Know What You Eat

Exploring and Tracking Your Nutrient Intake

Finding out about the nutrients that you eat in a day and over time is invaluable in creating your best plan for nutritional and metabolic health.

How is your protein intake? How about your potassium or sodium intake? Are there times when you are under-eating, and then paying for that later with an excess, driven appetite?

By mentioning these programs, I do not at all mean to imply that I think it is a good thing to use apps like this to impose a hard limit on the amount of calories you consume. I think calorie-capped dieting is very problematic and is to be avoided except possibly in uncommon circumstances and then only when other options are unavailable or have not worked.

The hype about calorie restriction (and competitive dieting) one would be exposed to on these sites would, to me, be one of those adverse environmental cues I would want to be sure I didn’t get caught up in.

There are many web sites and apps for tracking the nutritional values of what you eat.

For example, three of the popular ones are:

My Fitness Pal  myfitnesspal.com

FitDay   fitday.com

My Net Diary   mynetdiary.com

However, these mostly focus on calories and give little of the other nutritional information that I think is the useful stuff. As far as I can see, neither present data on carb content in a useful way.

I have not found an app that I think is really great. I’ll keep looking.

In the meantime, there is a web-site that will give all the detailed info, there just isn’t an app form of it. Also you have to put up with tons of adds. However, I have used this site for many years. It even includes the detailed break-down on the many types of fats in each food.

Nutrition Data    nutritiondata.self.com

The trick is to register and then take a bit of time to set up your own food lists, recipe lists and tracking. A “recipe” can just be a list of what you had at a meal, so you can set up, for example 3-4 of your common versions of breakfast and just give each one a name. You can do the same for snacks and for other meals, so that most days you do not have to do much entering on individual items. In half an hour or so you can set up a short list of the foods you use most commonly, so you are not repeatedly looking them up in the big data back of foods.

This is also a great place to look up the nutrient content of foods and see all the details – such as the specific content of fatty acids, all the vitamins and minerals, and so on.

When Tracking Carbs

For those who are tracking carbohydrates particularly, there are apps for that, but you need to be sure that they will clearly display what is commonly referred to as “net carbs” or “available carbs”.  The nutrition information for foods is, by default, reported as total carbs – that is, the fibre and the digestible carbs reported as one total number. It would be nice not to have to constantly do the mental math of figuring out what the total carbs minus the fibre grams comes out to. Check that the app will present you with all the carb info – total, fibre, and total minus fibre.

If you are looking to use an app as a quick and convenient way to track carbs, it would be best if it also gave you grams of protein in the foods, and not just percent of calories of protein.

This sort of app could then be used in combination with a program, such as Nutrition Data, to give you the other nutritional details.

There are a small but growing number of apps available that are intended to be used to track low carb or ketogenic diets.

I have not taken the time to try out all of them, so I don’t know which is the best one currently. Besides, the available apps may change any day.

One app that does make it easier to track carbs is cronometer at chronometer.com .

Another app that I have found to be very useful for tracking low carb or ketogenic diets is KetoDiet app. The web site is here http://ketodietapp.com/Blog/

This is a good site. There are lots of interesting and appealing recipes and the general quality of the information presented in the blog is quite good over-all and much better than many sites about nutritional ketosis. However, there definitely are some details of what they say that I would not agree with. I particularly do not like the weight loss challenges that they promote from time to time.

Unfortunately, they also have another app, “KetoDiet Buddy” which I definitely DO NOT recommend!

It uses some calculation to spit out a specific protein intake target, which I can’t support. But the much worse problem is – the calculator spits out a calculated target calorie intake and that calculated target can be drastically low! I did some playing around with the calculator to get an idea of the recommendations it would put out for various people. Ticking off different activity levels resulted in very different levels of recommended calories, which is to be expected. However, at lower activity levels the target calories for people of shorter height came back at e.g. 760 calories a day! You don’t just follow a calculation all the way down! I appreciate that they are meaning to be helpful, but this is no good. There are people who will take that kind of recommendation (made by a calculator spitting out the results of a formula and reported unseen by human eye) and take it to heart and act on it. You don’t practice any form of health care by using numbers spit out of a calculation program!

On top of all this is my usual concerns and reservations about dieting by use of any imposed calorie cap.

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