Food-diary apps to keep you on track

One of the best ways to lose and maintain weight, or just improve your overall nutrition, is to keep track of what you eat and drink every day. Do you know how much you actually consume? A simple way to take charge of your eating habits is to use a food diary on your mobile device.

If you’ve been using USDA’s SuperTracker food diary and other Choose MyPlate resources, then tracking well-balanced meals and snacks should be no surprise to you—from the amounts you should eat and drink to the nutrients you need every day. SuperTracker is no longer available, so we compared similar food trackers that can help you stay in the know about your food, activity, and weight goals.

Before you begin tracking, find the calorie level that’s right for you by using the MyPlate Checklist Calculator. Then print or download the resulting MyPlate Daily Checklist to guide you to what and how much to eat from each food group within your specific calorie allowance. Next, use a food-tracker app to stay on top of your health goals.

The following chart is a sample of several free food-tracking apps that will work with your mobile phone. Each includes the ability to track food, activity, and weight. Each app’s food database is extensive, but they vary in content with common, brand-name, restaurant, and fast foods, as well as grocery store items. Some features can be added with a paid upgrade only, so read each product website carefully before upgrading.

Food and Exercise Apps

 

Calorie Counter by Fat Secret

Cronometer

Fooducate

Lose It

My Fitness Pal

NutritionIX Track

Spark People

Platforms available

Apple, Android, Windows, Blackberry

Apple, Android

Apple, Android

Apple, Android

Apple, Android, Windows

Apple, Android

Apple, Android

Tracks calories and weight

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Food database + barcode scanner

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tracks macro-nutrients

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tracks micro-nutrients

Yes

+ water

Yes

+ water

No

No

Yes

+ water

Yes

+ water

Yes

+ water

Recipe database

Yes

Yes

+ user-added recipes

Yes

+ user-added recipes

No

Yes

+ user-added recipes

Yes

+ user-added recipes

Yes

Tracks Exercise

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Syncs to fitness trackers

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Community

Yes

+ challenges

Yes

Yes

Yes

+ challenges

Yes

No

Yes

+ challenges

Free features also include…

+ Uploads pics of food

+ Shares with healthcare professionals

+ Supports needs of pregnant and lactating women

+ Supports specialized diets

+ Analyzes other ingredients on food label

+ Tracks sleep, mood, hunger

+ Uploads pics of food

+Syncs to multiple health trackers (e.g., scale, sleep,  lifestyle, etc.)

+ Supports specialized diets

+ Exports reports to share with healthcare professionals

+ Supports specialized diets

Upgrade features include…

 

+ Suggests healthier foods

+ Export reports to share with healthcare professionals

+ Supports gluten-free and other food-allergy diets, needs of pregnant and lactating women, other specialized diets

+ Syncs to fitness trackers

+ Tracks macronutrients, water, sleep

+ User-added recipes

+ Tracks blood sugar, blood pressure, etc.

+ Food analysis

+ Export reports to share with healthcare professionals

 

+ Coach portal to share with healthcare professionals

 

+ Access to live coaches

+ Personalized health-status reports

+ Export reports to share with healthcare professionals

This chart is for information only. HPRC does not endorse any company or product. All information was obtained from product websites and/or support services.

While these tracking tools can be helpful, keep in mind this caution: The information is only accurate and valuable if the details you enter are accurate. So, personalized tracking might not be exact. However, if you’re looking for a tool to help you become aware of what you are eating, improve your eating habits, or even hold yourself accountable, then any of these (or similar) programs can help you meet your nutritional goals.

Resources

Burke, L. E., Conroy, M. B., Sereika, S. M., Elci, O. U., Styn, M. A., Acharya, S. D., . . . Glanz, K. (2010). The effect of electronic self-monitoring on weight loss and dietary intake: A randomized behavioral weight loss trial. Obesity, 19(2), 338–344. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.208

Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008

Franco, R. Z., Fallaize, R., Lovegrove, J. A., & Hwang, F. (2016). Popular nutrition-related mobile apps: A feature assessment. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(3), e85. doi:10.2196/mhealth.5846

Kong, A., Beresford, S. A. A., Alfano, C. M., Foster-Schubert, K. E., Neuhouser, M. L., Johnson, D. B., . . . McTiernan, A. (2012). Self-monitoring and eating-related behaviors are associated with 12-month weight loss in postmenopausal overweight-to-obese women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(9), 1428–1435. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.05.014

Lieffers, J. R. L., Arocha, J. F., Grindrod, K., & Hanning, R. M. (2018). Experiences and perceptions of adults accessing publicly available nutrition behavior-change mobile apps for weight management. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 118(2), 229–239.e223. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2017.04.015