Tag Archives: apps

Apps to Help You Stick to Your Budget

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re the one trying to manage the family budget. Keeping on track while taking advantage of all the Holiday sales can be a challenge, but all is not lost – the following apps can help you both create and stick to your budget.

Paid Apps

GoodBudget

goodbudgetAt $4.99 a month – not a one-time purchase price – GoodBudget is definitely one of the costlier options on this list but there is a “free forever” option that lets you manage up to 20 categories of expenses which is more than sufficient for the average household. Simply divide your money into customizable categories – e.g. gas, groceries, entertainment – and set the amount you can spend. Track transactions manually or import them as CSV files from your bank. The calculator-style interface and a home page that shows the total budget amount, total income and funds still available – plus cloud syncability – make it a very user-friendly option.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $4.99/month


My Budget Book

my-budget-book-1My Budget Book is one of the less expensive paid options. The home screen displays your spending goals vs. your actual spending and an easy to read bar graph measures your cash flow. The budget tab, which allows users to create categories, import transactions as CSV files and set reminders, is updated monthly and, because there is no personal or banking information, the app is relatively secure.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $3.49


Pocket Expense Personal Finance

pocket-expensePocket Expense Personal Finance features a home screen with an overview of how much money is available as well as a list of your recent transactions. Users input budget information into pre-set categories, set up reminders, and can check at a glance how much money is left in their budget. The one downside of the app is that all transactions must be entered manually as the app lacks the capability to import CSV or OFX files. If you’re not detail oriented or don’t have the time or patience to keep up, this may not be the best option.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $4.99

Free Apps

Mint

mintMint consistently ranks at the top of Top Budgeting App lists because it offers all the tools you need to manage income, spending, saving, and sticking to your budget. It tracks all transactions in real time, including cash purchases if you manually input the transaction. It even syncs bank accounts and mutual funds to your 401(k) or IRA. In Overview, users can see account totals, monthly budget, credit score, and alerts any time you go over budget. Mint also breaks down your spending by category, analyzes your spending habits, and offers money-saving tips based on your spending history.

Platform: iOSAndroidWindows


 

Mvelopes

mvelopesMvelopes is like having a financial planner in the palm of your hand. Answer a few financial questions and sync with your bank account and Mvelopes will track every debit and credit transaction. Similar to GoodBudget, the app works with virtual envelopes, but users must first define income and create a budget to help set reasonable spending goals.

Platform: iOSAndroid


BillGuard

billguardBillGuard organizes all your transactions on your credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts into your Smart Inbox. The app offers fraud alerts, notifications on any new purchases, and one touch refund requests if you discover incorrect charges listed in the News Center. The app uses Tinder-like swiping to track each transaction. Swipe right if you actually made it, and the charge stays on your list. If you didn’t make the transaction, swipe left and a screen with the following options appears: Help Me Recognize, Report/Contact Merchant, or Follow Up Later. A red dot stays on your Home Screen until you address the issue.

Platform: iOSAndroid

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Challenging Apps for Pre-Schoolers

By Tracey Dowdy

Although we know kids learn more in those first three years of life than they will ever again, it’s in those next years – ages 3-5 – that they develop the skills that form an educational foundation for the future.

In some ways, social skills are more important at this age. Kids need to learn to wait their turn, follow simple instructions from their teacher and learn that other people’s feelings and needs are important too. However, along with those social skills, preschoolers need to grasp foundational math and reading skills which will set the stage for future academic success.

These five simple apps offer more than just fun. They’re challenging, educational, and will help your pre-schooler get the year off to a good start.

Intro to Math, by Montessorium

montessoriumIntro to Math offers kids a comprehensive look at fundamental math concepts like comparison, sequencing, units and wholes, even and odd, and symbols. Kids learn to read, write and understand numbers from 0-9, learn problem-solving and develop fine-motor skills.

