How Food and Calorie Trackers can Support Weight Loss
By now, I’m sure you have heard of food tracking apps or maybe you have used them in the past. Food tracking apps are very popular among adults trying to lose weight and for good reason...they make tracking what you eat simple, provide knowledge right at your fingertips, and most importantly THEY WORK! Research shows that tracking your intake is a common factor in successful weight loss and health improvement programs. Many of these apps feature simple solutions for weight loss, have resources to keep you motivated, and provide a community of individuals to connect you with others with similar goals.
Why Use a Food Tracking App?
Many food and calorie tracking apps merge nutrition data, technology, and behavior science to help members succeed on their journey for a healthier weight and body. Research not only supports this but shows that people who are most dedicated to tracking their intake, weight, and fitness on these apps have the most significant and sustained weight loss.
Consistency is key!
Tracking apps are beneficial for many ways, but some of the main reasons they lead to such great success include:
Increase Your Awareness
Knowing that you have to enter every bite onto your app, makes you more aware of how much and what you are eating. It may make you second guess that handful of M&M’s in the afternoon or make you realize that you aren’t eating enough protein or too much sodium throughout the day. Counting calories, tracking macros, or controlling sodium can be a difficult task but these tracking apps simplify it with their large food databases and features, such as saving favorite meals allowing you more time to work on your goals then calculating and looking up information.
Keep You Accountable
Entering your data keeps you accountable to your goals. Some apps also allow you to share data with friends who can help keep you accountable and motivated. There are also special features of certain food trackers that allow you to share your information with a professional such as a Doctor, Dietitian, or Diabetes Educator. With gentle reminders that it is time for exercise, that you need to eat lunch, or that you haven’t logged your meals, it will help you stay on top of your goals.
Easily Identify Your Trouble Spots
Are you eating more than you realize? Eating when you are not even hungry? Grazing throughout the day instead of having balanced meals? Waiting too long between meals and setting yourself up for overeating? Tracking your intake and seeing it with your own eyes can make your nutritional pitfalls clear, making it easier to change your behaviors that need changing.
Pinpoint Your Nutrition Needs
Almost all of the apps will set nutrition targets for you depending on your height, weight, exercise habits, and goals which helps give you a ballpark number of how much calories, carbohydrates, etc. that you should be aiming for per day. Many trackers have the ability to adjust these settings if you need a more individualized plan. If you pay for a premium membership, you can also see how you are doing with meeting individual vitamins and minerals. Are you getting enough calcium or vitamin B12? These premium memberships can allow you to determine how well you are doing with meeting your body’s needs.
Research from Duke University from February 2019 found that individuals who were overweight who tracked their intake on a free food tracking app lost a significant amount of weight…and here’s the kicker that was WITHOUT even following a specific diet plan! This study separated 105 adults into 3 different groups. The first group tracked their intake only for 3 months on the app and were given healthy eating advice at the beginning of the study and lost an average of 5 pounds. The second group tracked their food and weight for 1 month, had weekly healthy eating lessons, and received feedback from their logs. This group lost on average 6 pounds. The third group followed the same guidelines as group 2 but followed this for 3 months. They were found to lose the same amount of weight as the second group but were able to keep the weight off and continued losing at 6 months. The researchers concluded that in all 3 groups, those who were most dedicated were the most successful.
Another study involving participants in a Diabetes Prevention and Management Program found that those who tracked at least 5 days a week showed significant and sustained weight loss over time compared to individuals who tracked less or inconsistently.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Tracker
Just because you’ve downloaded the tracker doesn’t mean it’s going to magically get you to your goal weight and health goals…you’ve got to USE it and (like I’ve already mentioned a few times) use it consistently!!! Fully utilizing your food and calorie tracker can help you make sustainable changes that last, take an honest look at yourself (whether that is unhealthy coping skills…how much alcohol did you really drink this week? Or how your relationships may be impacting your behaviors), and get the most accurate picture of what you are consuming. Here are some tips to get the most out of your food tracker:
1.Track as close to when you eat the food as possible. This way you do not forget that you had 2 pieces of garlic bread not one, or that ice cream bar you had at the pool.
2. Don’t forget your drinks. Being a dietitian for 10 years, I have seen many food logs and know for a fact that people almost always forget to write down what they are drinking. Your coffee with cream and sugar in the morning, the glass of juice with lunch, and the beer after dinner. They all add up and they all count.
