In the first part of this food journal article series, I described the 7 Reasons Why You Should Keep a Food Journal, even for only a couple days. In Part 2, I want to describe the types of metrics you should consider tracking, along with the best online calorie trackers and Smartphone apps to make the process of keeping a food journal much easier.
What Should You Track?
There are a bunch of different metrics you may consider tracking in your food journal, so I included the big one’s below. These metrics may sound complicated, but in just a second you’ll learn of software that make these calculations a snap:
• Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snack items
• Quantity and Measure of Each Item
• Calories in each item, each meal as a whole, and in the day as a whole
• Daily totals and % breakdown of protein, carbs, and fat grams (can also do this for each meal/snack)
• Time of day your eating
• Number of glasses of water
• Overall Review of Day (how did you do? What do you need to work on?)
• Mood before/after each meal/snack
You can also go far more granular and figure out the number of grams of sugar your having each day, the vitamin and minerals, but this can get impossibly tedious without software to do it for you.
Key Online Calorie Tracker Features
There are hundreds of calorie trackers to choose from, but the best one’s (like those I list) have the following features.
My Favorite Foods – Allows you to add foods you eat all the time to your food favorites, so that you can add them to your meals very easily.
My Favorite Meals – Same concept as favorite foods, but applied to meals. If you eat a meal frequently, you can save it to “My Favorite Meals” to easily add it in the future to your daily calorie intake.
Add Custom Foods – If you eat a food that’s not in the food database, you can simply add it manually for easy addition later.
Exercise Tracking – most of these trackers allow you to log your exercise and create an estimation of your calorie burn. You can then compare your calorie burn to calorie intake, which can be very helpful and motivating! Some also include basic exercise library and sample workouts that you can track as well.
Bodyweight Tracking – These calorie trackers allow for basic tracking of bodyweight, but some allow for more advanced tracking of body measurements and body fat.
Best Free Online Calorie Tracker
These free online calorie trackers make keeping a food journal a lot easier. Most of them have similar features in that you choose foods that you have eaten from a food database, add it to your desired meal, then watch the trackers do their magic. They will tabulate just about every metric I mentioned previously without you having to worry so that you can see the metrics and compare them over time effortlessly.
BuiltLean Top Pick:
The power of Livestrong’s calorie tracker is in its database of foods and restaurant items, which is an impressive 165K+ items thanks to Livestrong’s partnership with TheDailyPlate.com. This compares to the USDA food database of a paltry 6K. The database has nutrition info not only for a bunch of foods, but for the particular brand of a given food, which has been verified by the companies that make the brands. For example, if you just had a bowl of Kashi Go Lean cereal, Livestrong has that particular cereal in its database verified by Kashi. There’s also a Livestrong Iphone, Blackberry, and Android app for $2.99 so you can track your foods on the go.
Best Daily Calorie Tracker App
Here are the best iphone and blackberry apps to track your calories:
BuiltLean Top Pick:
LoseIt! is the easiest app to use and makes you love your iphone/ipod touch even more. The food database is robust, and there are never any wasted steps to input your foods and track your calories. Did I mention it’s free? This is a killer app for calorie tracking so if you have an iphone, I would strongly recommend getting this app. Loseit! does have a website that funnels the information you track so you can easily analyze it, but you can’t add food items etc. on the website (it’s read only).
Livestrong.com – If you are a blackberry user, you should go with the Livestrong app. Costs $2.99.
DailyBurn.com – Also has a cool separate food scanner app where you can add foods you eat by scanning the bar code. Free.
SparkPeople.com – Free, Iphone + Blackberry
FitDay.com and My-Calorie-Counter.com do not have apps.
I want to be crystal clear with my recommendations: if you want to use a website to track your calorie intake online and/or you have a blackberry, go with Livestrong.com. If you have an Iphone, go with LoseIt!.
In case you would rather keep the food journal by hand, the last part of this series I created a Free Printable Food Journal Template that you can use.
Please share your thoughts on any of these free online calorie trackers, or apps you have used by leaving a comment!