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 (can do this for each meal/snack too)
- 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.
If you want to only track your eating with only photos, BiteSnap is your pick.
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.
Marc Perry Top Pick:
When I first wrote this article many years ago, I chose Livestrong.com as my top desktop pick. Livestrong ended up purchasing MyPlate, which is a an excellent calorie tracking app. I recently tested over a dozen of these different calorie tracking apps for my clients and MyPlate was #1.
My Plate has a solid database that makes finding foods simple and hands down in my opinion the best user interface that’s simple and easy to use. Tracking your foods or meals, especially if you have a few go-to meals is about as easy as it could be.
You can also login and see your stats via a desktop, but I think you’ll want to keep everything mobile because it’s easier. They also have both iPhone and Android versions.
I must tell you Livestrong may pitch you on their own exercise videos and they have it baked into their app, but you don’t have to use them. Just a heads up.
I’m slightly biased, but I think BuiltLean recommends very efficient workouts using strength circuits!
1. Lost It!
Before MyFitnessPal was bought by Under Armor, it was neck and neck with Lose It! Now, it’s still great, but there’s a lot more UA branding and general advertising you need to deal with. If you are the type of person who loves a community, MyFitnessPal has a very strong community. So does Lose It! You could easily try both and see which one you like more, but I think you’ll come to the same conclusion I have.
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.
Would you have any additional/different recommendations for the Android (as opposed to Iphone or blackberry”
Hey Brandon, that’s a good question. I’ve tried to search the Android Marketplace, but it’s very frustrating to try to do it online. I did find out livestrong has their application available for $2.99 on the Android , so my guess is go with that (but I haven’t tested it). From what I’ve read, the free option for the droid is pretty solid and it’s called, “Calorie Counter”. I’ve been seriously considering getting a Droid because I’ve heard great things and also the iphone with AT&T in NYC is not an option! If I hear anything else, I’ll let you know by leaving a comment!
Thanks for the comprehensive bullet-point list of what specifically to track. I think especially the “overall review” point is invaluable — constantly assessing habits increases our chances of improving them. Am looking forward to printable food journal!
Spark people has a great Android app as well for calorie tracking. They also have an app with healthy recipes. There are actually hundreds of calorie counters\trackers for the android, as well as GPS based workout apps, etc.
I personally love Cron-o-meter, a free open source app that comes with all USDA foods pre-loaded and adding new foods is a breeze. I love that the data is in XML and I can export it, keep it all to myself and I don’t rely on someone else storing my information. It’s no iPhone app but it’s the best one I have found for computer tracking.
I’m a huge fan of MyFitnessPal. It’s great for tracking both calories and exercise and also tracks other nutrients as well. I’ve lost 24 pounds since New Year’s and I’m aiming to lose 16 more. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
Also, the Hacker’s Diet website is great for seeing the overall trend of weight loss. I’ve only gone above my trend line on 4 separate days, which means I’m making incredible progress. I track my weight daily. https://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/HackDiet
@oldbushie – Thanks for sharing.