October 25, 2010

Nutrient Analysis and Weight Control Apps – Picks from the Litter

Want to know the carbohydrate count for vegetarian lasagna, the saturated fat grams for prime rib? Or trying to trim a few pounds and think recording your food intake and getting a daily nudges (reminders) will aid your efforts? Apps with these features and more have multiplied. And they're available for use online and for one and/or as apps for one or more smart phones (eg iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, etc.) Check out my picks from the litter. They’re listed alphabetically within two groups – Apps-For-Free and Apps-For-a-Fee. More free than for a fee!


daily plateName: The Daily Plate
In brief: This frequently recommended site, linked with popular cyclist Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong organization, boast a food database with more than 1 million foods and 1500 searchable activities. The food intake tracking tool allows you to group together the foods and meals you commonly eat. This simplifies recording and helps you easily search for foods you regularly eat. The longer you use it, the easier the tracking becomes. Again, being a creature of habit with your foods/meals is advantageous. The site offers ten “tools” for tracking your food intake, weight, goals, achievements and more. Connect with fellow users, read articles on health and fitness, and access videos featuring Lance Armstrong. And, you figured this was coming, you have the option to become part of and support the Livestrong organization and join others as they tackle long term goals like doing marathons, triathlons or even local walk/run races.
fat secretName: Fat Secret
In brief: An easy to use and access food database is Fat Secret's key feature. Browse foods by group, popular brand, restaurant chain, or specific supermarket chain. The site's focus is weight loss. With its “Diet Tools” it aims to keep up with trends in the weight loss world. Thus, it's a resource on popular diets, such as Atkins, Weight Watchers, The Glycemic Index Diet and others. Fat Secret supports your weight loss efforts with “Diet Forums”, “Community Challenges”, “Supportive Groups”. Contribute to or learn from others through “What Really Works” which offers members’ experiences, feedback and stories. And as a way to keep you accountable and on track with your goals, progress and accomplishments, you get an opportunity to declare your “fat secret.”
fit dayName: Fit Day
In brief: A free account offers you access to enter your daily food intake and activity. This system recognizes your recent food inputs for quick and easy recording and offers you the option of creating custom foods as well. You’ll get your daily calorie counts with the ratios of what percent of your calories were from carbohydrate, protein and fat. Set and update your personal weight loss goals. An exercise log helps you maintain an activity spreadsheet. The calendar feature helps you see the “big picture” by allowing you to review everything you’ve logged at a glance. Want to gain insight into why you ate this then or didn’t get to an exercise class? Recording your moods might help. Take advantage of support through forums or share your weight control journey. Or take the more personal approach by journaling your experiences and thoughts just for you. Perks for the premium account options (for which there's a fee)? No ads, access to the “custom tracking” tool and “advanced” nutrition reports. Another plus for the premium route is the option to sync to FitDay’s PC software.

Name: My Fitness Pal
In Brief: This site boasts a searchable food database of over 468,000 items. The vast number of foods doesn’t impress me as much as the “learn from you” feature. Using "learn from you," the system remembers your regular entries and makes it easier and quicker for you to log what you eat. And since we’re creatures of habit with our food choices, this is a winning feature. Create a diet profile to customize your weight loss goals and adjust as needed as you progress. Additional tools you may find helpful are the Recipe Nutrition Facts calculator, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Basal Metabolic Rate calculator. To keep your motivation level high, you’re welcome to join forum discussions and groups on which you can chime in or glean from others on topics such as healthy recipes, workout strategies, and of course, success stories.

Name: Gomeals
In brief: This app developed by the insulin maker sanofi-aventis, is oriented towards people with diabetes to “keep things in check.” It is powered by Calorie King’s (calorieking.com) food database and provides the nutrition counts for 25,000 foods and 20,000 restaurant menu items. This sounds like a small number compared to the databases on other apps, but it’s more than plenty to cover way more than the basic foods. A unique feature of this app is that as you track, it shows you “Today’s Plate”, where your nutrition intake and info for the each day is tallied. As usual you can save, identify and find the nutrition counts for your favorite foods. The food log keeps up to 30 days of activity and offers a detailed account of your food intake over time. Another unique feature is a “Restaurant Locator” based on your location and nutrition needs!
Name: LoseIt!
In brief: Loseit! (which you can download via iTunes) allows you to set your daily calorie budget and record your food and exercise as you go (which is the most accurate way to do it). As you record the foods you eat the app shows you a screen shot with your “total intake” compared with your calorie “budget” and your exercise calorie deficit. View nutrition profiles of foods and thereby track the adequacy of your nutrient intake and see if your ratios of the major nutrients – carbohydrate, fat and protein are where they should be. Also set your personal weight loss goals. Customization is possible. Set personal “motivators” and create “custom” recipes, foods and activities. LoseIt! offers to send you daily e-mail reminders to help you tow the line (a really nice plus!). Monitor your progress (such as tracking your weight loss) and even set up a support system with fellow LoseIt! users.

Name: Spark People Mobile Apps
In brief: Sparkpeople has become the largest free weight control website in the world. According to the site, there are 8 million users! And it’s gotten some rave reviews, such as by Business Week who named it “Best Health Website” three times in a row. As well as offering you an ample assist with weight loss through tips, recipes and plenty of support around you, you’ll have access to their large food and nutrition database, food and exercise tracker and more. An added plus, answers from on hand dietitians and fitness experts.

Name: USDA – My Food-a-Pedia
In brief: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is keeping up with the food and nutrition apps with a relatively slim nutrient database for just 1,000 foods. Reality is that USDA maintains (your tax dollar at work) one of the most trusted food databases. (Find this more extensive searchable database of 8,000 foods at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/. I use this database all the time.) This USDA app, My Food-a-Pedia is a free downloadable iPhone app. It’s basic with no bells and whistles, just the calories, serving sizes that contribute to the five food groups, and the number of “extra” calories in fats, sugars, and/or alcohol. Use it as a learning tool to educate yourself about how much extra fat and added sugars you might be eating. The push is on to get Americans to cut down on these. Now Let's Move!


Name: Tap & Track
Cost: $3.99
In brief: A large database is the central feature to this app for iPhone or iPad with a database of 250,000+ foods, 2000 brands of foods, and the nutrition facts for more than 700 restaurants. As you tap and track, you see screen shots of your daily totals for calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, saturated fat, sugars, sodium and dietary fiber. To help you meet your nutrition goals, it displays your daily calorie “needs and limits.” More stuff: a body mass index calculator, option to set your weight and exercise goals and full screen graphs to observe and evaluate your progress.

Name: Shroomies-Nutrition Menu
Cost: $1.99
In brief: This app has been ranked among the favs by Apple staff and has also been featured in a Women’s Health magazine article of “best apps”. No internet connection is needed to browse the featured 42,000 restaurant menus, and over 51,000 “common” food items. You can easily add your favorite foods or bookmark your favorite foods or meals to make record keeping easier over time. For all food items you’ll get the nutrition info you expect: calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat, dietary fiber, sugars, cholesterol, sodium, and the serving size. You can also track your activity and weight. Also monitor your progress with daily totals and graphs that offer your records in summary form.