Food is one of those things that’s easy to have a love/hate relationship with. It can make you either very healthy, or very unhealthy, depending on how you manage it. The following 5 apps can help you better manage food in your life.
With all of the fitness “gurus” out there touting every variety of diet fad imaginable, ultimately it’ll always boil down to how much energy (calories) you take in, versus how many you expend. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):
“When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime, the bottom line is – calories count! Weight management is all about balance — balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses or ‘burns off.'”
The problem is that “counting calories” is probably the number one most annoying thing about dieting, and the biggest reason many people say they would rather not “diet”.
The Fooducate Weight Loss Coach is probably one of the apps for calorie counting that’s actually fun to use. This is largely due to its community focus.
When you get started, you’ll provide basic information so the app can create a health profile for you and develop a recommended number of daily calories you should be consuming every day to reach your weight goal.
In the spirit of serving as an actual “coach”, the app gives you access to a community of fellow users in the “Community” area. There, you’ll find all sorts of people sharing their experiences, successes, and even failures within their own weight loss journeys.
What’s interesting is even when you’re searching for the food that you’ll log, you’ll notice there are user comments available to help you decide whether that food is any good — lots of users share what they like or don’t like about specific products.
This social aspect of the app is why I put it at the top of the list, because losing weight by eating healthy is hard enough, but doing it alongside so many other people struggling with the same issues you are really makes you feel like you’re not alone.
If you’re mostly interested in the calorie logging feature, Fooducate doesn’t disappoint. Finding food is really easy, and the library is pretty thorough (thanks to the community contributions). The Health Tracker area shows you how many calories you’ve consumed, how many calories you’ve expended through logged exercise, and of course how many calories you have left until the end of the day.
The accountability that you start to feel when you’re using the app alongside so many other community users is a very strong motivating force. If you’re the kind of person that prefers taking part in healthy activities with groups, this is really an app that you should try — it could mean the difference between failure and success with your health goals.
Download: Fooducate (Free) on the Play Store
LifeSum bills itself as “The Health Movement”, and it’s listed as a top choice for health conscious people all around the web. It’s listed as Editor’s Choice in the Google Play Store.
Once you start using it, it isn’t difficult to see why. The app is clearly designed to be simple and easy to use. Like most other health apps, you provide profile information that lets the app give you your daily caloric goal, as well as an estimate as to how long it’ll take for you to reach your goal.
Adding the foods you eat is as simple as scanning the barcode on the packaging and typing in the quantity, or just browsing or searching the library for the food. To make the process even faster, the app will let you see your recent foods, or most frequently eaten foods with a simple tap of the finger.
There’s also a fast “Create new” option where you can just type in the food and the calorie total if you already know it — no need to waste time trying to search for it.
The Diary log shows you the balance of eaten and burned calories so that you have a clear indicator of how many calories you have left in your daily “budget” at a glance.
The exercise logging feature is equally easy to use. If searching for exercises isn’t something you look forward to, the “Automated Tracking” feature is definitely a bonus. It lets you tap into tracking apps that you may already have on your phone, or products like Fitbit that you may already be using.
Download: Lifesum (Free) on the Play Store
One of my go-to calorie counting apps whenever I get back into the mood of tracking my food intake is Lose It!
The reason I always liked it so much is that the interface is so intuitive. Instead of typing in the quantity of food you eat, most of the selections are done with a dial that you can flip with your thumb, which makes for simple one-handed food diary entries.
Information about fat, cholesterol, sodium, and more are displayed for every food option you find, even before you add it to your diary. This makes choosing healthy options at your meals really simple.
It also offers probably the best graphs and progress graphics of all the calorie counting apps I’ve tried. The calorie balance graph is especially useful because without even looking at the numbers you can see how many calories you have left before your “fuel tank” is topped off for the day and you need to stop eating!
It’s also convenient to scroll through each day and see how much protein, carbs, and fat you’ve been consuming — these graphics help you spot if you tend to lean heavily in one direction. Maybe you tend to eat too many carbs or too much fat. The longer you use this app, those patterns will become obvious, and that feedback will help you to make better dietary choices.
Download: Lose It! (Free) on the Play Store
One of the most popular apps you’ll find for not only calorie counting, but overall health tracking is MyFitnessPal, made by the company of the same name.
MyFitnessPal probably offers the most comprehensive library of food you could imagine — including some of the most obscure brand names that you would expect they wouldn’t have listed. It’s quite impressive. This makes finding and adding food to your daily log a breeze.
What I also love about the MyFitnessPal app is that it shows you each piece of the calculation it does to come up with your remaining calorie balance. So, you can see not only how many calories you’ve eaten, but also your total calories burned through exercise, as well as the overall balance.
At a single glance this formula gives you everything you need to know, and on the same page, you can see your currently logged meals.
Download: Calorie Counter (Free) on the Play Store
I remember when I first upgraded my LG to a Samsung Galaxy — I was very curious about the health app called S Health that came already installed on the phone. I soon discovered that its tight integration with the phone’s accelerometer would produce some interesting step-count alerts at the end of the day — driving me to park a littler further from the office in the morning just so I could get in a few extra steps during the day.
Beyond the useful step-count and blood-oxygen sensor tracking tools that come included in this software, all of which I’ve written about previously at MakeUseOf, the Samsung Health app also features a calorie tracking tool that is just as functional and easy to use as others listed in this article.
Meal tracking just requires a few taps of the finger, searching for your food using general terms, and then picking the serving size by sliding right or left.
Tracking your progress throughout the day is accomplished from a single tracking page that shows you not only how many calories you’ve eaten already and how many you have left, but the balances of key nutritional elements like carbs, fat, and protein.
Like Lose It!, I think the ease of use of Samsung Health makes it an app that I find myself returning to frequently, if not for the calorie counting feature then certainly to track my steps or find out whether or not my run significantly affected by blood oxygen levels.
Download: S Health (Free) on the Play Store
Calorie Counting Isn’t That Hard
Most people who’ve decided that calorie counting isn’t really worth the time or effort just haven’t found the right app that works for them. Tracking calories was really tedious and annoying before the advent of the smartphone, but now that we have this device with us all day anyway, using it to track your energy intake just makes sense.
The key to effective calorie counting isn’t in getting obsessed with how much (or how little) food you eat, but instead using it to strike a balance between energy you get from your food versus energy you burn off through exercise. If you try to do one without the other, you’re bound to fall off balance and get frustrated with the whole concept of calories. So give these a try and see which app works best for you!
Have you ever tried calorie counting apps? Do you have any favorites that you’ve found work best for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!