A burgeoning healthy living phone app, developed in Toronto, has been given $1.5 million to expand development by the Ontario government.

Carrot Rewards is a straightforward app that offers rewards to users for completing a pre-determined health goal, like walking 10,000 steps a day for example, but also smaller tasks like reading about why it's a good idea to get a flu shot. 

Unlike many apps with virtual rewards, the prizes earned on Carrot Rewards might be more enticing to users — Aeroplan miles, Scene points and discounts on gas are up for grabs.

"It's so powerful what rewards can do. It moves the motivation a little closer to you and you're rewarded for the behaviour rather than the outcome, which is much farther down the line," said Sarah Richard, Carrot Rewards co-founder, in an interview with CBC's Metro Morning on Monday.

Carrot Rewards

Carrot Rewards allows you to earn points by making healthy lifestyle choices, like walking or eating half a plate of vegetables. (carrotrewards.ca)

The provincial government's interest was piqued by the app's potential to help spread healthy living information — a departure from ad campaigns on highway billboards or subway cars to reinforce public health messages. 

Carrot Rewards founders say the app is reliable because it's based entirely in evidence-based nutritional and exercise information. The challenge was getting that information directly to Canadians.

"We saw an opportunity to capitalize on two of Canada's national addictions," explained Richard. "Smart phones and loyalty. We are the most loyalty-addicted nation in the world," she added.

The original impetus for developing the app was the acknowledgment that "health is tough."

"People have the best of intentions, but it's hard to make those commitments day in and day out," Richard said. 

It's a difficult truth that in this age of relentless schedules and 24-hour connectivity, health is not the only thing people struggle to improve.

Carrot Rewards has also been in talks with other provincial government agencies that have floated the idea of a similar app concept for financial literacy and environmental awareness, according to Richard.

With files from Metro Morning