Food-diary apps to keep you on track

Do you know what—and how much—you actually consume every day? Whether your goal is improved nutrition or weight loss, a simple way to take charge of your eating habits is to keep a food log. In addition to a pencil-and-paper diary, there are several food-diary apps you can download on your mobile device.

One free resource is USDA’s MyPlate. The goal of MyPlate is to help Americans build healthy eating habits one goal at a time. Use the Start Simple with MyPlate app to pick daily food goals, join challenges, and earn fun badges.

Before you start tracking, find the calorie level that’s right for you with the MyPlate Plan calculator. Then print or download the resulting MyPlate Daily Checklist to help you decide how much to eat from each food group. Next, use a food-tracker app to stay on top of your health goals.

The chart below lists several popular food-tracking apps that will work with your mobile device. Each has the ability to track food intake, activity, and weight. Each app’s food database is extensive, but the apps might vary based on content in their food databases, nutrients tracked, online community or coach support, and other functions. Some features are included while others can be added with a paid upgrade only, so make sure to read each product’s website carefully before picking the app that’s right for you.

Food and Exercise Apps

 

USDA: Start Simple with MyPlate

Cronometer

Fooducate

My Fitness Pal

Lose It!

Nutritionix Track

My Net Diary

FatSecret

Noom

WW (Weight Watchers)

Platforms

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, Android, desktop

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay, Windows

Apple, GooglePlay

Apple, GooglePlay

Cost

Free

Free*

Free*

Free*

Free*

Free*

Free*

Free*

Fee-based

Fee-based

Tracks weight

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tracks calories

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Food database

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Barcode scanner

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tracks macro-nutrients

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Tracks micro-nutrients

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

Recipe database

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

​​​​Yes

Yes

Yes

Tracks Exercise

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Syncs to fitness trackers

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Limited

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Community

No

Yes

Limited

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Goal Setting

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Features

Badges

Pro Version (upgrade)

Personalized tips & support

Meal-scan

Workout guides

Recipe creator

Special diet plans, article library

Photo album, journal Psychology-based SmartPoints

*In-app purchases

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

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


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References

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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