Tracking calorie intake and exercise is an essential component to eating healthy and maintaining weight loss. Whether you opt to journal your food and exercise or utilize one of the many online diet trackers, by recording the calories you eat and the calories you burn, you will significantly chances of losing weight and keeping it off.
Free Diet Trackers
myFitnessPal is a free app available on iPhone and Android that allows you to track your food and exercise on the go.
This app is loaded with a ton of useful features including:
- The ability to sync between multiple devices and the myFitnessPal website
- A barcode scanning function to add foods to your daily menu
- A huge library of foods with their nutritional values fully loaded
- A display that counts down your daily calorie and nutrient needs against your personal weight goals
- On demand reports that show you your progress and calculate an estimated weight that you can expect to see over the course of five weeks
While I love this app, myFitnessPal does have its limitations. For example, it does not easily track against a weekly calorie goal. So, if you splurge one day and barely eat the next, the tracker will calculate your 5 week potential weight against one day’s worth of eating habits.
The app also suffers from occasional blackouts when the online service goes down. While frustrating, this is not terribly disruptive especially considering how quickly the myFitnessPal team communicates and remediates outages and service problems.
Maintained by the USDA, myPyramid.gov is a free diet tracking website where users can compare what they eat against the US Dietary Dietary Guidelines and plan healthier menus to get a bit better at meeting the Food Pyramid guidelines.
Features of myPyramid include:
- Easy to understand deficiencies in your diet, e.g. charts that show smiley faces or frowning faces when you either meet or miss a nutritional goal
- Reports that help you track your weight over time
Unfortunately myPyramid does have a couple of limitations. First, there is no app format for this tool which makes it difficult to track throughout the day. Second, the menu and the food library is fairly limited compared to some of the commercial apps and other online diet journaling sites.
Paid Diet Trackers
Weight Watchers Online and eTools
I love the Weight Watchers. From both the quality of the nutritional principles that the diet is based on and the community support in losing weight, it’s a great program, especially for people new to weight loss and dieting.
What Weight Watchers essentially does is break down calories and figuring nutritional needs into a points system and a set of guidelines. You are assigned a certain number of these points that you can eat through the day and week and then you try to choose foods according to the guidelines in the program.
Weight Watchers’ online program is split into 2 main services, eTools and Weight Watchers Online. The difference between the 2 programs relies mainly on whether you attend Weight Watcher meetings in person or whether you opt to do the program completely from home.
Features of Weight Watchers Online and eTools include:
- An awesome diet tracker with a ton of snazzy little bells and whistles
- Reporting tools
- Recipes that you can either enter in yourself or get from the community
- Tons of community support and access to helpful articles
- The Weight Watchers app for iPhone and Android that will sync directly with the online account
While I absolutely love Weight Watchers, there are some downsides to their online tools. First, the app is extremely large - I have not had much success in making it work well with my Android. Second, on your profile you have the ability to create blog postings and upload recipes but all of that information remains with Weight Watchers and when you leave the program or when you haven’t paid, it’s gone.
Tracking Calories Manually
If you’re more the type that prefers to track calories manually through a diet journal than to track your nutrition online, check out my article on how to understand your calorie needs.