HowMuchPhe.org has been a game-changer for many with PKU. But there’s a whole community of people with PKU who grew up using the Low Protein Food List for PKU, know the phe/protein content of the foods they normally eat, or have established their own ways of keeping track of their diet. We heard from many members of the community that teens (who are just starting to manage their own diets) and adults (who may be busy with jobs and families of their own) needed additional support when they are traveling or out and about and can’t get access to the foods they know/are used to. We asked these members of the community what what they neeed. Their response:
- Autonomy: Teens often spend all day out of the house — school, sports, hanging out with friends — and parents have less control and influence over them (and their dietary choices). We need to provide teens with a way to help manage their diet that fits their lifestyles (otherwise they’re likely to just go with the flow, possibly compromising diet).
- Help navigating new situations: For young adults in transition or anyone traveling for work or pleasure, it’s hard to find stores that sell the products you need or restaurants that can accomodate you. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to make healthy low-protein choices.
- Convenience: When you’re managing PKU and a job, or a family, you have little time to cook and freeze low-protein meals. You may find yourself at work with no good options at hand and when someone suggests Subway (where even a bun with veggies exceeds 8 grams of protein) you’re more likely to go along if you can’t identify healthy alternatives.
We wanted to devise a solution to what is an unfair choice at any age: stay with the crowd and diverge from the diet or miss out on the spontenaeity of eating out or traveling in order to stay healthy.
Go Low Pro, a smartphone-native app (iOS and Android) will allow the user to find:
- Restaurants that serve meals compatible with a low-protein diet
- Restaurants that are accommodating to a low-protein diet (allow substitutions without charge or allow you to bring your own pasta or low-protein tortillas)
- Stores that sell products that work with a low-protein diet
- Caroline is flying to visit her in-laws in another state for a week and doesn’t want to carry a cooler of food. She enters her in-laws’ zip code into GoLowPro. Stores and restaurants appear (she can choose one or the other) that can accommodate her dietary needs. She then packs only the essentials — her formula and favorite mail-order low-protein cookies — knowing she can shop when she touches down.
- Matt travels to Chicago from Los Angeles for work. At the end of a long day of meetings, his boss suggests the team go out for pizza together. Matt opens GoLowPro and finds there’s a Blaze Pizza nearby. In addition to regular pizza, Blaze serves gluten-free crust and vegan cheese, which are low-phe. He proposes it to his colleagues, and everyone wins: they get pizza and Matt stays within his phe allowance.
- Rose moves to NYC for college. She and her mother met with the dining services director review her options in the cafeteria, but she has a kitchen in her suite and her friends prefer hanging out and watching TV during dinner to going to the cafeteria. New to town, Rose opens up GoLowPro to find the stores near campus that sell the essentials she needs. She stocks up, and can enjoy both the company of her friends, and a healthy low-protein diet.
- Erik is vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He’s brought along his low-protein pizza, but hates bringing pre-cooked meals to a restaurant almost as much as he hates missing out on dining out with his family. He calls the local brick-oven pizza place and they agree to cook his pizza in their oven and serve it along with everyone else’s meals. At the restaurant, Erik opens up GoLowPro which automatically locates him, and tags the restaurant as “accommodating” to low-protein diets, and leaves a note — “I brought my pizza and they cooked it for me” — for anyone who might find themselves in the Outer Banks.
- A new health-food store opens up in Tuscaloosa. Mollie, a mother with PKU, find they have a great smoothie bar which offers coconut and almond milk, several vegan cheese brands, and cassava-flour tortillas. She opens up GoLowPro and tags the store, adding it to the database, and notes the brands they carry so that anyone shopping low-pro in Tuscaloosa has a new source for diet-appropriate foods.
GoLowPro isn’t just for people with PKU! GoLowPro isn’t designed to replace HowMuchPhe.org or other diet management tools. Since the app focuses on restaurants and products compatible with the low-protein diet, it will be a fantastic tool for a full range of metabolic communities. We’re also looking foward to working with our colleagues in the UK, Ireland, and beyond to incorporate locations in those countries.