What's a good calorie counting app to pair with a FitBit?
April 21, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

For my birthday I treated myself to a Fitbit One, and I'd like to try counting calories for a while, mostly for funsies, although I do have a few KGs to lose (I'm still in a healthy BMI, but want to halt any weight gain before it gets out of control). Trouble is I don't tend to eat packaged foods. What's a good option?

For budget and nutritional reasons we cook a lot and tend not to eat out. My usual routine is to plan a week's worth of meals, shop accordingly, cook every night and take leftovers into work for lunch. I'd really like to be able to enter the recipes I intend to cook as I'm planning, then just log a serve of each meal as the week progresses. I'd also really like it to play well with my gimmicky new toy.

Is there such an app that will do this? I was a little surprised to see how heavily the FitBit app relies on packaged, branded food.
posted by nerdfish to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My fitness pal has a huge database of food and allows you to build your own recipes.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, MyFitnessPal is the answer. Access via PC or app.

It's free, too.
posted by notyou at 8:03 AM on April 21, 2013

I use myfitnesspal as well, and that data syncs almost seamlessly with fitbit.
posted by yeoz at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use LoseIt.com, premium edition, plus fitbit and mapmyfitness. Probably overcomplicating.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:14 AM on April 21, 2013

I struggled with this exact thing because I also cook from scratch a lot (including broth etc.) without really following recipes, and it seemed super tedious to have to weigh everything and input it every time.

I asked about it in the Mefi group on Health Month (join us!). A summary of what folks said:
- a good portion of the value of the process is mindfulness and tracking, not necessarily complete accuracy of how many calories or whatever.
- it is OK to be a bit sloppy with the stuff that's not super high-calorie. So like I weigh the ground beef when I make sloppy joes, and I measure out the 1/2 cup ketchup and 1 T sugar, but I don't weigh the carrots and the onion; I just eyeball it. I do input the veggies, but there's not a huge difference between 3/4 cup carrots and 1 cup carrots, in terms of its impact on your diet. But for the "big-ticket" items like the meats, fats, grains, and other carbohydrates, you want to be more careful.
- it's also OK to use the data from the packaged chicken stock (for example) even though yours is better, lower sodium, more nutritious, whatever. Or, if you know it's not a big-ticket thing, just call it water. I tend to do the latter.

So I have been using MyFitnessPal for about six weeks. For stuff that makes more than one serving -- let's go with a pot of soup -- I create a recipe and sort of guess how many servings it'll be. I know that I tend to make enough soup for two dinners for two of us and two lunches for just me, so that's 6 servings. I may eat a bit more than one serving for dinner and less for lunch but I'm OK with it averaging out and even being somewhat off.

It's a little annoying because I do find that I have "chicken soup April 6" and later I'm sure I'll have "chicken soup October 12" or whatever, because I used pasta in April and rice in October, plus parsnips and leeks which I didn't have in April. I am OK with this. I figure I'll clean out my recipes list when it gets too clunky. Or, maybe I'll find that I really liked it with that amount of rice, and I'll make this the canonical recipe and come back to it later.

You might have to fiddle with this process if you really want to input as you plan. I create the recipes as I'm cooking (iPad/iPhone versions of the app are way better than the web app in most respects). But my cooking style is generally "I grabbed 4 carrots out of the fridge so that's how many I'm using." I guess if you know you want to use 2 cups of potatoes you can just put it in when you plan and then refer back to the MFP recipe when cooking to verify the amounts you used. That said, I generally prefer to do it by weight when possible, which is harder to plan ahead of time IME.

For things that aren't going to make multiple servings -- say, rice and bean burritos or whatever -- I just input the tortillas, beans, rice, cheese, and salsa as separate items on that day.

But I am finding that the mindfulness is the biggest thing. I haven't really changed my diet -- it's had a small impact on snacking, perhaps, and I'm making little choices differently because I know I have to write them down -- but I haven't fundamentally changed the way I cook or eat, and I have lost 7 pounds.

It integrates perfectly with Fitbit. The calorie allotment MFP gives you is adjusted as your Fitbit syncs throughout the day.
posted by librarina at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

The fitbit app online provides meal tracking and lets you build recipes so you don't have to enter all the ingredients from scratch. This is what I use when I'm meal tracking and it integrates into the rest of the fitbit datastream quite nicely.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2013

My husband and I use Fitbit and LoseIt! premium. (We ended up with it because it can share recipes and custom foods between people, and it's integrated with FitBit and the Aria scale.) I've found it's decent, not wonderful, for entering in recipes because it has a tendency to use measurements for ingredients that are a bit more useful for someone who's not a cook. Potatoes are measured in cups, for one thing (although if you search the brand name potatoes, you can eventually find one with ounces and pounds, or create a custom food that uses ounces and pounds). We really like the barcode scanner on it.

If I get really frustrated with the ingredient amounts, I go to http://nutritiondata.self.com/ and create the recipe there, as it tends to have much better measurements and a large database of non-packaged foods, then enter it into LoseIt as a custom food.
posted by telophase at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2013

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