There’s been a lot of debate over recent years about the fact a calorie isn’t always a calorie. So just because you cut down your calorie intake it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on the quality of your food to make sure you feel good and ultimately shift the fat in the long term – not just the weight in the short term.
Having said that, using a calorie tracker is one of the best ways to get control of your diet. Counting up all those snacks and meals can reveal some shocking news about your eating habits and highlight common misconceptions about the food you eat – not to mention the portion sizes you might be over-consuming.
Read this: The best fitness tracker you can buy
It can quickly highlight what your normal eating habits are and where you might make improvements, which can perfectly complement the health and activity information from your wearable gadget.
You can use a variety of methods, from phone apps to fitness trackers, and the trouble isn’t finding a tool to track your calories, it’s choosing which one is right for you.
There are dozens of diet apps to choose from these days but the best offer so much more than a digital diary. Barcode scanners give instant nutritional information, extensive food libraries make counting calories quick and accurate while some can be synced with a fitness band or step counter app to combine exercise and activity with diet for all-round healthier results.
We’ve picked out our favourite calorie counting wearables and the apps that do a similar job and a little bit more with your data.
Best fitness trackers for calorie counting
Jawbone’s latest wearable, the UP3 is packed full of some of the most advanced sensors in the space, which means it takes measuring your calorie burn each day seriously.
It’s easy to guestimate the impact 30 minutes of walking will have on your calorie deficit, but the UP3 tries to take out the guesswork, using data about your height, weight, activity intensity and duration from its huge range of sensors.
But with Jawbone it’s not just about calorie burn. The newest version of the accompanying app has a beautifully simple food log with large photos sensibly split into meal times and food groups. To make tracking food and calorie intake even easier,, one of the best food discovery networks.
There’s also a barcode scanner and the ability to take photos of your meals, input nutritional information and portion size to help keep your food diary accurate and improve the database.
Recently additions to the Jawbone app also include Food Score, which rates your choices so you’re clued up enough to make better ones in the future. There’s also the new Smart Coach, a super clever insight feature that helps you reach your goals and provides you with tips and recommendations.
Like most trackers, the Basis Peak is first and foremost all about keeping an eye on your fitness and your sleep.
In the same vein as the Jawbone UP3, it then uses its huge range of sensors to provide some of the most accurate calorie burn tracking information in the space.
But it’s the habit-building and goal-setting features that make it a firm favourite when it comes to weight loss. Allowing you to progress at your own pace and keeping you on track with notifications when you need more of a nudge in the right direction. Essentially combining calorie burn data straight from the device with intake from within the app and third party services.
Under Armour HealthBox
We’ve seen families of connected fitness devices before from the likes of Fitbit and Withings. The big difference with Under Armour’s HealthBox platform is that it has huge ecosystem to go with its new line of hardware and it’s aiming to make the data you collect more meaningful.
The HealthBox is made up of the Under Armour Band fitness tracker, heart rate monitor chest strap and smart scales. MyFitnessPal, which is owned by the sports giant, is deeply integrated into HealthBox. So you can step on the scales and the information will be combined with your food logging data. Under Armour’s IBM powered Watson software will then analyse the information and give you insights and tips on how to keep on track.
Best apps for calorie counting
Best overall: MyFitnessPal
successful and for good reason the MyFitnessPal app (iOS, Android, Blackberry,
Windows) is leagues ahead of the rest when it comes to calorie counting and
diet management. Tell it your vitals and what you want to achieve – gain, lose
or maintain weight – and MyFitnessPal estimates how many calories your body
burns without additional exercise. It’s then your job to log everything you eat
layout is clean and easy to navigate – essential when you’re looking for any
excuse not to log last night’s fried chicken – and the choice of over three million
food items makes keeping tabs on your calories and hitting your targets
get the best from the app you should also log your daily activity. This can be
done manually, but it can also sync with a vast selection of leading health
apps, fitness bands and smart scales from the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings.
Best for simplicity: Lifesum
Often cited as the best health and fitness app on the market, LifeSum does everything that MyFitnessPal does including calorie tracking, nutritional information breakdowns and syncing with plenty of third party fitness trackers.
But the thing that Lifesum fans love the most is just how simple the app is to use and great-looking the design is in comparison to the jam-packed experience you get with its rivals
This may seem like a rather small point, but research shows that the more you track the more successful your weight loss journey will be. If you’re even slightly put off tracking something because of an overly bloated app design, then three weeks down the line it could be the difference between hitting your goal or falling at the first hurdle.
So if simplified tracking and consistency is what you’re after, then Lifesum is likely to be your new calorie counting BFF.
Best for beginners: Calorie Counter PRO
MyFitnessPal offering so much for free it seems odd to want to pay, but it’s a small price for the extra features on Calorie Counter PRO. Aside from the
usual calorie counting, tracking and diet advice PRO is brilliant at educating
users on their choice of foods and by using the barcode scanner you can get
nutritional advice on over 600,000 different foods.
will also adjust to specific diets so if you are on a low carb plan you can
choose to show carbs instead of calories and can track up to 45 different
nutrients to ensure you are getting enough – handy if you’re deficient in
something specific and need a boost.
the main focus is on food tracking exercise isn’t ignored and you can sync your
fitness band – Fitbit, Withings or Jawbone – or download their own fitness
tracking app to help get you motivated.
From $3.99, mynetdiary.com
Best for coaching: HAPIcoach
From the folks that brought you the electronic fork that tracks eating habits, the HAPIcoach app claims to get you eating better in just five days.
The idea is to take photos of what you eat, logging at least 10 meals over those five days. A nutrition expert will then be able to analyse your eating habits and gradually over time help you make substantial and worthwhile changes with your diet.
This isn’t an AI powered nutritionist, those insights come from a licensed nutritionist to give you more personal suggestions and feedback on your data. Aside from logging meals, you can also track activity and weight giving you pretty much the complete package all wrapped up in a clean, easy to use app.
Best for fitness trackers: Lose It!
Fitbit, Misfit, Nike+, Withings are just a few of the devices that play nice with one of the most comprehensive weight loss apps available right now.
Like MyFitnessPal, it’s built around deciding how much weight you want to lose. Then you’re given a daily calorie budget to work from. It uses your phone to scan barcodes to log meals and will calculate how many calories you’ll burn from a session in the gym. It also takes into consideration all the other factors that can affect a diet such as sleep and your macronutrients intake.
Keeping things social is a big part of how Lose It! works. You can join groups, share your favourite meals and enter challenges to keep you motivated.
If you upgrade to the premium package, you’ll unlock a whole host of extra features including the ability to store body measurements and get a breakdown of all the key nutrients.