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $2.99


Starfall ABCs

StarfallStarfall ABCs is the app-based version of the popular Starfall website. Kids see, hear and interact with words to learn upper and lower case letters, phonics, and develop vocabulary skills. The app focuses on positive reinforcement by offering games that hold the child’s interest while boosting their confidence to try more challenging activities.

Platform: iOS, Android, Amazon
Price: $2.99


Thinkrolls

ThinkrollsThinkrolls challenges kids to move different shapes through over 200 mazes, all while teaching observation skills, logic and reasoning, problem solving, spatial cognition and memory. There’s no winning or losing, passing or failing. Kids learn by trial and error what works to get their character through the maze.

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $2.99


Avokiddo Emotions

avokiddoAvokiddo Emotions uses silliness and an open-style of play to teach children to recognize emotions. Kids play with animals like a zany zebra, shimmying sheep, jolly giraffe and a modest moose by dressing them up using props and watching them react to a honking horn or dance at a fiesta. While it may seem like fun and games, kids not only explore their creativity, they learn cause and effect, practice following directions and learn empathy as they see the consequences of their choices.

Platform: iOS
Price: $2.99


Feeding Time with Fred & Olive

feeding-timeFeeding Time has children follow Fred and Olive around Uncle John’s farm as they feed the animals. More than simply teaching kids basic farm animals and sounds, they learn what foods each animal eats and more importantly, they learn responsibility as they see the animals depend on the farmer for their food. It’s a simple game, but pre-schoolers will love the illustrations, narration, and the satisfaction of seeing the animals fall asleep once they’ve been fed.

Platform: iOS
Price: Free

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

7 Apps for Foodies

By Tracey Dowdy

Although I love to cook, have a big kitchen with lots of gadgets and a family that will eat pretty much anything, there are days I just don’t feel like making dinner. That’s when I turn to apps like Open Table, Yelp, or Urban Spoon to help me decide if we’re having pad thai or tacos.

Self-proclaimed foodies have been making use of these web sites and apps for years, taking advantage of both the insight and convenience of customizing and streamlining your dining experience. We’re creatures of habit and though Open Table and Yelp have been my default apps for a while, there are new kids on the block that offer even more than my old-standbys.

Vurb

vurbVurb brings together apps like Foursquare, Yelp, Fandango and Uber into one place, so planning a night out has never been easier. Search for a restaurant, make reservations, book a ride, and buy your movie tickets without having to leave the app. Information is presented in cards, so users can create “Decks” of their favorites to create a perfect date night or a list of favorite sushi restaurants. Use the in-app chat to share Decks and plans with friends.

Platform: iOS, coming soon for Android
Cost: Free


Reserve

reserveReserve calls itself an upscale “digital concierge service.” Simply tell the app the date and time you’d like and Reserve searches for options. Once you’ve made your choice, the app sets up the reservation for you. Reserve goes a step beyond Open Table by allowing you to set preferences and offering alternatives if your first choice is fully booked. Recommendations include menus, maps, and reservation status. It’s one-stop shopping: set your preference, make your reservation, and pay your bill, all from within the app. Users should note there is a $5 concierge fee for any-sized party but the fee is waived if the reservation is cancelled.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Chefs Feed

chefs-feedChefs Feed is an app, web site and YouTube channel offering restaurant reviews from over 1,000 chefs in more than 25 cities. Chefs like Amanda Freitag, judge on Food Network’s “Chopped,” and Alexandra Guarnaschelli, host of “Alex’s Day Off,” make suggestions and offer tips with a goal of being the anti-Yelp. Think less angry ranting by customers and more balanced commentary on menu and atmosphere. Chefs see offering their input as placing their reputations on the line, so it’s not just a way to promote their friends’ restaurants or promoting their own brand.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Find. Eat. Drink.

find-eat-drinkFind. Eat. Drink. offers recommendations on 5,000 destinations in over 200 cities and towns from 700 professional chefs, bartenders, sommeliers and food artisans. That’s a lot of options. Users can read the experts bios to see who lines up with personal style and taste preferences and then create customized lists of those favorites. The app covers the U.S., Mexico and parts of the Caribbean.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


