An amazing Windows Phone app to make eating healthier easier


None of us can outrun our forks. Translation: When it comes to reducing the risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and diabetes, what we eat is more important than exercise. Of course, getting fit and staying in shape do matter; they just don’t count as much as the food we put in our mouths every day.

In fact, eating well is more beneficial than exercise by a long shot when it comes to reducing heart-health risks and risk of premature death. More specifically, people who eat a diet low in saturated fats, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables experience 73% fewer cardiac events than people who follow a typical American diet, according to the World Heart Federation. The same is true for premature death. What you eat trumps physical inactivity by a factor of about 3 to 1, based on a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. [See chart insert below. Source: JAMA. 2013; 310(6):591-606. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.13805]

So if you think you’re reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure (which 78M individuals in the U.S. already have), by solely focusing on exercise, think again. If you’re not making healthy food choices, you could actually be negating the protective benefits of your workout routine.

With this in mind, the Microsoft Benefits team embarked on a search last year for the best way to help employees and their families eat healthier. It had to be a program that worked for everyone, was easy to implement, and would take advantage of the reality that we’re all dual users – the idea that we want to use the same, not different applications and devices, regardless of whether we’re at work, home or elsewhere. Unlike working out in the gym three hours a week, eating healthier is more like an around-the-clock marathon that no one has trained for. What we want and need is a personal trainer that’s always by our side, ready to lend us a helping hand, especially at our weakest moments when temptations run high.

Enter Zipongo, a smartphone solution provider that takes the guesswork out of eating healthy with food and recipe recommendations that are personalized for each individual. Think of Zipongo like a personal health coach who is available 24/7, here to help us eat healthier. After taking the app’s online food and diet questionnaire, Zipongo will serve up healthy and delicious recipe options as well as lunch recommendations in the Microsoft cafeteria based on diet preferences and allergy restrictions. Zipongo will also set up tailored meal plans, help make a shopping list, and show the latest deals and discounts at neighboring grocery stores.

Before rolling out such a program companywide, it made sense to first test for a flexible and convenient user experience, whether at work, home or on the go. To ensure that Zipongo is the right fit for Microsoft employees and families, we’re conducting a pilot at the City Center office in Bellevue to see if Zipongo can help employees shop, cook and eat healthier.

With native apps across iOS, Android and Windows Phone, access to Zipongo is possible from anywhere; however, several cool features are currently only available for Windows Phones running 8.1, such as:

  • Scheduling favorite recipes and meals directly in an Outlook calendar;
  • Sharing recipes with family and friends via OneNote;
  • Receiving location-based notifications right before lunch which provide the healthiest menu options personalized for the user, and where in the company’s cafeteria to find them by station name (currently available for Microsoft employees at the City Center office only);
  • Saving most-loved recipes to a Favorites list.

Employees will use the app and the website throughout the pilot to help them make nutritious choices. Daily recommendations on what healthy lunch choices to make in the Microsoft Café will be sent by email and text. In three months’ time when the pilot program concludes, we will assess employee satisfaction with the program, as well as if the program helped employees make more nutritious choices. If successful, this program may be implemented across all of Microsoft’s campuses.

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