Apps available to help you eat better

By: Kathy Hansen - Contributing columnist

Trying to eat better, so I ate a salad for dinner! It was mostly croutons and tomatoes. Well really just one big, round crouton covered with tomato sauce and cheese…….

Several of my co-workers have recently embarked on a mission to lose weight and eat better. This morning I heard them discussing what they had eaten the previous day and how many calories they were over or under their goal. When I asked one of them how they specifically knew that it was the french fries and not the crab legs that pushed them over their prescribed limit, they proudly grabbed their smart phone to show me how it all added up.

Phone apps have been around for as long as smart phones and they keep getting more sophisticated. You can use them for exercise, music, and I even saw a commercial for one that monitors your heart and can send a signal to your family or doctor if you have an abnormal heart rhythm. Apps of the calorie counting variety come in very handy when you are trying to lose or manage your weight. We all know that body weight is dependent on two things, calories in and calories out (burned through activity). Dietitians have recommended food journals to patients for years, so using your phone to keep track is the next evolution.

Here are some of the most popular and, best of all, free or low-cost food apps available:

— MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter: This is one I have used in the past and it is pretty awesome. Not only does it have a pretty extensive list of foods, both organic and non-organic, it also has tons of restaurant menus and recipes. Available for Android and iOS.

— Lose It!: This is the preferred app for the Southeastern Wound Healing Center staff. It is very user-friendly and robust, with a number of ways to log and track food. The first is manual input, similar to most other calorie-tracking apps. The second is through bar code scanning, to help you win the battle with cookies at the grocery store, and not at 9 p.m. in your kitchen. Lastly, a new Lose It feature provides food log suggestions based on the image. With so many options, tracking your calories is easier and less time consuming. Available for Android and iOS.

— Weight Loss Coach, Fooducate: Fooducate takes calorie tracking one step further. Learn about the quality of the food you’re eating, not just the quantity. You maintain an average food grade that uses standard letter grading style (A-F), and each food you log is also given a grade. When you click on Why? you’re presented with a list of benefits and drawbacks for the food item. Works with Android and iOS, free for basic and fee for advanced version.

— Calorie Counter, MyNetDiary: This app makes it easier to paint a picture of your food habits to help you achieve weight loss. For example, every time you log food, the app also logs the time. That way you can look back and find patterns in your eating. If you’re consuming a high-sugar snack every day at 3 p.m., you may need to eat more protein at lunch so you get a steady stream of energy throughout the afternoon, rather than a spike and crash. The daily analysis gives you a quick and digestible snapshot of how you did that day, including your daily energy balance. This helps you begin to understand how energy in and energy out works for your body. Free for Android, $3.99 for iOS (only advanced version available).

There also are tons of other apps out there, so the choice is up to you. Look for one that is easy to use, works with your phone and will meet your calorie tracking needs. Good luck and happy counting!

Kathy Hansen

Contributing columnist

Kathy Hansen has more than 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Kathy Hansen has more than 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]