DiningGrades

dining-gradesDiningGrades is a little different from other restaurant apps in that ratings are based on cleanliness instead of menu and ambience. Grades are generated by users and are based on cleanliness, satisfaction, and whether or not users would recommend the restaurant to others. Once you’ve made your selection, you can make reservations from within the app and after the meal users have the opportunity to post their own review. Interestingly, the app was created by an ER doctor who saw first-hand the results of eating food prepared in dirty kitchens.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


EAT24

eat24EAT24 is the “I don’t want to cook but I don’t want to put on pants either” app of your dreams. Search by location, cuisine, restaurant or even specific dishes to order take out from 20,000 restaurants in over1, 500 cities. The app is linked to Yelp, so users can read reviews, browse photos, pay with Google Wallet or PayPal, earn cash back, and have coupons sent directly. Use “My Menu” to create a list of your favorite restaurants and meals, so you never have to wonder what restaurant had those amazing fish tacos or who has the best cheesecake. Best of all, once the order is in, Eat24 takes care of the rest. Their 24 Hours Live Support allows users to talk to someone one-on-one if the driver is late or the order is wrong.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free


Hello Vino

hello-vinoMany wine apps are created by experts for experts but Hello Vino bills itself as a wine app for the rest of us. Tell the app what you’re eating, if you want a white or a red, fruity or bold and you’ll get recommendations for the perfect pairing using wine-searcher.com’s database of over six million wines.  Snap a photo of the label while you’re browsing and the app will provide tasting notes, rate and share your favorite bottles via social media, speak to an on-call wine expert, get insider deals, access their online wine guide and get suggestions on wine-based gift ideas.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Best Apps for Pet Owners

By Tracey Dowdy

We Americans love our pets. We spent over $56 billion on them in 2013 with $15 billion of that in vet care alone. Recent studies have shown pet owners experience benefits that go far beyond someone to cuddle or play with, they actually make us happier and healthier.

Research by The American Heart Association found that pet owners had better overall heart health and have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Pet owners tend to move more, are often more social, have reduced stress levels, and children exposed to pets at a young age tend to have fewer allergies later in life. Children with pets tend to demonstrate higher levels of compassion, self-confidence and show more responsibility.

It’s no wonder then that over 68% of American households have a furry, hairy, scaly or finned family member. And since over half the population has a smartphone, it’s no wonder there are so many great apps and smartphone paired-gadgets for pet owners.

Tagg Pet Tracker uses your phone’s GPS and Verizon’s nationwide wireless network to help monitor your dog. The device clips to your dog’s collar and once you’ve set up his perimeter, Tagg will let you know by text message if Buttons makes a run for it. Rugged, waterproof, and with a 10 day battery charge, Tagg Pet Tracker also monitors your dog’s health by sending emails and in-app alerts about activity level. (iOS, Android)

Pet First Aid by American Red Cross offers practical and basic medical advice for cat and dog owners. With step by step instructions for 25 common pet emergencies, the app walks you through first aid steps, offers advice on giving your pet medication, and offers behavioral advice. It also allows you to program your vet’s number into the app and locates the nearest veterinary hospital, and even offers advice on euthanasia when it’s time to say goodbye. (iOS, Android – $0.99)

Bring Fido is ideal for pet owners who don’t like to leave their dog behind when they travel. Search worldwide by distance, rating, popularity, or price for a list of hotels, attractions, and restaurants that allow pets. Users can search for local attractions, groomers, vets, pet sitters and pet supply stores as well as share photos of your pet on Facebook or Twitter. Bring Fido is currently offering $5 off your next booking if you use the code FIDOAPP. (iOS, Android – Free)

Aquarimate is a great app for hobbyists or professionals and offers advice for salt and freshwater aquariums. The Dashboard provides a structured timetable and record of tasks so you never lose track of maintenance or feeding schedules. Timelines tracks health and growth of your marine life and allows you to create individual timelines for each tank inhabitant. Create a photo gallery, track expenses, log test results to track parameters or build them into a chart. You can back up your data to the Aquarimate cross-platform cloud accessible anytime you have internet access. (iOS, Android)

