Three Best Apps for Tracking Food & Nutrition
More than a few studies have shown that people who actually keep track of what they eat on paper, in an app, or in some other record, have better success at losing weight, managing their diet, controlling their portions, and sticking to healthy habits. One study concluded that people who kept a journal were more likely to keep the weight they lost off, and another review of studies concluded that people who kept a record of their meals and kept up with diet and exercise lost nearly twice as much as people who didn’t keep a log (but did diet and exercise.)
Keeping track of what you eat helps you eat right and make healthier food decisions, that much is given. However, when you make the commitment to tracking your diet, you need a tool that will help you, not get in the way. The best tools make it easy to add what you eat, can fill in the blanks with calorie and nutrition info, and can even help you work towards your goals.
MyFitnessPal has one of the largest food databases available in a diet tracker, and sports a robust webapp in addition to iOS and Android apps to help you stay on top of your diet on the go. Whether you’re making something at home or eating out, MyFitnessPal can help you log it, and supports a number of popular (and many not-so-popular and small) restaurant menus. As you log your food, you get a complete picture of your diet, not just your overall calorie intake—that includes your sodium intake, your vitamin intake, cholesterol intake, and other nutritional information that can give you a better idea of what you’re eating beyond a simple daily calorie limit.
Beyond its calorie counter and nutrition tracker, MyFitnessPal has a massive and active community of users, all eager to welcome newcomers and happy to trade recipes, tricks, meal plans, and stories about their successes and failures. The service is completely free, syncs with external activity trackers and smart scales like the Withings Smart Scale and Fitbit, and other apps you may already be using, like Endomondo, Runkeeper, and more. Instead of pushing a specific diet or health agenda on its users, it stands as primarily a nutrition tracking database and vibrant social community that just wants to help you get a handle on the foods you eat.
LoseIt is a combination food and activity tracker, and while its social features are bit sidelined, it’s an extremely popular option for people looking to really get their arms around their portion size, daily caloric goals and intake, and start keeping an eye on the foods they eat. In addition to a webapp (which I’ve found a bit slow at times), LoseIt has great iOS and Android apps with barcode scanners that can quickly scan and add servings of packaged food you eat, or ingredients to the dishes you make. More than once I’ve managed to find something hidden in the depths of LoseIt’s database by scanning its barcode when a keyword search turned up nothing. You can also add custom recipes and personal foods so you don’t have to keep entering dishes you made by their component ingredients.P
LoseIt also syncs with a number of activity trackers and smart scales, including the Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Withings Smart Scale, Nike Fuelband, and more. It can also connect with external apps and services like Runkeeper and MapMyFitness to pull in your activity data. The LoseIt community is active and robust, and the “challenges” tab will help you stay on your toes and take your fitness and diet goals to the next level. Track your exercise and weight loss goals in the webapp or mobile apps, and more. LoseIt’s basic features are all free, but LoseIt recently unveiled LoseIt Premium for $40/yr that extends the service’s nutrition and activity tracking features, includes some apps and services that free users don’t get, and offers more reporting tools so you can see where you are and how far you’ve come.
CRON-O-Meter is a bit simpler than some of the other tools that want to position themselves as integral parts of your overall lifestyle. If all you want is a simple tool to help you track your diet, CRON-O-Meter can help. The service is completely free and has mobile apps for iOS and Android. Like many other services, it also breaks down the things you eat into their nutritional components so you get a complete picture of your diet. You can track your daily calorie intake versus your personal goals and add custom recipes and personal foods. The service can also track your activity and exercise, and offers custom charts to show you your progress over time in an easy-to-understand format.
CRON-O-Meter keeps things simple, and for some people that’s a good thing. For others though, you may find it lacking features you like from other services, like a communtiy of users or a social aspect, or the option to sync and connect to external devices, fitness trackers, and scales. Regardless, there are forums and an active Facebook page. Best of all, it’s so easy to use that anyone can use it, whether you’re starting out and want something simple without a ton of bells and whistles, or you’ve grown tired of other services that have them.
Honorable Mention - FatSecret
FatSecret is another completely independent diet and nutrition tracking service. It’s proud of its independence (which is a good thing), and doesn’t push fad diets or customized diet plans in your face in order to make money. FatSecret is completely free, and once you’re signed up you can begin tracking your meals and exercise. The service keeps its interface beautifully simple, and leaves its food database open so anyone can try it out before they sign up to see if it works for them. You can add custom foods and recipes, add foods from your favorite chains and restaurants, and set daily calorie and nutrition goals to see how your diet stacks up against them. In addition to keeping a food journal, FatSecret also lets you keep a personal journal, so you can match up what you eat with how you feel—an important thing that many diet trackers overlook.
FatSecret has a great community of users, too. Everyone’s genuinely supportive, and quick to share their own experiences, tips, and recommendations. There are regular community challenges to keep everyone motivated, and the service has built-in tools to share recipes so you don’t have to copy/paste them. You also get tools to track your habits and performance over time so you can see how well you’re progressing towards your personal goals.