Tracking meals without counting calories?
September 4, 2019 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start tracking my food again because I find it helps me be more mindful of what I'm eating (that second bowl of ice cream isn't quite so enticing when I'll have to log it!). But I don't like tracking calories and sorting out exactly how much of each item I've eaten, and I don't really trust the accuracy of those things anyway. What are my options?

Most fitness and food tracking apps seem to be about counting calories. The only other option I found doing a quick search was Ate. Has anyone had any experience this or other apps where you track/journal meals but don't count calories or parse ingredients?

And... if you've done this and found it useful or a waste of time, I'd be interested to hear that, too.

Bonus points if you know of an app where I can track other things too (mood? weight? I'm not sure yet).
posted by bluedaisy to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a larger goal in mind for this? If it's tracking how many times a day you eat or how much you eat, then something that measures larger units of things is sufficient. If you're trying to cut costs or spend less time eating then something that has a tally or running total with a daily reset is sufficient. If you want to spot patterns in your eating habits or have a historical record, then something that can store and read words would be enough. There are lots of apps that can do these things one way or another, but it's helpful to know what the bigger purpose is.

If mindfulness is the goal in and of itself, then it would seem that it's more about the act of logging the food than anything else. So perhaps finding a notebook or daily journal app and simply writing the things in a list may be enough. Perhaps in emoji, for fun.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2019

I've done some tracking with google sheets that worked for me, and it's certainly flexible enough to measure whatever.

Other than that, Ate is the main one I know of that does what you describe - can you describe what it is about that that doesn't work for you?
posted by mosst at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2019

I mean, you could use those apps and just ignore the calorie estimates.

But if you're not counting calories, I don't see the benefit of an app anyway (although, what about fat, protein, fiber, etc.?). You could just keep a journal. If it has to be on your phone you could send emails to yourself, or use a Google Doc, or Google Keep - just a place that persistently records text.

I'm not sure exactly what you're shooting for, but plain-text journaling was helpful to me to manage my eating both retrospectively (like, "holy shit I had no idea I had that many beers per week") and prospectively (like, "do I reeeaaaly want to write down that I ate a whole bag of chips? Better not, then").
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm looking to track meals and what I eat generally because I think it helps me to be more mindful and not overeat. It's a habit that keeps me healthier and makes it easier to avoid tempting foods. I'm wondering if other folks have done this and found it useful.

I mean, you could use those apps and just ignore the calorie estimates.

Right, but let me give an example of my lunch today: I had a homemade salad with mixed greens, cottage cheese, some almonds, an avocado, some tuna, and cucumber. So, a pretty healthy lunch. If I use a food tracking app, I have to estimate how much cottage cheese, how many almonds, etc. It gets a bit ridiculous because of all the estimating, and I don't trust the reliability of my guesses or the app's calculation of information. It's enough for me to know that I had a nice, healthy, balanced salad today.

Ate is the main one I know of that does what you describe - can you describe what it is about that that doesn't work for you?
I haven't used it and wondering if anyone has or something similar.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:06 PM on September 4, 2019

A recent previously.

Using something like a small notebook or the notes app on your phone can be good. Or use a calendar (physical or digital).
posted by mskyle at 5:38 PM on September 4, 2019

I had a friend looking for a similar type of app — food tracker with no calorie counts a few years ago. She found that some of the best options out there were designed for people with eating disorders, and she settled on one of these, though she herself doesn’t have an eating disorder. Unfortunately, I don’t know what ended up suiting her purposes but poking around the iPhone App Store I see some options— if Ate doesn’t suit you perhaps look at some of these. Many appear to offer mood tracking as well.
posted by reren at 7:20 PM on September 4, 2019

I just use MyFitnessPal, estimate and approximate wildly, and treat the calorie total as advisory at best. This gives me two benefits; a) as you say, it makes me more mindful of what I am eating, and b) it allows me to look at trends; as I assume my estimation and approximation is broadly the same on any given day, I can see if I've been increasing or decreasing my calorific input.
posted by el_presidente at 1:04 AM on September 5, 2019

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