MyFitnessPal vs Google's Im2Calories: which is the best calorie counter app?
The five best calorie counters on the market to help support your diet and fitness plans
Counting calories can be a handy way of working out whether you are eating too much or too little, but unless you are a health fanatic with a lot of time on your hands, it can be hard to keep track of exactly how much you're consuming.
That's where calorie counters may be able to help. Online food diary services have been available for years, but a crop of phone and tablet apps has recently emerged, allowing weight-conscious users to keep on top of what they eat without having to sit down at a computer to tally it all up. So which ones are the best?
The gold standard for calorie counting has long been MyFitnessPal. In a survey of DIY diet plans by Consumer Reports magazine in 2013, MyFitnessPal received the highest reader score. The tool allows users to record everything they eat and drink each day, tracking the calories and nutritional value of what they are consuming. MyFitnessPal also lets you set goals and track progress, and for added motivation you can connect with friends who are also using the app. It was given "an overall satisfaction score of 83 and top marks for maintenance, calorie awareness, and food variety", the Daily Mail reports.
Im2Calories, Google's 'smart' food diary, aims to do something quite different from many other calorie-counting apps on the market. Rather than asking users to type the foods they have consumed into a spreadsheet or scan an item's bar code, Im2Calories analyses photos of meal a user has taken and then attempts to estimate that meal's calorie count. Currently, Google admits that its estimates can be inaccurate. Kevin Murphy, a researcher at Google, told Popular Science: "Okay fine, maybe we get the calories off by 20 per cent (but) it doesn't matter." According to Murphy the system will become more accurate as users begin uploading their photos and Google compiles a database of different types of food from all over the world.
Like numerous other calorie counters, LoseIt has a large library of ingredients that can be accessed with a barcode scanner. But unlike some, LoseIt allows users to add their own custom recipes and food so that you can easily re-enter their favourite meals without having to break them down ingredient by ingredient each time. LoseIt also syncs with activity trackers including the Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Nike Fuelband.
Some apps, like Cron-o-meter, serve as companions to an online service rather than a fully functioning service in their own right. And where many services aim for depth, Cron-o-meter tries to keep things simple, trimming down the more complicated features of services like MyFitnessPal into a more straightforward food diary. "For some people that's a good thing," says Lifehacker.com. "For others though, you may find it lacking features you like from other services, like a community of users or a social aspect, or the option to sync and connect to external devices, fitness trackers, and scales."
One of the appeals of Fat Secret is its plain, intuitive interface. The app's graphs and tables are easy to understand at a glance and users praise its easy-to-use food input system. Fat Secret also offers information on menu items in numerous chain restaurants and lets users connect with one another online to keep motivated. One of the app's most innovative features is that it allows users to keep a regular journal alongside their food diary to track the relationship between their mood and their food intake.