AICR’s October eNews article features 7 phone apps for good health and cancer prevention. If you’re trying to lose weight, tracking your food intake is one of the best ways to get started – it holds you accountable for what you eat and allows you to see areas for improvement. You might realize foods (or drinks) that seemed harmless, like your daily coffee with cream and sugar, can really add up in the calorie bank.
If you want to track your intake on a computer, here are six great websites for weight loss. These sites are either personal favorites or ones that have successfully helped clients of mine manage their weight.
Getting Started: Determine your daily calorie goals. This varies for everyone but you can use an online calculator like this one for an estimate or go to a health professional (e.g., a registered dietitian). Many of these sites use a similar calorie calculator when you sign up for an account.
1. Myfitnesspal.com – At this site you enter what you’ve eaten and those foods are subtracted from your daily calorie goals. It’s rare that I can’t find something I have eaten on this website! It has just about everything, ranging from individual foods to common restaurant meals. You can add customized recipes and set your home screen to display the nutrients you care most about (e.g. calories, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, and fiber).
2. Fooducate.com – This site allows you to compare foods and beverages. Click on a category or search the database to see products listed with a calorie amount and an assigned letter grade. This makes it easy to find products that are better for you (the As) when you aren’t sure which item or brand to purchase. The site also has a great smart phone app.
3. Sparkpeople.com — On Sparkpeople.com, you can track your intake using the Nutrition Tracker on your personalized homepage. As you select foods, you can add them to “My Favorites”. The site also includes links to create a grocery list for the week, browse recipes, or have meal plans developed for you. Using the meal plan feature, you can specify options like “vegetarian” or “low sodium”.
4. Supertracker.usda.gov – This website has a section called “Food-A-Pedia” where you can compare the nutrition content of foods side by side. You can see how your daily food intake and activity compare to government recommendations. All product information here has been entered by experts (rather than many user-entered items from the other sites), but this also means it may be difficult to find some name brand products or common restaurant foods.
5. Calorieking.com – This website is extremely straightforward and intuitive if you want to simply get nutrition information for a food. A nutrition facts panel is displayed for each food item you search with exercise tips on ways to burn off those calories. For daily food and activity tracking, you can purchase a software program for $12/month. It allows up to five users, so it’s good for families who want to track their intake together.
6. Fitday.com – In addition to letting you track your daily intake, exercise, and weight, this website also has an area to track your mood. Tracking your emotions (e.g. stress, hunger, or happiness) can help you see when you may be more likely to over- or under-eat.
The bottom line: there are many websites and apps out there to help you track your intake. Use the one that works best for you to get on the right track towards a healthier weight and cancer prevention!
Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.