Calorie-Tracking Apps: Helpful or Hype?

Atkins. Weight Watchers. South Beach. It seems like there are thousands of diets out there promising to help you lose weight fast and to keep it off for good.

However, many of these diets also seem to cut out entire food groups, even requiring strict guidelines of what, when and where you can eat.

The bottom line for losing weight is this: calories in versus calories out – and there are many forms of technology that can help you achieve this.

But which one, if any, is right for you?

One helpful way to keep track of calories while learning more about living a healthy lifestyle, is the SuperTracker website and app that is run by the United States Department of Agriculture. This website allows a user to create a profile and enter their age, weight, height and activity level, which the app uses to calculate daily caloric needs and proper servings of the five basic food groups.

This software is so informative that Central Michigan University health and environmental studies professor Anna Most has her students do a three-day diet analysis project using the SuperTracker App.

“I feel one great benefit of tracking your diet is awareness of what you are eating,” Most says. “It can help people make better choices if they know the nutritional content of the foods they eat.”

GoMeals is another calorie-tracking app with a wide range of tools. It includes the basic features of tracking calories and exercise, but it goes more in-depth by telling you what percentage of your foods are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. GoMeals  also allows users to locate restaurants nearby, and it has a feature that lets diabetics track their blood glucose levels.

A popular fitness app is MyFitnessPal, which not only tracks calories and exercise, but also has apps for more specific health programs, like MapMyRun, which allows runners (or walkers) to map out their run and track mileage, calories burned and more.

Port Huron freshman Calli Morris used MyFitnessPal app to help kick start her weight loss journey.

“It has actually helped me lose like six pounds in the last month,” Morris said. “The reason I use it is because my doctor wants me to lose some weight. I like it because it helps me keep track of my calories and exercise – so if I want to eat a popsicle that day, I can just use the app to see if I exercised enough to fit in the popsicle.”

Another popular calorie-tracking app is iWatchr, which was created by health advocates at Weight Watchers. The app lets you track calories, keep a history of foods eaten and maintain a chart that displays weight loss progress. A unique feature of iWatchr is that since it is endorsed by Weight Watchers, it also keeps track of foods based on Weight Watcher’s points system, which is handy for people participating in the program.

So, do calorie-tracking apps work?

There’s no right answer to this question, as each app’s effectiveness depends on the user.

Mount Pleasant freshman Samantha Berryhill favors the MyFitnessPal app because of how easy it is to use.

“I like it a lot,” Berryhill said. “It makes it really easy to keep track of everything that I eat.”

However, not everyone agrees. Canton freshman Catherine Joppich said this app wasn’t the right fit for her and her health goals.

“I tried it but I didn’t really like it,” Joppich said. “It was just so hard to find the right serving sizes for everything.”

Fitness and calorie-tracking apps provide a means of tracking food and exercise, which work great for some, while others have alternate means of maintaining healthy lifestyles.