Diabetes apps: helpful or technology fad?

Jessica Pieterse, a dietitian, helps us understand diabetes apps. She explains how to use them and shares the top five.

Carbohydrate counting may provide more freedom to a person with diabetes. One can adjust a meal depending on the blood sugar levels measured before a meal or adjust the insulin dosage according to the amount of carbohydrates eaten. However, keeping track of all this information may be challenging. Diabetes apps are the new kids on the block. Technology can aid you to count carbohydrates, monitor your intake, and track information that is important to a person living with diabetes.

What is an app?

An app is a software application designed for smartphones or tablets. It is different to programmes that are used on a computer or laptop as it runs directly on the mobile device and not on an internet browser.

How can diabetes apps help you?

Diabetes apps can help you monitor your glucose levels, food intake, medication doses, symptoms, kilojoule intake, carbohydrate intake, weight and exercise as well as supply meal recipe ideas and interesting articles. Most people always carry phones or tablets with them, which makes diabetes apps an easy and convenient method to store info.

What diabetes apps should you download?

CDE Club App

Free – available on Android and iOS.

  • The Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) provides scientific-based articles, videos, recipes and health-risk assessments.
  • Promotes participation by setting Life Actions, which are daily goals. If you are a CDE Centre patient, then your weight, blood pressure, glucose and HbA1c values are also recorded.
  • Provides reputable info, however, tracking of carbohydrates is not provided.

Diabetes apps

Diabetes in Check

Free – available on iOS.

  • Allows you to track your glucose, medication, food intake, exercise and weight.
  • It is user-friendly with helpful settings to make the records individualised, such as choosing the brand of insulin.
  • Highlights carbohydrates eaten at meals, which can assist with carb counting. However, portions are not always clear when entering into the app.

diabetes apps

Diabetes Lite

Free – available on iOS.

  • Tracks blood glucose, medication, physical activity, weight, food and water intake.
  • An advantage is that its comprehensive and includes water intake, which not all diabetes apps do. However, it is less user-friendly than other diabetes apps.
  • The nutrition tracking is probably the most confusing section as it is challenging to search for and log food items.

diabetes apps

Carb Counter

Free – available on iOS.

  • Can be helpful for the experienced person with diabetes – a person who already understands food.
  • The carbohydrate content can simply add the grams of carbohydrates eaten and note what meal or snack it is.
  • Tallies up a total daily carbohydrate intake.
  • Requires knowledge of carbohydrate contents of foods as no database of food items are given.

diabetes apps


Free – available on Android and iOS.

  • It is useful for an experienced person with diabetes. You can develop a detailed logbook of medication, glucose levels, meal times and carbohydrate intake.
  • Knowledge of carbohydrate contents of foods is needed as no food database is given.

How do you download diabetes apps?

Mobile devices will have an app store, either Google Play (Android) or Apple iStore (iPhone), to download various apps. You can search for diabetes apps by typing in the direct name of the app, or search for a general function that you desire.

Some diabetes apps are free while others you’ll need to purchase. If you are interested in an app, click on the ‘Get’ button, and then ‘Install’ button. Once it is downloaded, you can click on the ‘Open’ button.

What must you look out for when searching for diabetes apps?

There are plenty of diabetes apps to choose from, although not all of them should be used. Choosing the right one is a matter of understanding what function you want the diabetes app to have and where the diabetes app can support the health professional guidance.

Be cautious of prescriptive diabetes apps. Some diabetes apps prescribe goals, such as blood glucose levels or total kilojoule intake. This should be personalised and prescribed by your team of healthcare professionals, who have completed a comprehensive medical assessment and understand your unique requirements.

Should people with diabetes use diabetes apps?

Diabetes apps can provide useful information as well as an easy and convenient method of tracking important health data. These diabetes apps should be used as a complementary tool to your regular appointments with your health professional and not replace them.

Your health professional can use your tracked data on your chosen diabetes app to increase their understanding of your progress or difficulties. These diabetes apps can be used together with education on carbohydrate counting from your registered dietitian.

MEET OUR EXPERT - Jessica Pieterse

Jessica Pieterse is a registered dietitian at Nutritional Solutions in Bryanston, Gauteng. She has a special interest in nutrigenomics, weight loss, diabetes, hypercholesteromia, hypertension and gut disorders. She lecturers at the Health and Fitness Professional Academy.