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What’s the best food tracking app to use?

Written by Sarah on

There is so much tech in the fitness industry to help support us with our health and fitness goals. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming to know which to choose. How can you find a food tracker that's right for you?

Last week I wrote about how I felt like I’d been over-indulging in the run up to Easter and invited you to join me on my kickstart plan for April if you felt the same.

The 3 pillars of my plan are meal planning, tracking and working out my ‘why’ (motivations for doing this for my present and future self).

I’m doing pretty well with my planning and am clear on my motivations. But I find tracking my food and drinks so hard to stick to. If feels like a lot of additional life admin, it’s almost a part time job! I’m not great with technology on my best days and get so frustrated with the various tracking apps I’ve tried that I end up feeling stupid and demotivated and just giving up. Sound familiar?

Before we get into this, it's important to mention that tracking isn't suitable for everyone. If you are someone who has encountered disordered eating in your past or present then tracking your food may have a negative impact and you should seek further guidance from a medical professional.

I'm not someone who has a history of disordered eating and am comfortable that I can track my food without any adverse consequences. My issue with tracking is with the process and admin side of things. I need to find a way to make tracking work for me so that I can achieve my nutrition goals but also so I can support clients who have goals around weight management and body composition. If I hate tracking my own nutrition, how am I ever going to sell this idea to the people I work with?

I suppose firstly it’s a good idea to remind myself (and my clients) of why we need to track - the main reason is for those weight management/body composition goals. If you are trying to lose or gain weight you need to be in either a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are consuming) or a surplus (the opposite).

Finding out roughly how many daily calories your body needs is pretty straightforward. You can use an online calorie calculator.

To know whether you are in a deficit or a surplus you also need to know how many calories you are consuming. This is where it starts getting tricky. Most people (me included) tend to underestimate how many calories we are eating. When people tell me they are eating in a calorie deficit and not losing weight this usually means that they are not calculating their calorie consumption accurately, as it is very unusual for someone to be eating less than their maintenance calories and not losing weight.

As well as calories, educating ourselves about the nutrient value of different foods is also important. We need to be eating a healthy balance of the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) as well as fibre and micronutrients to ensure that our body can function properly.

The most accessible way of tracking what you eat and drink (important to not forget that liquids also have calories and nutrients, as do condiments!) is probably via an app. There are lots of different apps out there which contain food databases from which you can select your daily meals, snacks and drinks. The app will then auto populate the calories and key nutrient information.

If there are lots of apps out there doing a similar thing, how do you choose which one is best for you? I’ve mainly used a popular well known app in the past as it seems to be the main one everyone in the fitness industry uses and recommends. However, I personally find it really frustrating to use and so end up losing motivation to track after a few weeks which often derails my progress. I find some information on the database is inaccurate (even when it’s supposedly verified) and the measurements are not always intuitive (eg offering grams as a measurement of liquids rather than millilitres). A lot of the products on there are entered by American users making them not relevant to a UK diet. All of this makes me feel like I’m not accurately tracking my food and then the whole activity seems pointless.

After spending the past week getting frustrated with the app, instead of just giving up (which felt very tempting), I decided to do some research on what else was out there. Through an article in Women’s Health magazine I came across Nutracheck Calorie Counter +

I really like the design of this app, it feels very intuitive and user friendly. It has a UK database containing photos of the foods so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and the information on the database is properly verified so it feels like you are getting an accurate log of the nutritional information in your meals. I found that the user generated nature of my previous app means that the supposed same item can vary wildly in nutritional content depending on who uploaded the information.

Nutracheck also has a comprehensive list of UK restaurants, coffee shops and takeaways which means you can log your food fairly accurately when you’re eating out. You can even use the app to help you make informed decisions in real time when eating out.

This is starting to sound like a promotional article for Nutracheck which is absolutely not the case (unfortunately no one is paying me to write this!) The point here is that just like you need to find a coach or exercise regime which works for you as an individual, you also need to find the right technology to support you to achieve your fitness goals. That might be a food tracker or it could be a watch that measures your activity levels and heart rate.

Sometimes you need to try a few different options for size until you find one that’s the right fit for you (much like finding a life partner!) It’s unlikely you’ll find something that is perfectly tailored to you but you should be able to find something you can work with. It's all about trying to make positive habits easier, if something feels really hard and frustrating you are unlikely to stick with it. Some apps are free (with paid for premium options) and some you need to pay for but most will offer you a free trial so you can try before you buy.

At the moment this app is really working for me and making me feel positive and motivated about tracking my food (including the less healthy choices). It’s made me feel a lot more confident about achieving my nutrition goals than I was a few days ago. What tech are you going to try, to support you in achieving your goals?

If this is something I can support you with, get in touch for a free consultation.

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