EMPOWER Dietary Weight Loss Program


Pamela S Bedient


The University of Illinois Applied Research Institute is working with Dr. Manabu Nakamura in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at Illinois to aid in developing a safe, cost-effective dietary weight loss program that can be widely used to treat obesity. The EMPOWER Weight Loss Program seeks to serve uninsured, rural, and aging populations. EMPOWER also develops a training program for weight loss instructors and is developing a graduate certificate program of dietary weight loss for nutritionists and dietitians.

ARI interns are assisting with the creation and development of MealPlot, a website that allows participants to track their daily food consumption, weight, and health targets. MealPlot is a unique mobile app to complement the EMPOWER weight loss program. The main objective of developing this app is to provide the EMPOWER participants with Protein-Fiber Plot at their fingertips, which will enable them to build knowledge and skills to create their own weight loss diets. Participants can search a database of foods and ingredients to add items to their daily consumption charts. The charts then plot the protein and fiber densities and display where the prospective or consumed meal fits on the chart and how it changes their daily consumption. Internet-connected scales are given to the participants for daily use and sync to MealPlot for researchers to assist with weight targets and progress.

 ARI developed the MealPlot app using Flask and Bootstrap. The protein-fiber plot was created based on specifications provided by Dr. Nakamura. ARI integrated nutrition data from the USDA food database and is working on integrating restaurant data for use. Future work for the project includes creating in-app messaging between researchers, participants, and medical personnel.