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July 19, 2011 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Know Your Diet - My Favorite Calorie Tracking Tools

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Do you remember what you had for dinner last night?

What about breakfast?

For many of us, it can be difficult to recall exactly what we consumed as we are living in a fast-paced frenzy. Our hurried lifestyles lead many to eat on the run, whether in their cars, at their desks, or standing up – each of which may lead to overeating. By taking the time out of your hectic schedule to sit down to eat, you’ll enhance your enjoyment of your meal and you’ll you enable a mind-body connection with your food.

Research indicates that when we sit down to savor the flavor, the resulting increase in consciousness leads us to eat less. On the other hand, noshing while watching TV or as you check e-mail may leave you with lower satisfaction, causing you to eat more simply because you barely remember eating in the first place. While I wish it was always possible to take a time-out for every meal and snack, on occasion we have no other option than to eat on-the-go. When this does occur, you can increase your awareness of exactly what you are putting in your mouth (and how much) by tracking your intake.

Whether online or on paper, calorie tracking helps us stay within our calorie goals by forcing us to pay attention to our choices.

Do you really want to record your second donut?

The fact that you must record and review the results of your daily intake may cause you to reconsider some of the less healthy options.

Let’s say it has been an especially busy day, and you are in need of a nighttime snack.

If you are using a calorie tracker, you can determine how many calories remain in your daily budget and pick the bite with the best bang for your calorie-buck. Perhaps opting for a giant bowl of air-popped popcorn rather than ¼ cup of ice-cream, as both offer around 100 calories, and, surely, the whole grain popcorn will be more filling.

Another benefit of keeping an eye on your calorie intake is the education.

Did the previous snack example surprise you? By tracking your food choices, you will quickly learn how nutrient-rich or calorie-packed each option is. Thankfully, you won't need to spend your time calculating the nutrition for each item yourself, as online calorie tracking tools abound!

Read on for a few of the tools I recommend:

Online Calorie Trackers

  • Lose it! This user-friendly app includes the essentials in an easy-to-use format. I keep this app handy on my iTouch for those days when I really need help. I appreciate the generous nutrient database, which includes many of the most popular brands and restaurants to ensure the greatest accuracy. To help save time, you are able to add and save meals that you consume frequently (for me, that meal is my go-to breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter and ground flax). If you are exercising, the application will help you to incorporate the calories burned into our calorie balance as well. Lose it! will also track your weight status for you in a graph displaying your ups and downs.
  • iWatchr. This application is designed for those counting Weight Watchers™ points in place of calories, and, as I know many of you are, I wanted to share this one. This app will even allow you to include your bonus and activity points to truly meet your planning needs. At $0.99, this is a great deal!
  • MyFitnessPal. The high-tech offerings of MyFitnessPal amaze me. Not only does the app offer the tracking basics of other apps, it also provides a breakdown of nutrients and even has a barcode scanning feature! Using your smart phone, you can scan the barcode of whatever food you eat and the app will do all of the work of searching for you, tallying up the exact nutrients you consumed.
  • MyPlate. The latest health tool from our government offers personalized diet advice in the form of MyPlate. Although it does offer slightly more generic nutrition information for your food choices, it will help you plan out a balanced meal-plan based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans, ensuring you are meeting your nutrient needs. I encourage you to visit the site, as you may be pleasantly surprised at the personalized guidance available.

Of course, for those of you who are confident in your ability to calculate your intake, there is always the classic standby of pen and paper. You can rely on the nutrition facts panel (found on most packaged foods) or the USDA’s nutrient database to determine just how many calories are in your choices.

Happy tracking!

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2 Comments

  • Thanks for the heads up Jessica, by all means I would suggest using an app instead of paper and pencil. The other thing is you would be surprised on how fast the calories add up, I used MyFitnessPal and loved it, but by the end of the day I couldn't believe it that 90% of the days I was going over my allotted amount of calories that is until you pay close attention!

  • @Nancy, you make an excellent point on how quickly calories add up. It can be quite a reality check when we truly track every little bite or 'taste' we enjoy throughout the day. One word of caution is the amount of calories your body needs doesn't always equate to the specific amount given by such Apps. If you feel like you are starving every day, yet your App tells you to only eat 1200 calories... I would highly recommend seeking alternative advice ;)

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