'Med Makeover' Facebook Widget Aims to Help Consumer Health

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'Med Makeover' Facebook Widget Aims to Help Consumer Health

The latest tool for consumers interested in revamping their diets and improving their overall health is the Med Makeover widget on Facebook. The widget is the brainchild of nonprofit educational organization Oldways and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA), an Oldways program developed to help people eat better with the Mediterranean Diet.

The tool, which has been in beta testing on Facebook since November but only officially launched this week, encourages users to choose any of 10 goals, including "curb my sweet tooth" and "eat more whole grains," to help them stay on track as they adopt a healthier way to eat.

On each Facebook visit, participants will see a new tip, among them "Stretch, stand-and-sit, or dance  in place during every TV commercial" or "Dip fresh strawberries in melted chocolate, cool on wax paper, and savor a decadent and delicious dessert."

"Oldways believes in positive, practical approaches to better eating habits," said Sara Baer-Sinnott, e.v.p. of Boston-based Oldways. "We've been creating projects to promote the healthful Mediterranean Diet for 15 years, and now we've applied that experience to a simple online tool fitting today's internet-based lifestyles."

Med Makeover cannily taps into the power of social networking, by enabling users to invite their friends to sign up for the program.

"You can see which friends are following the same goals as you are," explained MFA program manager Nicki Heverling. "You can even submit your own tips or nudges to Med Makeover." This interaction among users continually refreshes and renews Med Makeover, enriching its inspirational power.

Social interaction has long been a key factor of the Mediterranean Diet, although traditionally around the table rather than online.

Research has indicated that foods featured in the diet, such as vegetables sautéed in garlic and olive oil, grilled seafood, whole grains, a glass of wine, and fruit for dessert, support better heart health, brain function, and weight control, along with many other health benefits.

Oldways and the MFA have launched Med Makeover widget initially on Facebook, to take advantage of the social-networking Web site's existing interactive community. To use the widget, a user enters "Oldways" or "Med Makeover" in the Facebook search box, and then follows a few steps to install the application in his or her Profile.

To reach those not currently using Facebook, Oldways and the MFA will roll out a free-standing version later this month, which will be available on both the Oldways and the MFA websites, at www.oldwayspt.org and www.mediterraneanmark.org. Additionally, an iPhone version is slated for mid-2009.