*stomach grumbles* You’re hungry, yet you still can’t decide on what to eat. Unable to put it off any longer, you indiscriminately devour anything and everything in reach. Much better.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t eat well - we may be too busy to bother, too stressed out about over-indulging, or simply aren't sure what nutrients we need. That is why we created OnTrack, a website that helps you track your diet, discover your eating habits, make smarter food decisions, and connect with registered dietitians.

Out of all of the food tracking apps that already exist, none of them offer virtual dietitian services. They mostly only feature calorie trackers, exercise logs, food diaries, and healthy recipe banks. We felt that having access to this information was great, but there was no one to answer your questions or provide a nutrition plan tailored to your wants and needs. We wanted something better, for the good of our society.

It’s our goal for everyone to have access to personalized diet plans and a reliable source of nutritional advice. Even the vulnerable and immunocompromised, who may not be able to physically visit a dietitian during a pandemic. Even those whose closest dietitian is simply too far away. Regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, or availability, OnTrack will connect you with the right tools and professionals to start and/or maintain healthy eating habits.

What it does

OnTrack offers:

  • A platform to virtually connect patients with their dietitians
  • Personalized diet templates curated by your dietitian
  • Real-time feedback and comments
  • Diet logs to record your daily food intake (ingredients, calories, macronutrients)
  • Goal trackers to keep yourself on track

Although it isn’t necessary to have a dietitian to use this platform, OnTrack is a great tool for dietitians to track their patient’s progress and keep in constant contact with them. By being able to assign and edit a diet template, their patient can make the best eating choices for themselves. In addition, the Feedback and Comments box in the diet logs quickly reinforces good nutritional choices and weeds out bad ones before they become a habit. Overall, it serves as a fantastic tool to keep patients accountable while they are under the care of their dietitian.

On the other hand, users will find that OnTrack has everything you need to make healthy eating part of your lifestyle. All of the trackers promote awareness of your food intake and help you to balance unhealthy and healthy foods to maintain your overall health. This simple yet useful website will show you why you could (and should) track to stay on track.

How we built it

We began by setting up our database using mySQL and connecting it to a simple PHP file. After getting the handle of SQL queries and ensuring the database was working, we began by creating the log-in and sign-up system. After we ensured users could easily sign up and log into their accounts, we created a basic version of all pages of the site, and ensured that navigation between sites was seamless. Lastly, we improved the visual appeal of the site by creating CSS sheets.

Challenges we ran into

At first, we weren’t sure how we were going to run the site. As it was our first time creating a website with a database, we weren’t even sure how to begin. Countless hours were spent simply researching how to set up a database, how to create and run code written in PHP, and how to connect the PHP file to the database. Eventually, we discovered that it was possible to host the database and site locally.

We also ran into some trouble running the PHP file, as it needed to be run using an Apache server. This led to issues working on the project simultaneously, as only one team member had the Apache server set up on their computer. As a result, it was harder to all work on the PHP aspects of the website, and we had to divide the work differently. For example, some team members had to code in HTML for the website without being able to run the PHP code.

Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how to host the website in a way that allowed our database to be accessed from a computer other than the one with the Apache server. We hope that our demo video and GitHub code are able to give a glimpse into the website that we worked so hard to create.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We’re pretty amazed and proud of the fact that we managed to make a service-based website from scratch in 36 hours! Especially since we’ve previously only made simple game hacks and a large portion of the time was spent researching new languages. Pivoting from creating games to a website was no easy task: we were inexperienced with HTML and CSS and had to learn and implement SQL on the fly! Prior to this hackathon, we had never worked with PHP or SQL, which made it all the more surprising when we were able to create a website that incorporated both of them.

Despite all these firsts, what’s more incredible, and what we’re most proud of, is how we didn’t lose sight of our goal and worked through to the end, together, as a team; overcoming our struggles collectively has made accomplishing our project feel that much sweeter!

What we learned

In terms of technical skills, we learned SQL and PHP–more specifically, how to code in SQL and set up PHP servers. We had never been able to create user logins and store information in a database before, which was extremely new and exciting this time around.

This project also forced us to relearn/refresh our knowledge of HTML and CSS. We all have previous experience coding web pages, but hadn’t attempted to do so within the past 2 years. It was definitely a struggle at first, but we slowly got the hang of it as we pushed through. In a remote setting, the process of creating OnTrack was invaluable for teaching us how best to communicate our designs, share ideas and suggestions, how to edit code online, and how to work as a team in general.

What's next for OnTrack

Currently, OnTrack only has the basic features that we wished to include. It is the product of 36 hours of hard work, but there is no doubt that if we continue to develop it even further, it can expand to meet the needs of more patients and dietitians.

More specifically, we look forward to tracking exercise and fitness goals too, potentially partnering with FitBit or other biometric tech. This would allow any data collected from those devices to automatically be transferred to OnTrack, creating a more complete picture of one’s lifestyle without requiring the user to manually type everything in.

We also wish to create an Analysis section for both patients and dietitians to monitor trends in eating habits; including calories, macronutrients, eating times, and more. This could be helpful to identify any next steps in a treatment plan or personal lifestyle changes.

Finally, some partners we would be interested in reaching out to include Shoppers Drug Mart, as they currently offer virtual dietitian services (which we think could benefit from OnTrack); HelloFresh, to deliver healthy meals included in the recommended diet template directly to the patient’s house; or AllRecipes, to serve as inspiration for their next easy, healthy meal.

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