Dog Whistler is simply that – a dog whistle. A simple user interface allows users to choose a frequency between 80Hz and 20,000Hz to train your dog. As an added benefit, several users say it’s an effective mosquito repellent. (iOS, Android – $0.99)

Pet First Aid won’t replace your vet but may save you a trip to the clinic for something easily dealt with at home. Videos and detailed step by step instructions can help you tend to simple medical issues like stings or cuts but also provide valuable advice for emergencies like burns, poisoning, drowning or how to give your pet CPR. The iOS version tracks your pet’s medical history and the Android version promises to add this capability soon. (iOS, Android)

PupTox is a comprehensive list of 250 plants, foods, beverages and other items that are toxic for cats and dogs. It has a built in chocolate toxicity calculator so if your cocker spaniel eats an entire bag of Hershey miniature chocolate bars as once happened at my house – I swear that dog had retractable thumbs – you’ll know what to expect and how to best treat the results. The list includes common house and garden plants, household cleaners, and drugs as well as food and beverages. While the app doesn’t offer medical advice, it can tell you whether what your pet has ingested is toxic and offers quick connection to your vet, Pet Poison Helpline, or local ASPCA. (iOS/Android – $0.99)

Exotic Pet Vet is designed for veterinary students but is a great resource for those who’ve opted for a chinchilla instead of a cat or a tortoise instead of a goldfish. “Designed to provide biological data on the commonly presented exotic species”, the app offers a comprehensive list of common illness, answers to simple questions like the gestation period for rabbits. The app is frequently updated so users always have access to current information. (iOS, Android)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.By Tracey Dowdy

 

Best Dr. Seuss Apps for the iPhone and iPad

By Tracey Dowdy

Oh the things that we find when we clean up a mess!
Oh the things you will find are often the best!
Like woozles and snoozles and other surprisles
Or stories and pictures by Theodore Geisel!

Okay, that last rhyme was a stretch but I like to think my attempt at rhyming would be appreciated by Dr. Seuss himself.  While clearing out his disused office in 2013, Geisel’s wife found a box of manuscripts and illustrations she had set aside years ago. Now, the Dr. Seuss foundation has announced a new book coming our way in July called What Pet Should I Get?

That’s great news for Seuss fans like me and apparently I’m not alone – currently three of his books are on USA Today’s best seller list: Green Eggs and Ham (#16), One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (#19), and The Cat in the Hat (#35).

In honor of this news, and the fact that Dr. Seuss’s birthday is just around the corner on March 2nd – he’d be 111 years old – here’s a list of my favorite Dr. Seuss apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Dr. Seuss Bookshelf compiles all the Dr. Seuss books and games in one place. Sort by type, price or age or use the search feature to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can view apps on your device, see upcoming or new releases, or create a Favorites list (iPad only). (Free)

Dr. Seuss Treasury offers over 50 classic Seuss books in one app. Parents can track their child’s reading progress through statistics for the number of books read, hours of reading, word count, and the number of words tapped. Try it free for 7 days then choose to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. ($4.99 per month, $49.99 per year, or $99.99 to purchase all 55 books)

Dr. Seuss Band turns your iPhone or iPad into a musical instrument. With two ways to play, you can compose your own wacky tunes with over 120 sounds to choose from or play along with Seussian soundtracks from The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and more to gain high scores and unlock additional features. ($0.99 with additional in-app purchases)

Dr. Seuss Beginner Collections package ten interactive books into two bundles of 5 books each. Narration is highlighted so kids can follow along and users can record their own narration and share it with others. Vocabulary words and illustrations are tappable so kids can learn new vocabulary. ($14.99 each)

Dr. Seuss Camera is available in four versions: The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch, and Who Me? and Happy Birthday. Choose a picture from your photo library and transform yourself into a Who. You can change the background, clothing, hair, accessories or other features to create your own unique character. Photos can be saved or shared to social media directly from the apps. ($1.99 each)

Dr. Seuss Fun Machine Game is a companion to the Dr. Seuss Fun Machine Game Tiles available online or in stores. Three fun games challenge users to “guess-a-roo”, slap-down, or match the tiles with what’s on screen. There’s no reading required so it’s fun and accessible for all ages. (Free)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Best Free Apps for New iPhone Users

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’re a new iPhone user, transferring email, contacts and your calendar is as simple as adding a new account, or you can use an app like Copy My Data. Photos, videos, books, music and documents are easily transferred as well.

