Tech yourself thin with these food apps and trackers
There’s been a lot of debate over recent years about the fact a calorie isn’t always a calorie. So just because you cut down your calorie intake it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on the quality of your food to make sure you feel good and ultimately shift the fat in the long term – not just the weight in the short term.
Having said that, using a calorie tracker is one of the best ways to get control of your diet. Counting up all those snacks and meals can reveal some shocking news about your eating habits and highlight common misconceptions about the food you eat – not to mention the portion sizes you might be over-consuming.
It can quickly highlight what your normal eating habits are and where you might make improvements, which can perfectly complement the health and activity information from your wearable gadget.
You can use a variety of methods, from phone apps to fitness trackers, and the trouble isn’t finding a tool to track your calories, it’s choosing which one is right for you.
There are dozens of diet apps to choose from these days but the best offer so much more than a digital diary. Barcode scanners give instant nutritional information, extensive food libraries make counting calories quick and accurate while some can be synced with a fitness band or step counter app to combine exercise and activity with diet for all-round healthier results.
We’ve picked out our favourite calorie counting wearables and the apps that do a similar job and a little bit more with your data.
Best devices for calorie counting
Fitbit Charge 2
Sure, your Fitbit can track your steps and calorie burn, but you can also sync this up with the accompanying app to keep an eye on your diet.
No matter which Fitbit device you’re rocking on your wrist, logging food can help you build up a picture of your intake, but the Charge 2 is our choice for the best of what the company has to offer from a tracking perspective.
By heading to the Nutrition and Body Goals section of the app, you’ll be free to set up a food plan, and logging is made simple by the ability to save meals you’ll be frequently adding. And speaking of timesavers, the app’s barcode scanner also comes in handy for when you want instant nutritional info added in.
It’s certainly hard to find wearables that offer dedicated food tracking areas, as editor Mike Sawh found in his food tracking diary, but Fitbit tries to make the experience easier with these features.
$149.95, fitbit.com | Amazon
Nokia Steel HR
The artist formerly known as Withings is now Nokia after the latter’s takeover, though aside from the refreshed Health Mate platform this is largely the same equation.
You’ll still get all your daily fitness metrics – one that you can take advantage of through the likes of the Nokia Steel HR. The activity timeline is your go-to screen when you open the app, giving you an overview of activity chronological order, with this also prime to include your food intake.
There’s just one thing: it’s not really from Nokia. When you tap the plus icon to begin your logging, you’ll notice that this is powered through the folks at MyFitnessPal (detailed below).
This is by no means a negative, considering the app’s standing, but is a factor to potentially consider wen looking for a smartwatch that can help you travel the food tracking path, or if you’re already locked into MyFitnessPal.
$179.95, nokia.com | Amazon
Best apps for calorie counting
Best overall: MyFitnessPal
Phenomenally successful and for good reason the MyFitnessPal app (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows) is leagues ahead of the rest when it comes to calorie counting and diet management. Tell it your vitals and what you want to achieve – gain, lose or maintain weight – and MyFitnessPal estimates how many calories your body burns without additional exercise. It’s then your job to log everything you eat and drink.
The layout is clean and easy to navigate – essential when you’re looking for any excuse not to log last night’s fried chicken – and the choice of over three million food items makes keeping tabs on your calories and hitting your targets mercifully simple.
To get the best from the app you should also log your daily activity. This can be done manually, but it can also sync with a vast selection of leading health apps, fitness bands and smart scales from the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings.
Best for simplicity: Lifesum
Often cited as the best health and fitness app on the market, LifeSum does everything that MyFitnessPal does including calorie tracking, nutritional information breakdowns and syncing with plenty of third party fitness trackers.
But the thing that Lifesum fans love the most is just how simple the app is to use and great-looking the design is in comparison to the jam-packed experience you get with its rivals
This may seem like a rather small point, but research shows that the more you track the more successful your weight loss journey will be. If you’re even slightly put off tracking something because of an overly bloated app design, then three weeks down the line it could be the difference between hitting your goal or falling at the first hurdle.
So if simplified tracking and consistency is what you’re after, then Lifesum is likely to be your new calorie counting BFF.
Best for beginners: Calorie Counter PRO
With MyFitnessPal offering so much for free it seems odd to want to pay, but it’s a small price for the extra features on Calorie Counter PRO. Aside from the usual calorie counting, tracking and diet advice PRO is brilliant at educating users on their choice of foods and by using the barcode scanner you can get nutritional advice on over 600,000 different foods.
It will also adjust to specific diets so if you are on a low carb plan you can choose to show carbs instead of calories and can track up to 45 different nutrients to ensure you are getting enough – handy if you’re deficient in something specific and need a boost.
While the main focus is on food tracking exercise isn’t ignored and you can sync your fitness band – Fitbit, Withings or Jawbone – or download their own fitness tracking app to help get you motivated.
From $3.99, mynetdiary.com
Best for coaching: HAPIcoach
From the folks that brought you the electronic fork that tracks eating habits, the HAPIcoach app claims to get you eating better in just five days.
The idea is to take photos of what you eat, logging at least 10 meals over those five days. A nutrition expert will then be able to analyse your eating habits and gradually over time help you make substantial and worthwhile changes with your diet.
This isn’t an AI powered nutritionist, those insights come from a licensed nutritionist to give you more personal suggestions and feedback on your data. Aside from logging meals, you can also track activity and weight giving you pretty much the complete package all wrapped up in a clean, easy to use app.
Like many other apps on this list, Noom Coach will ask you how much weight you want to lose and the pace you want to lose it at.
But there’s a couple of things here that make it worth considering as a long term option. It has a traffic lights system to categorise your food into green, yellow and red sections, all based on their calorie counts, and advises you on how to divvy up the percentages.
Interestingly, those using the app on iOS will also find support other fitness apps and devices, such as the Apple Watch, through integration with Apple Health.
And while it does a good job of being your regular tracker, there’s some solid features to unlock through the premium tier, too. Not only will you gain access to a coach and custom plan, but this also opens the door to healthy recipes and private groups of people with similar goals.
From $9.99, noom.com
Best for fitness trackers: Lose It!
Fitbit, Misfit, Nike+, Withings are just a few of the devices that play nice with one of the most comprehensive weight loss apps available right now.
Like MyFitnessPal, it’s built around deciding how much weight you want to lose. Then you’re given a daily calorie budget to work from. It uses your phone to scan barcodes to log meals and will calculate how many calories you’ll burn from a session in the gym. It also takes into consideration all the other factors that can affect a diet such as sleep and your macronutrients intake.
Keeping things social is a big part of how Lose It! works. You can join groups, share your favourite meals and enter challenges to keep you motivated.
If you upgrade to the premium package, you’ll unlock a whole host of extra features including the ability to store body measurements and get a breakdown of all the key nutrients.
Best for food tracking tips: Jawbone UP
Although Jawbone liquidated earlier this year, it’s set to live on through a new health platform – likely set to launch later this year or in 2018. Until then, the Up companion app is still worth your time if you own a device.
While the trackers will measure your overall calorie intake by considering factors such as your height, weight, activity intensity and duration, you can also help things along by inputting your meals.
Thankfully, this is made relatively easy through the app. You’ll be able to split your log into meal times and food groups, while Yummly is also on board to allow you to take advantage of the food network.
There’s also a barcode scanner and the ability to take photos of your meals, input nutritional information and portion size to help keep your food diary accurate and improve the database.
This package is rounded out nicely by some feedback through Food Score, which rates your choices, and the Smart Coach, an insight feature that helps you reach your goals and provides you with tips and recommendations.