Calorie Counting and Diet Tracking apps on an iPad – Review
Whilst eating a large steak and chips and a sticky toffee pudding with ice cream the other day I got into a conversation with some friends about the amount I eat. Basically they were all pretty amazed by how much I could consume. Now, I’m not fat, I’m around 5’7″ and 70kg which puts me at a healthy BMI so I wasn’t worried but it seemed as though I was eating at least twice as much as everyone else.
I therefore decided to track what I ate and see just how many calories I was eating each day. This also gave me a perfect opportunity to try out some new apps on my iPad. There are a whole host of exercise and diet tracking applications most of which do pretty much the same thing. They all have a database of foods and their respective nutritional information, you enter what you ate and the quantities of each and the app keeps a track of it all for you. Most of the iPad apps also allow you to enter any activities or exercise that you do so that you can compare calories in to calories out.
I didn’t try them all as there are loads of them available, many of them are free so I started with those. After trying a few, it soon became evident that the most importnat feature of these apps is easy data entry and a huge database of foods, or at least, a database that contains the types of foods you normally eat.
Most of the apps allow you to enter the nutritional values of foods that aren’t in the database manually, but this is time consuming and tedious, simply selecting the exact food from the database is much simpler and quicker. If it isn’t quick and easy then you won’t keep doing it.
Home cooked foods can cause a problem too. We eat lots of home cooked foods and entering such things can be a little difficult as obviously they won’t be in the database. Therefore the ability to quickly add and store regularly eaten meals is an advantage.
Some apps were much better than others , so here’s my opinion on a few of the apps I tried
Diet and Fitness Tracker by Spark People
This one one of the nicest looking apps out there. It was free and is supposed to link up with an account at sparkpeople.com. Unfortunately, despite signing up for an account I couldn’t get this version of the app (1.0) to link up with the account. I was unable to sign up for an account within the app so instead signed up online. However once I’d done that there was no way to link the two. In the end I deleted the app from my iPad and reinstalled it which then allowed me to link the two as the linking process only seems to be available when you launch the app for the very first time. I also had a few little glitches here and there with things I’d entered not showing up.
This was a real shame as the app looks gorgeous and it apparently has over 1 million foods in its database. It also has some really nice graphical analysis of your diet and exercise regimes. Entering foods was easy and the database did indeed seem good, although sometimes the size of it meant that there was a lot to search through when looking for something a little generic. It did appear to have a lot of UK brands in the database though which was a good thing for us Brits.
The exercise diary was good too with a wide range of activities listed and easy entry once again. All of this was tied together with some nice graphs showing your calorie breakdown for the day, your calories burned and the calorie differential.
Overall, this was one of the best apps I found, it looks great, had plenty of features and was easy to use. It did however crash a couple of times on me and therefore was relegated to the bin.
Calorie Counter (Zeda Inc)
This was also a gorgeous looking app and according to it’s description had over 400,000 foods in its database. It also had a nice breakdown of the nutritional values of each food and provided beautiful looking graphical feedback not just on calories consumed for the day but also on your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of all other nutritional values such as protein, carbohydrates, fat and even vitamins and minerals. On top of this it had a great looking diary section allowing you to track all sorts of physical attributes, not just your weight, but measurements of all kinds, even your blood pressure, blood sugar and overall mood for the day if you know such things.
It looked so good that I even spent the £1.19 to buy the app.
To start with it was relatively easy to use and the graphical summaries really were the best of all the apps. I’m a bit of geek mind you and like this sort of thing. I really wanted to stick with this app as it was the best looking and seemed to be the most featured of the apps I tried, but it seemed to fall down when entering foods. The database, as with all of these, is very US based and I had trouble finding many of the normal UK brands that we eat. This soon made it difficult to enter foods that I had consumed. Manually entering foods was OK, but it seemed as though you could only do it based on weight. I wanted to be able to enter the nutritional value of a portion of something, such as a bar of chocolate, but couldn’t do this through the app. Doing so would have made entry in the future easier. Maybe given a little more time with it and some patience entering the nutritional values of some of the foods that I eat regularly this would have improved, but it takes a lot of time to do this and tracking these things is time consuming enough as it is, adding things manually is just a step too far.
This app looks amazing, but at £5.99 it was just too expensive for me to give it a go. There is also no offline database associated with it so it only works if you have an internet connection.
Calorie Tracker – Livestrong.com
Coming from Livestrong I was hoping this was going to be more up my street and aimed at sporty people rather than someone trying to diet. It wasn’t and I didn’t like the look of the app either, the balck backgrounds and white content areas were just a little too dreary after the bright offerings from those apps listed above. The app does have good ratings in the app Store though so maybe I should have persevered a little longer.
I only tried the free version of this app and although it looks good, it kept crashing and even when it was working some of the nutritional values of the foods seemed a little odd to me. It just didn’t seem very accurate. On top of this there was no exercise tracking element to the app so it didn’t last long on my iPad.
Calorie Counter by fatsecret.com
Out of all the ones I tried it was probably the most boring looking with a simple white background and grey and black text and no real graphical representation or analysis of your food intake and exercise. However, it was very easy to use, and seemed to have the best database of the lot. It’s also a free app which is always good in my opinion and syncs well with an online account at fatsecret.com. The beauty of this is that you can enter food intake and exercise on the app on your ipad or from within their website on any computer. The syncing worked flawlessy and entering data was quick and easy both on the app and on the website.
The exercise tracker could do with a few more exercise types but it was again easy to use and worked well. After entering your data for the day the only analysis available is a ‘diet calendar’ which shows the differential between calories consumed and calories burned. The app really could do with some more interesting features and analysis. It would be nice to have some graphs and charts here and there and to be able to see a better breakdown of the nutritional elements of your diet.
However, despite this lack of features and eye candy, this was the app that I stuck with in the end. It was the easiest one to enter data into and if I learned one thing from testing these, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT feature of this type of app. If it isn’t quick and easy to do then you simply won’t do it every day and if you don’t do it every day then such an app is pointless.
Overall, as usual, no one app is perfect. I shall give Calorie Counter from Zeda Inc another go I think as it does look really nice, but at the moment the ease of use and quick data entry has made the offering from fatsecret my calorie counting app of choice.
Oh, and for those of you who are interested, yes I do eat a lot – The first few days of using these apps I was averaging around 5,000 calories per day, and I had cut out a few chocolate bars and snacks simply because the use of these apps made me more aware of what I was eating. I shall post a proper entry about my calorific intake soon as using these apps has made a difference, but I also think my body has adjusted to compensate which hasn’t necessarily led to any weight loss.