Calories are the units used to measure the energy value of food. Some say when it comes to dieting, it’s energy in versus energy out. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s pretty much why we weigh what we do, and why calorie counting can be a helpful tool.
Figuring out how many calories you need just to live comes in your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR measures functions like breathing, circulation and cell production and is most accurately measured in a lab setting. As a rough guide, use this calculator to figure yours out. Mine, as a 46 year old female weighing 135 lbs, is 1,327 calories. I need to consume that amount on a daily basis for my body to perform its basic functions. To maintain my current weight (I’d like to lose 5 lbs or so) I’d need to eat 2,538 calories a day because I’m active. Well, how on earth would I know that number without having a way to track the calories I’m eating? I remember my mom had a little booklet she’d use to track what she ate when she was on a diet. She was almost always on a diet although she was slim. These days there’s an app for that!
I’ve been working out, experimenting with calories, watching the amount of protein I consume and tracking my heart rate with my new Apple Watch. It’s interesting to do at the moment. I’m hoping that I’ll soon know more of what I need to eat without going waaaay over my calorie intake. In this recent article on Sky News, they found on average, men ate 1000 more calories than they thought, and women 600 more calories. The first time I tracked my food intake, I was over by 600 cals.
When I ask a client to keep a food diary for me, sometimes I get a print out from their app, which makes it easy. I’ve since learned that you need to have a premium version of the app for that function. As with everything, it’ll cost you more if you want the free app to do more for you.
Here are a few calorie counting apps that I’ve checked out and my feedback about using them:
- My Fitness Pal – this ranks number one on most sites, and five stars in the App Store. It wasn’t the first app I downloaded because I wanted to see what else was out there and why this was number one. It tracks all meals, snacks and water intake. My Fitness Pal breaks down your macros (protein, fat and carbs) as well as nutrients. It’s quite useful to know how much sodium you’re eating if you’ve got a heart condition and you need to track it, for example. It took me a day or so to get the hang of this app because it’s not instantly easy to use, or so I found. It links to Apple Watch and other tracking devices like FitBit and Garmin, so your workouts are taken into account with your daily calorie intake (the more calories you burn the more you can eat!). I like the barcode scan feature (they all seem to have that) and the vast number of foods already in the app. Some foods and calories haven’t been entered properly so good to double check if it looks off.
- LoseIt – this is the first app that I downloaded and I took to it instantly. It was easy, I love the graphics – pictures of foods makes it bright and fun. It calculated my daily intake, but to get the round up of macros like in MFP, you have to pay. Also to add in water intake, that’s an upgrade too. There’s a feature to take a snap of your meal and it’ll calculate what you’ve eaten and suggest meals for your goals. Scan and barcode is also in this app.
- Fooducate – this business has been around for a while, educating about nutrition and food. Easy to sign up and get started. The photos of the products help when entering what I’ve eaten rather than just guessing if it’s right or not. It has a timestamp on when food or drinks are consumed, which is handy. I found the serving size a bit tricky to navigate but think it’ll become easier. Adding in there’s lots of supportive nutrition information in the app, some accessible only with the upgraded version. You can upload photos of your food and the community comments, a bit like Instagram.
- MyNetDiary – another colourful app that had me started with the first tap. I loved the instruction bubbles that popped up to tell me what to do as I first entered meals and foods. They saved me time instead of tapping everywhere to figure it out for myself. When adding a food, it gave options in graphics, which was super fast (I’m a visual person). Integration with my Apple Watch kept all my activities calculated so that I could see what was going on.
Tracking food and calories can, for some, be counter-intuitive, where the focus flips to being negative. It’s important to think about which one will work best for you given your goals. The bright and simple apps were more fun to use and helped me feel good about what I was eating, rather than being about the numbers. If you just need an idea of what you’re consuming, track your foods for a few days, then leave it. As this article says, most of us eat in excess of what we need on a daily basis – which makes sense as most of the population is overweight or obese.
If you have another favourite calorie counting app that you’ve used with success, comment below!
Listen to my segment on NewsTalk 1010 with Jerry Agar from February 23, 2018 for more!