The one thing that won’t transfer is your apps but not to worry – many of the same apps are available for iOS that you loved on your Android phone. In fact, one of the perks of being an iPhone user is that new apps are often introduced before they are available for Android devices, and some stay exclusive to the iOS platform.

So if you’re new to iPhone, these are some of the best apps for new users. Many of these are likely to be familiar to you and others are iOS exclusive, but best of all – they’re free!

Facebook Paper
Facebook Paper is designed to make your feed have more of a magazine or newspaper feel. Designed specifically for the iPhone (no iPad version), content is posted in a grid so it doesn’t feel as cluttered and is easier to read. Content isn’t limited only to what’s been posted by your friends but is curated by a team of Facebook staff to include what’s trending across social media.

Spotify
The Spotify streaming music service allows you to search by artist, album, genre, playlist, or record label to create custom playlists of your favorite music from a vast catalog.  Accounts can be integrated with your Facebook and Twitter accounts and premium accounts are ad free. Spotify radio lets you choose by decade or genre and, unlike Pandora, you can skip as many tracks as you like.

Onavo Extend
Onavo Extend works in the background compressing incoming images to help limit your data use. The app automatically turns itself off when Wi-Fi is available and tracks data usage so you can see what apps or activities are using the most data. It’s especially convenient if you travel outside the U.S. when every mega-byte counts.

Pocket
Pocket allows users to save articles or webpages to a list that can then be read later offline. Pocket syncs across devices so an article you saw on your phone during your morning commute can be read later on your laptop or iPad.

Brewster
Brewster combines all your contacts from across your networks into one address book. You don’t have to download an app – simply authorize Brewster through your Google or iCloud account and contacts will automatically be synced. Now when you start to type in an email or text, Brewster will auto-fill the field based on your contacts.

SwiftKey
SwiftKey is an onscreen keyboard that intuitively picks up on your commonly used words, typos, and even the emojis you use most often. Sign up through Facebook or Google Plus and the app discerns your writing style based on your posts and email. The more you use it, the more accurate and customized it gets.

Flipboard
Flipboard follows the trend of magazine style layouts to provide users with an uncluttered view of RSS feeds and social media pages. Create an account with Flipboard, then choose which social media account you want to pull content from. Choose from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube. You can customize the layout and create a “magazine” of preferred content.

Of course, apps like DropBox, Google Maps, Skype and Evernote have virtually become smartphone essentials. Needless to say, with over 1.2 million apps available, you’ll have no trouble making your new iPhone unique to you.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Apps to Help Develop Social Skills for Kids with Special Needs

By Tracey Dowdy

Parenting a child with special needs is a beautiful combination of challenge and reward. One particular challenge can be the development of social skills. Learning to read facial expressions and learning appropriate ways to deal with emotions is often difficult and can leave a child feeling frustrated or misunderstood.

These apps can help young children who struggle with social skills improve their ability to read social cues and help family members and care-givers reinforce what the child has already learned.

Pre-School

Autism Apps

autism-appsAutism Apps is an extensive list of apps focused on meeting the needs of children with autism, Down syndrome, and other special needs. There are a multitude of apps available in the app store but sorting through to find the one that meets your needs can be a challenge. Autism Apps is divided into 30 categories such as Communication, ABA, Assessments, and Rewards Systems to simplify your search. Recommended by parenting.com as a top app for individuals with special needs, the app also includes reviews from parents and other users so you get first hand perspective on each app.

