What are the secrets to losing weight? One of them is easily within our reach: right on our mobile phones! Researchers have found that the simple act of tracking your food and exercise, of writing it down and being accountable for it, has a huge impact on weight loss. A large-scale, long-term study found that people who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight—and kept it off—as people who didn’t.
The Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente, which conducted the study, has a printable food diary for the non-electronically minded. But for the rest of us, there are a host of smartphone apps that can help you keep track of what you eat. Many of them do the nutritional breakdown work for you; if you eat a bagel with cream cheese, for instance, they will tell you how many carbohydrates, calories, fat calories, grams of protein, etc., you have consumed. And if you’ve entered weight loss goals, they will tell you what percentage of your target daily calorie intake you’ve consumed.
Psychologically, just the knowledge of the nutritional impact of what you are about to eat can help you make better decisions. If you’re holding an ice cream sandwich in your hand, try entering into a food diary before actually eating it. Is it worth spending 500 calories of your 1700-calorie-per-day goal on that ice cream sandwich? How about the 27 grams of fat? It may be that when you are armed with this knowledge, you put away the ice cream sandwich in favor of a dessert that will have less impact on your daily intake. Or if you decide to eat it anyway, at least you’ll be doing it with the full understanding of what those nutritional values mean to a healthy diet.
Listed below are some of the most popular nutrition-tracking apps available. Some have a small fee, while many are free. Note that free apps often have advertising.
My Fitness Pal: Combines nutritional data with a fitness log, which can be synched with a Fitbit fitness tracker
Fooducate: Grades foods with letter grades based on their nutritional values
Foodle: Focuses on fresh produce so you can see which fruits and vegetables provide the most bang for their buck
Shopwell: Helps you shop healthier with personal profiles and a barcode scanner
Lose It!: Proves nutrition tracking with a barcode scanner and extensive database of restaurant items
HealthyOut Healthy Meal Finder: Helps you eat healthier when you dine out
FatSecret: A simple tool to keep track of calories and other nutritional data