3. Pay attention to portion sizes and specific details. Many people underestimate the amount of food they are eating, making their food logs inaccurate. Also, it is easy to just choose an item on your tracker but not change the portion size to what you actually ate. Measure out the amount you are eating at first. This will make your logs most accurate but also will help you to learn how to eyeball portion sizes in the future. Also, details such as was the chicken skinless or not can make a different in the nutrition, to get the most accurate results pay attention to the specific details about what you are eating.
4. Find the features that help you (and steer clear from the ones that hurt you). Many apps have different features that can be extremely helpful such as connecting to a fitness tracker, using image recognition so you only have to take a photo and it will add it to your log, or even graphs of your progress. But for some people, certain features lead to negative feelings or can lead to unhealthy behaviors. One study found that young college-aged women reported feelings of guilt, isolation, body image issues, and fear of negative responses when using tracking apps. It’s easy to compare yourself to people’s before and after photos and feel guilty when you didn’t have a perfect day and you see someone else posting their healthy dinner. If you feel like some of the features are causing you to lose motivation or feel self-conscious, it may be best to leave these features behind.
How a Food Tracking App Can Help While on Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating?
One of the great features of Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating is that we do all of the calorie counting for you, so you may be wondering why we would be recommending a calorie counting app. If you are doing the 7-day meal plan and following it to a ‘T’ then you shouldn’t need the addition of a calorie counting app. However, there are certain instances where using a food tracking app would be of benefit to you.
If you are on the 3-day or 4-day plan, you have 9-12 meals a week that you are responsible for, leaving room for high-calorie days and unbalanced eating. Using the app on the days that you are on your own will help to make sure you are staying within your nutrition needs and not sabotaging your success.
Sometimes people choose to add food items to their meals or snacks between their meals to help meet their calorie goals, in this instance a tracking app will fill in the gaps of nutrition information with the additions you are making.
Have you reached your goals and are at the point of transitioning off the program or decreasing the number of days you are receiving Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating meals? Using a food and calorie tracking app will help make sure you are on the right track with portions, nutritional balance, and help keep you accountable so that you can sustain your success.
And lastly, if you are training for a marathon or are an endurance athlete, using the food tracking app will help provide you with the information needed to see how well you are meeting your increased needs to fuel your physical activity and keep your body in tip-top shape.
Trackers Featuring Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating
We are proud that our healthy, convenient meals are featured on 2 different food and calorie-tracking apps. You can now find all 315 of our meal’s nutritional information on the following free, popular apps!
FatSecret is a popular food and calorie tracking app that is available free on both Apple and Android devices. It has an easy to use food diary, a community of users that you can engage with, and many other great features. You can integrate data from your Google Fit, Fitbit, or Samsung Health device so that you can match your exercise and diet information together. It also has image recognition technology where you can keep a log of your meals through pictures, as well as an exercise diary and journal to track how your moods, environments, sleep, and other factors influence your behavior. There are areas on their site with meal planning ideas and recipes as well. FatSecret Professional allows you to share your logs with your doctor, dietitian, or other professional.
iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
Android rating: 4.6 stars
Price: FREE, with premium subscriptions available which include dietitian-designed meal plans and advanced meal planning features
MyFitnessPal has a large food database with over 11 million foods available to easily track what you are eating. They also offer a community for support, tips, and advice. Their app has a barcode scanner that makes it easy for ensuring you are adding the correct food to your logs. There is an ability to log your activity straight on their site and it will automatically adjust your nutrition needs for the day depending on your calories burned. You can also easily save meals and recipes to your profile making it easy to add them to your log if it is a food you frequently eat. MyFitnessPal has great charting and reporting features making it easier to track trends and see your progress over time, with options to see over the 7 days or the last year. This is a great feature for individuals that get stressed over day-to-day fluctuations to focus on their overall progress rather than one bad day.
iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
Android rating: 4.4 stars
Price: FREE, with upgrades available for a premium member for as little as $9.99
At Seattle Sutton’s we are committed to setting you up for success for your best health for the rest of your life. Download one of the food and calorie-counting apps today and see if it is the missing puzzle piece of your weight loss journey.
Interested in eating healthy? Hungry for more?