Platform: iOS
Cost:
Free


My PlayHome

my-playhomeMy PlayHome is a virtual doll house with 15 different dolls of different ages and ethnicities to choose from. Characters interact with each other as they go through their day – dress, eat, play, and sleep – and parents can use the multi-touch feature to join in and play with their child. Children learn to share, wait their turn, and other important social skills as they play, and improve communication skills by answering “who, what, where” questions.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $3.99


Avokiddo Emotions

avokiddoAvokiddo Emotions uses four animals – a shy sheep, zany zebra, jolly giraffe, and a modest moose – to teach kids how to read body language along with emotion. Kids can make the animals laugh, cry, jump when startled, or sag when sad. They can dress the animals in costumes and send them to fiestas or the zoo, but more importantly, they can begin to see the connection between their actions and the animals’ emotional responses.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $2.99


Elementary

Feel Electric!

feel-electricFeel Electric! is from the makers of the PBS Kids show “The Electric Company” and builds users’ emotional vocabulary. Going beyond simple “happy” or “sad”, Feel Electric helps children understand and be able to express more complex emotions like stress, anxiety, pride, or excitement by using games, a digital diary and a story maker. Users can use music and video from the Electric Company library or choose their own to customize the app.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free


ConversationBuilder

conversation-builderConversationBuilder is designed to help kids move through conversations with their peers in a variety of settings from the classroom to a restaurant. With 160 conversations to choose from, students can practice how to introduce themselves, when it’s appropriate to ask questions, change the subject and how to exit the conversation in both groups and one-on-one. Conversations can be customized and archived to review with teachers or therapists. One of the most important features of the app is its adaptability for students who are non-verbal, have limited motor skills, or are blind.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $19.99


Zones of Regulation

zones-of-regulationZones of Regulation is designed specifically to help individuals who struggle to manage emotional and social control. Through the game, students face a variety of social situations and are asked to identify their emotions. As the game progresses, students are challenged and presented with behavior options with common real-life consequences for those behavior choices. Students learn ways to manage self-regulation and increase self-control.

Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
Cost: $5.99


Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Apps to Encourage Health and Fitness

By Tracey Dowdy

Commuting to work last Friday, I listened to an interview with a personal trainer lamenting all the newbies in the gym come January 2nd. Apparently they are all there to kick start their New Year resolutions to lose weight and get fit but instead they mostly get in the way of the “real clients.”

Not sure she had a job come Monday morning, nor do I think that’s the attitude of the majority of personal trainers, but it reminded me of all the fantastic apps that are available to help us with our health and fitness goals without having to commit to a gym membership. Accessible anytime, anywhere, it’s like having your own personal trainer – minus the judging.

Food Journaling

A big part of meeting those health and fitness goals is making the choice to eat well. It’s not just a matter of what you eat, but when and how often. Food journaling can help you manage meals and snacks and use food as fuel instead of just taking on those extra calories.

Noom Coach is a weight loss app designed to encourage life-long healthy eating habits. Instead of simply counting calories, Noom Coach offers weight loss tips, a pedometer, a color coded calorie counter (red, yellow and green, like a stop light), recipes and nutritional information to help you make wise choices. The food database includes popular restaurants to make eating out less stressful, and there’s community support through user forums. (Free – iOS, Android)

Lose It! is one of the most successful comprehensive weight loss apps to date. When you download the app, Lose It! asks for your basic information like gender, height, current weight and weight loss goal. From there, the app creates a custom plan for you. Record your food intake and activity and Lose It tracks your progress. Find recipes, search the database for exercise and nutrition information, and even use the barcode scanner to determine whether that granola is really worth it. (Free – iOS, Android, Kindle)

Nutrition Menu is available offline so you can search its database of over 100,000 foods and 149 exercises no matter where you are. Track exercise, water intake, weight loss and, if you’re counting calories or carbs, use the “Food Score” or simply record your meals and snacks in the journal. With so many valuable resources, no wonder Nutrition Menu is recommended by Fitness and Women’s Health magazines. ($1.99 – iOS, Android)

Exercise Apps

Obviously diet alone isn’t enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If your wellness goals include a little exercise, these apps are a great place to start.

