for me. It was very important that I do this as I was in the process of changing my diet after a health visit to the doctor. There were foods I needed to incorporate, and some I needed to lower or remove from my diet. Instead of doing this manually and losing hours out of my day, I let AI help me.
I started by entering my health information and what I wanted my macronutrient goals to be every day. I also excluded any food that I didn’t like. Both ChatGPT and Bard were able to make me a complete list of meals complete with nutrition information and instructions on how to cook them! I also had the option of adding a prompt that prevented them from repeating meals or adding one that let me use some meals again as leftovers. This was a big game changer for me as I usually know what I need to eat (or leave out) to get healthier, but I usually struggle with making complete meals! Especially for a whole day. What if this technology was available for easy consumption by everybody?
There are a few apps that do complete meal plans for you based on your health, with Intent being my favorite. Intent is an autogenerating recipe app that asks you questions about your health, eating goals, and dietary restrictions. Once that information is in, it generates meals for you complete with preparation instructions and nutrition information. It does the same thing as ChatGPT and Bard but instead of writing a lot of prompts, you take a survey and you’re done.
Other AI Tech changing the health education game
As someone who is wary of tech, I also have a lot of technology running my home. My Chef IQ smart pressure cooker allows me to cook and control food from my phone. This allows me to start and stop cook times, change temperatures, and even turn my device off without getting up. There are also built-in recipes that provide you with ingredient lists you can have delivered to you by Instacart, a slow cooker function to set and forget your dinner, and a whole host of other cool options. There are smart thermometers that cook your food to a precise temperature so that you do not consume raw or burnt food. Chef IQ’s smart thermometer will even sing a song to you when your food is ready.
Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch can detect your heart rate, and breathing output and show you exercise to perform on the go. Smart refrigerators can tell you when it’s time to replace certain food items and even connect to WIFI. When I tell you that AI is on a mission to transform how we shop, cook, and consume, you may be overwhelmed by all the possibilities.
Well, it wouldn’t be a MasterWP article by Nyasha if I didn’t talk about the potential pitfalls now would it? In the case of automatically generating recipes, where are these language models getting their information? Most likely, they are taking them from online creators. Online creators who have recipe sites depend on visitors most of the time for revenue. Whether clicks or to promote their products or cookbooks, if AI is scraping the internet to take from them, isn’t that unethical? What happens to their livelihoods? In a great tweet by WordPress community advocate, Courtney Robertson, what will happen when AI starts to scrape our websites? (If they haven’t already)
In terms of the apps and products that are helping us cook and consume healthier food, most of them are absolutely not cheap. Grocery delivery apps depend on a monthly subscription or a fee for delivering their food. Equipment such as Chef IQ’s pressure cooker goes for between $120 and $200 depending on the company it is purchased from. Their thermometer? Between $80 and $100. And let’s not get into how expensive Apple products are in general let alone their watches.
The silver lining.
While the price of a smarter home/eating plan does not always equal zero dollars, there are many resources that are popping up to help. Many food delivery services such as Amazon Fresh offer free delivery for people who use government food assistance programs. Apps such as myfitnesspal offer free tiers for those who don’t want to pay but want to keep track of what they eat. Many smart devices go on sale during the year or can be purchased with payment plans if one chooses to break down the price. They can also be purchased refurbished for half the price at times. All of the tech I own mentioned in the article is purchased refurbished, used, or on sale. And finally, ChatGPT has a free tier where you can type in your prompts and get your own complete plan for free. With more and more people getting into developing and building smart apps and devices, we should also see a lowering in price. Competition will be the great equalizer with AI.
As you can see, AI is already a part of our lives in so many ways. Getting/keeping us healthier is just one of the ways AI can not only improve health in the United States but improve the life expectancy of humanity as well. Imagine people from all walks of life being properly educated and assisted on what to eat and how right from the comfort of their own homes. That’s the future I want for every person on this earth. And when it’s time for AI to take over the earth, we will all be in the best health possible.