Counting calories is a necessary part of a diet, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Calorie counting apps make it easy to keep track of your daily meals and workouts, and they include tons of useful features that will keep you having fun healthier.
What to look for in calorie counting apps
While each of these apps has a unique approach to tracking calories, they all share a common goal: to help you stay on top of your diet. Here are the most important features to look for in calorie counting apps:
- Accurate and easy registration: Since you will be using the app several times a day, logging should be easy. The best calorie counting apps let you quickly record meals and snacks right from the app’s home page, and they support barcode scanning or even image recognition for common foods. Many of them can also track nutrients and macros, adapt to exercise, and allow you to set fitness goals.
- Reliable reminders: Eventually, calorie recording becomes a habit, but until then, it’s important to have regular reminders so that you can log in consistently. Some apps even allow you to customize your reminders.
- Community support: Anyone who has tried a diet can tell you how difficult it is to stick to it, let alone exercise every day and stay below your recommended daily calorie intake. But having a support community behind you makes you feel less lonely and more likely to continue to follow up and exercise regularly, that’s what these apps are for. These communities are a great place to share your wins and make it easy to find friends to chat with.
- Useful extras: Many apps have tools beyond tracking calories that often go unnoticed. Features like workout guides, weight loss challenges, recipes, diet plans and even meal planning can make all the difference in your journey to getting in shape. Bonus points for apps that remind you to drink water.
Best calorie counting app overall: MyFitnessPal
MyFitnessPal (Free, with in-app purchases) isn’t just a calorie counter, it’s a solid, versatile fitness app. Whether it’s tracking what you eat and how much exercise you do each day to help you set goals, it’s overall your best bet if you really want to be healthy. MyFitnessPal has the largest food database – over 11 million foods – in addition to recognizing more than four million bar codes and thousands of meals at popular restaurants, so you never have to estimate your meals. The app also tracks macros and various nutrients, which is great if you need to closely monitor what you eat.
If you have a goal of weight loss, gain or maintenance in mind, MyFitnessPal makes it easy to configure or create from scratch. Another great feature of the app is its massive compatibility with other apps and training devices like Fitbit, Strava, Runtastic, MapMyFitness, Jawbone, Garmin, and more. You can share your fitness achievements on the app and find friends for increased support and accountability. By tracking your progress with text or photo updates on MyFitnessPal, you can stay motivated and even inspire others.
Editor’s note: I can’t say enough good things about MyFitnessPal. I used it (with exercise) to lose weight and give my kidney a kidney. He’s a literal life changer.
Ideal for losing weight: Lose it!
If your main reason for counting calories is weight loss, Loose it! (Free, with in-app purchases) is the app for you. When you set up your profile for the first time, you enter information such as your height and weight, then add the weight of your goal and the degree of aggression you want to achieve to reach that goal. This is how the app calculates your target calorie intake, which adjusts automatically as you lose weight. Saving food, exercise and water consumption with the app is very simple: just scan a barcode, take pictures of your food or enter items manually. The app can track macros and nutrients, which is essential if you are on a specialized diet.
As you log in each day, the app’s algorithm can spot patterns (especially problematic ones, like snacking before bed) and send you a report straight to your inbox so that you can identify problems that could be preventing progression. The app also has fun challenges, where you can update your progress and compete against other members of Lose It. It also offers meal planning, recipes, and workout guides, making it a complete app that helps you watch what you eat and lose weight.
Ideal for community support: SparkPeople
Loss of motivation is common for anyone trying to lose weight and get in shape, but the community SparkPeople (Free) is one place where you can find tons of support. You can talk to other people using the app’s forums, or get encouragement and advice from SparkPeople’s network of health and fitness professionals. There are also a variety of community health and fitness challenges you can participate in, as well as leaderboards, message boards and community blog entries for you to browse and get inspired.
Of course, SparkPeople also helps you track food intake and count calories from its solid food database. You can enter meals and snacks manually or scan a barcode. The app can also help you plan future meals and provide you with an exercise log so you can track your activities and goals. Sometimes all you need is emotional support and friends to keep you company to keep you motivated, and SparkPeople is great for that.
Ideal for Keto diets: Carb Manager
Keto dieters know that it is a question of monitoring the intake of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This scheme requires you to keep a current list of tons of numbers, so have a little help from an app like Carb Manager (Free) is a must to stay in ketosis. Carb Manager makes it easy to record your food consumption, which you can do manually using autocomplete or barcode scanning. It automatically tracks your entries and displays your net carbohydrates and macros, so at any time of the day you can open the app and see your current fat, protein and carbohydrate measurements.
Carb Manager also tracks calories and has a database of over a million foods to choose from. The application incorporates a fast tracking tool, which allows you to track fasting times if you associate your diet with an intermittent fast, and also allows you to configure your own personalized intake rate for carbohydrates, proteins and fats (or choose an optional preset like 5:25:70). You can also view over 350,000 keto recipes and get personalized meal plans, which can be the trickiest part of the ketogenic diet.
Best Free Calorie Counter: FatSecret
If you’re not interested in spending your hard-earned money on a calorie tracking app (or upgrades), don’t worry—FatSecret (Free) on the back. You can effectively track your daily food intake, exercise and weight, as well as regular reminders to record your meals and weigh without spending a single dollar. FatSecret supports barcode scanning, has image recognition for photographing your food, and its search tool has autocomplete for faster logging. The app can sync with devices like Fitbit, Google Fit and Samsung Health.
FatSecret has an integrated community of other people who use the app, and you can follow other people to see their entries and comments. There are tons of recipes and meal ideas you can use if you need inspiration, as well as a diary where you can record your progress.