Some of us can remember when we needed a reference book in order to get an idea of how many calories we were eating. How labor-intensive was that? Just a guess, but maybe that is why so many people gave up on calorie counting. Today we have a fun option –the smartphone – to help us monitor our nutrition and track even more items than just calories.
If you are trying to manage your weight, one thing hasn’t changed: you need to know how many calories are in the foods you are consuming. Research has shown that those who keep a food diary are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. A smartphone app – learn this abbreviation if you are going to talk about these things – can serve as your food and exercise diary. Many useful apps are free and only take a little time to learn. Once you save your favorite foods in the amounts you typically eat, entering your foods is just a matter of a few clicks. If there is a large database of foods available with the app, including nutritional information from popular restaurants, you can even access the information before you make your food choices. At the end of the day, or the week, some apps will inform you of your progress toward your goals and track individual nutrients of concern to you.
If you are watching the fat in your diet for health reasons, you need to know how many grams of fat are in foods. If you are hypertensive, you need to know the sodium content. If you have diabetes, you need to be able to count carbohydrates with accuracy. Having this information at your fingertips is a definite advantage. Phone applications can provide how much of each individual nutrient your body needs for optimal health and evaluate your daily and weekly food choices to see how you measure up.
Many of the nutrition phone apps have a healthy-recipe database as well, with nutritional information provided and comments from recipe users. It is often amusing to read what others have to say, since cooks typically change ingredients and preparation methods and radically change the original recipe. Oftentimes these changes also affect the nutritional content, so be cautious of this tendency. What is really helpful is the option of adding your own recipes and having the app calculate the nutrition information for you. You can save your recipes for future reference and easy input into your food diary.
Don’t have a smartphone? Several websites offer the same services as a phone app. Incidentally, many will synchronize with the smartphone so you have the option of tracking by both computer and phone. The websites actually have additional tools that are not always available on the phone app, such as allowing you to input foods you don’t find in their database and, as mentioned, your personal recipes, complete with an analysis of the recipes you enter. You can read informative articles written by health professionals and interact with others in blogs, which can be quite encouraging and good support. Many send informative articles and success stories via email if you choose to sign up.
Below are some examples of smartphone apps and websites that may offer the tools you need to help you reach your personal health goals.
Someone told me his wife was insisting that he buy her an iPhone. He said all she needed was an I-ron. But let’s not go there.
Debbie Melvin, Lafourche Parish Nutrition Agent
Connie Aclin, Caddo Parish Nutrition Agent