Couch to 5k promises if you’ll commit 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 9 weeks, you’ll be 5k ready. You can choose from four coaches and import your own playlist to keep you motivated. Couch to 5K tracks your progress and includes many other features like counting time on the treadmill to eliminate the “it’s too cold/hot/rainy/sunny” excuse on days you don’t feel like exercising. Because each day builds on the last workout, new runners are less likely to injure themselves. ($1.99 – iOS, Android)

Pocket Yoga is another app that functions offline so you can complete your workout even without an internet connection. Choose from 27 different workouts divided by level of difficulty and duration, so whether you’re a beginner or more advanced you can find a workout that meets your needs. Pocket Yoga maintains a log of all your practices to keep track of progress. ($2.99 – iOS, Android, Windows)

30 Day Fitness Challenges offers 20 different challenges focused on arms, legs, core and strength. Each challenge lasts between 1-5 minutes, which can feel like a very long time if you’re doing planks or burpees! With 30 Day Fitness Challenges you can access tutorials, learn different exercise techniques through videos, track your progress, and get regular reminders when it’s time to work out. ($2.99 – iOS, $1.99 – Android)

If you have a gym membership and simply want help with overall health and wellness, apps like MyFitnessPal, MyDietCoach, and MyNetDiary, can help you stay on track and maintain those healthy lifestyle choices. So whether you were naughty or nice over the holidays, getting back on track and reaching those fitness and wellness goals is well within your reach!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Apps for a Better Night’s Sleep

By Robyn Wright

A good night’s sleep is an important factor in our overall health and well-being but it’s one that is often overlooked. And while it is best to keep mobile devices out of the bedroom, it’s also true that most of us don’t follow that sound advice. Since those smartphones and tablets are already on the nightstand, it makes sense to take advantage of apps that can help us fall asleep, stay asleep, and track the quality of our nighttime slumber. Here are a few suggestions:

Sleep Better

Turn on the Sleep Better app and set your device on your bed at night and it will track how you are sleeping. You can also input stress levels, exercise routines, caffeine consumption and other factors to see how these things are impacting the quality of your sleep. A dream diary is included to track what kind of dreams you are having.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free but with in-app purchases


powernAPP

There has been a lot of research lately into power napping to help reduce stress and promote better overall health. powernAPP will give you information about power napping, as well as allow you to set alarms, track the length and number of naps, and more. It also works with Windows Phone voice commands to make it even easier to use.

Platform: Windows Phone
Cost: Free


Relax Melodies

Create a mix of sounds and music that will help you fall asleep in 20 minutes or less. You can also incorporate your own music into your mixes. Relax Melodies is also great for other times when you want to relax, like during yoga and when you’re having a massage. If you need additional help and information, the app contains access to the Relax Melodies blog, with helpful tips and articles on how to get a better night’s sleep.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Cost: Free


Twilight

The Twilight app is based on research that suggests exposure to blue light, like on smartphones and tablets, may hinder your ability to fall asleep. The app will adjust your screen display based on the time of day. Perfect if you like to read on your device before going to sleep.

Platform: Android
Cost:
Free


Metro Nap NYC

If you ride the commuter trains in and out of New York City and want to nap without missing your stop, Metro Nap NYC is the app for you. Just let the app know where you want to get off and it will wake you within a certain distance of your stop.

Platform: Android
Cost: Free


I Can’t Wake Up! Alarm Clock

I Can’t Wake Up! Alarm Clock is the perfect app for those people who sleep soundly and have a tendency to oversleep. You have to complete certain tasks before the alarm will turn off – there is no just hitting the snooze button. You can experiment with several options to help you find what works best to actually wake you up and get you out of bed.

Platform: Android
Cost: Free


Robyn Wright is a social media specialist and blogs on her own blog, RobynsOnlineWorld.com, as well as several other sites. Robyn has a love for family, technology, food and lots of apps!