When you ask people who are fit what they do, they will often tell you that they watch what they eat and exercise. Sounds pretty simple, right? It sounds fussy though. I am used to eat what I wanted without giving it much thought beyond how good it looks and tastes. Now I am tracking what I eat and it is an eye opening experience.
I have heard that keeping a food diary is a great tool for losing weight, so I checked out a few of the tools out there, focusing the free ones.
MyFitnessPal is one of the best free apps out there (available on web, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry) and there are a lot of people using it. The fact that quite a few people I know personally use it is one of the reasons why I am actively using it. I like the food database in that it is pretty big but it can be somewhat confusing due to the fact that it is crowd-sourced, so it can be prone to some duplicate entries with sometimes different counts for what seems like the same foods. However, that is also its strength and one of the only tools that allows you to account for breastfeeding. I love that there is an iPhone app that syncs well and it also works with my Fitbit monitor.
Loseit.com by FitNow is a pretty good web application that has a iPhone, Android, and Nook app to boot. Like MyFitnessPal it is free and works with FitBit. It is a very nice application with a prettier user interface design than MyFitnessPal. When it comes to recipes, though, it can be a bit clunky. The only reason that it is not my main go-to app is because there isn’t anyone I know on it. Diet and exercise works better when you are social, so I am waiting for this app to catch on more.
Calorie Counter by About.com is a pretty cool website and it also has an iPhone/Android/Blackberry app. The thing that jumped out at me about this website is the detailed level of activities that it has in its database. It has sexual activity, music playing, and even grooming activities… and yet no breastfeeding! It will give you also a food equivalent for the activity that you look up, like housecleaning for an hour will help you burn off one can of Coca-cola or walking the dog for an hour will be equal to 30 percent of a Big Mac. I also love the recipe analyzer on the website where you can cut and paste in a recipe and have the calories counted and generate its own nutritional label! This is the best feature for home cooks like myself.
I know a lot of people who love Sparkpeople. It is free, has an web/iPhone/iPad/Android/Blackberry app, and it does have a very nice interface. However, if you are pregnant (not a good time to go on a diet) or breastfeeding (like me), you are not supposed to join. If you answered yes to being pregnant or breastfeeding, the site directs you to BabyFit.com instead. I went ahead and created an account to reserve my username and to check out the interface, but I am not using it mostly because it told me not to. I will come back to this app later once I stop breastfeeding and give it a more detailed look.
MyNetDiary is available as a web/iPhone/iPad/Blackberry/Android application. It has a free version on the web and iPhone, but there is also paid version for iPhone and iPad. I personally found the web app interface to be weaker than the mobile app one; usually it is the other way around. The iPhone app comes in free and paid version, and the iPad version is a bit more costly. I didn’t know too many people using this and the costs kept me from committing to this one.
You can create an account on FitBit for free and use it, even though you will get more out of it if you have their activity monitor. I found the free application to be quite robust and easy to use. The application is also on iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad), Android, and Windows phones. You can upgrade to the premium version for $49.99 a year, which will offer you a more detailed report. I am not quite there yet but it is good to know it is an option down the road. For most people, the free version would be plenty of information to digest as is.