Recently I have been shopping around for an online food journal, and there are a lot of choices out there! Food tracking is a great tool for people like me who know how to eat healthfully, but tend to let the portions get out of hand. Here’s my take on some of the websites that I have tried:
I tried this site a few years ago when it was called The Daily Plate, and the navigation has improved a lot since then. This is one of the free sites, and it is one that I would recommend. The cool thing is, users can add foods at any time to its database, which means that the minute any sort of product comes on the market and you get it home and try it, someone has probably already added it to the database. The downside, of course, is that the accuracy of the information is not guaranteed. The navigation of the site is just okay – it’s not the best I’ve encountered but also not the worst. I was excited to see that they have an app for my Blackberry phone, but then disappointed to find that the app is horrible and does not sync well with the online site. I give this site 3 spoons out of 5.
Okay, so I only used this site for less than a week a few years ago, and I cancelled before my free trial period was up. But I really want to review it because it is so popular and it is also one of the more expensive food tracking websites out there. I honestly wasn’t very impressed by this site. It was far more difficult to navigate than Livestrong, and if I had actually paid for it, it would have been $18/month, and that’s after a $30 joining fee! With weight watchers, everything is categorized with points values, not by calories, and you get a certain allotment of points to use per day, as well as weekly points that you can use at any time. My favorite feature was this weekly points allotment, because in real life, there will be days when you splurge a little (birthday parties, weekends, etc) and then you can balance it out by eating less on other days. Also, apparently there is a new Points Plus system that assigns a 0 point value to all fresh fruits and vegetables, so you can eat them to your heart’s content. I think that’s pretty cool. I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as too many fruits and vegetables! The downsides: an incredibly small database of foods, difficult navigation, no good mobile app, and last but definitely not least, the price! I give it 2 spoons.
This is the very best of the paid food tracking websites out there. At $9/month, with no joining fee and a 7-day free trial, it is reasonably priced. The navigation is fantastic, the food database is huge and accurate (for example, every single brand of nondairy milk I could possibly think of was in there), and there is a setting for nursing mothers. At the end of each day, you get a daily report with smiley faces for things you did well that day (like exercise, consume enough calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, breakfast, etc) and frown faces for things you could work on (not enough essential nutrients, too much sugar, etc). It also has a really good recipe builder – you enter the ingredients and how many people it serves, and it calculates the nutrition facts for you. That’s a great feature for someone like me who cooks a lot of food from scratch! The downside: no mobile app, just a mobile website. I give it 4 spoons…I would give it 5 if it just had a good mobile app!
Out of all the websites I tried, this one is the winner! First of all, it is FREE. I love free. And second, it is almost as good as My Food Diary. So, it is free AND awesome! The database is enormous. Users can add foods to it, so like Livestrong, just about any food you can imagine is in there, and for some reason the accuracy seems a bit better on this site. The recipe builder is just as good and easy to use as MyFoodDiary. And the navigation is incredible. The site has a very clean look and is super easy to use. You can easily add and delete foods from your day, and you can edit quantities without navigating away from the page. You can set up your own food diary structure, deciding how many meal and snack subdivisions to put in and what to name them. You can choose which nutrients you want to monitor. And the best thing is, this site has a fantastic app for both my Blackberry phone and my husband’s Droid. The only downside: there is no specific setting for nursing mothers. This one gets 4 1/2 spoons…almost perfect!
This is another free website. There are a lot of cool features on Sparkpeople, including a recommended calorie range rather than a specific number, and a sister site called BabyFit.com for pregnant and nursing mothers. But the database is not very comprehensive and the navigation could be better. There are a lot of articles about healthy eating and weight loss on this site, so someone looking for information and motivation might enjoy that. I confess I only used this for about a day because it was more difficult to use than other sites. 3 spoons.
I did a very brief free trial with this site. It normally costs $12/month. The navigation was pretty good and the database seemed very complete. Like Sparkpeople, there are a lot of articles to read on the site and goal-setting features that could be very motivational for some people. The site is bright and clean and seemed easy to use for the short time that I tried it. I couldn’t find anything to complain about, but I just didn’t like it as much as My Food Diary, which is slightly less expensive. 3 1/2 spoons.
After all this shopping around, I’ve decided to stick with MyFitnessPal. It is the best of the free websites and compatible with my phone, which is a pretty important feature as it allows me to stay on top of things when I’m not home. Even if I am home, it’s nice to be able to track my meals on my phone while I’m sitting in the backyard watching the kids play, instead of having to get on the computer.
So, what am I missing? Many of them, I’m sure – as there are a lot! – but is there some incredible website out there that I haven’t tried yet, that blows these all away? Please share!