There was a time when I felt closely in touch with the world of health and nutrition. I took a strong interest in the topic throughout my teens, and was generally aware of what different types of foods did inside the body. More recently, I’ve either lost that knowledge or chosen to forget it – my diet has shifted away from a preponderance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other fibrous/nutrient-rich items towards quick sources of calories.
Although I’ve had a lot of good times munching away on chips, french fries, tortilla chips, muffins, and other prepared goods, it has recently become apparent that I’m eating these foods more out of laziness, financial considerations, and emotional issues than any real consideration for my long-term health. To get back in touch with what I’m eating on a daily basis, it occurred to me that I have a powerful tracking tool right at my fingertips – my smartphone.
A simple Google search revealed countless weight loss related apps which you can add to iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices. I’m not by any means promoting weight loss in this post (an extremely complex issue in our society, as shown by movies like Fat Sick and Nearly Dead or the countless articles about addictive and sugary foods). However, I do think it’s important to add less processed foods – of any type – into your diet for accessing more nutrients, increasing satiation levels, and reducing toxins.
A daily food diary is thought to be one of the best ways to build healthy habits around your eating schedule (Henry, November 2012). I’ve previously used the now-archaic pen and paper method of recording my food intake, but this method does not provide me with more detailed statistics on the amount of sodium, cholesterol, and fats that I may be consuming. Some apps which allow you to easily track your daily food intake include Noom Weight Loss Coach, Weight Watchers, and MyFitnessPal. These apps encourage you to set a weight loss goal and meet it through rationing out calories or increasing exercise levels (assuming that the simple equation of calories in versus calories burned results in weight loss – a mindset proving increasingly untrue under intense scrutiny. See this excellent article for further details debunking this myth).
Regardless, I’ve started using MyFitnessPal to evaluate my food intake – which some people found easy to use, while others questioned its usability due to the crowd-sourced nature of the nutrition-related information. Some apps, like Lose It!, allow you to scan the bar code of foods you’re eating to better track and categorize the information.
Of course, nothing is ever going to be perfect. These apps will likely not show you precisely the amount of carbs, fats, and other nutrients in the food you’re eating. You may enter the amounts in wrong, or the foods may be prepared differently and skew the nutrient information. Use discretion when considering the results of these apps. If you’re willing to sit down in front of the computer and record all of your food intake, the Dieticians of Canada have produced a website called eaTracker which may be a little more legitimate in its results.
Ultimately, these apps should be used only as tools to reconnect with the foods you’re eating, rather than as unbreakable rule-enforcers. In the words of clinical psychologist Jean Kristeller, PhD, “bite, chew, savour” all of your food and you may find greater pleasure in this complex world of eating and health.