Share By Giovanna Fabiano
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when you’re sitting at your desk all day.
That second cup of coffee didn’t provide the late-morning jolt you need? You might reach for a sugar-laced energy drink. Three o’clock slump? That vending machine candy bar can be tempting.
We often don’t realize how many calories we’re consuming while preoccupied with other tasks, and that’s how the pounds sneak on.
It’s no secret that average daily caloric intake in the U.S. exceeds what the body needs. About 72 percent of men and 64 percent of women are classified as overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yet studies show most Americans underestimate how much they are actually eating.
A mere 12 percent of Americans can accurately estimate the number of calories they should consume in a day for someone their age, height, weight and level of physical activity, according to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation. Of those who said they were trying to lose or maintain weight, only 19 percent were keeping track of calories. Nearly half, or 43 percent, did not know how many calories they burned in a day or offered inaccurate estimates. A recent Harvard University study showed most Americans underestimate the number of calories they eat daily, particularly when eating out at restaurants.
If you’re trying to keep track of how much you eat or exercise, you may need some assistance. We explored five mobile apps that help you track your fitness goals, calculate your caloric intake — whether you’re having a home-cooked meal or eating out — and even hold you accountable when you cheat.
This free app is an all-in-one calorie counter and exercise tracker with an expansive database (over 3 million items) of pre-packaged foods, restaurant meals and individual foods purchased at the grocery store. The program includes a social media component with a supportive online community. So if you’re thinking about that afternoon brownie and you don’t have the willpower to resist, maybe your online fitness “pals” can help you down off the ledge.
Pay $1.99 for this iPhone and iPad app to help keep track of what you eat without counting calories. Billed as an app for people who “want to eat well without wasting their day counting numbers,” it logs your meals, makes suggestions on quantity and serving size, and categorizes what you eat in groups such as proteins, carbs and veggies to show how well-rounded your diet is (or is not).
Prices for the electronic wristbands range from $99.99 for the screenless Fitbit Flex, to $129.95 for the Fitbit Force. They track everything you do, from how far you walk or run to what you eat and even how long you sleep. The accompanying app, free on the iPhone, lets you sync the gadget so the data automatically appears on your account and your phone. Don’t want to wear a tracker around your wrist all day? The app allows you to record your personal data and keep track of your goals. It also lets you integrate data from another site, such as a calorie counter, so everything is in one place.
If you tend to eat name-brand American foods, this app may be for you. Free on Android and iPhone, the app is designed for counting calories and logging exercise, and it has a large database of pre-packaged and whole foods. It also lets you track your weight-loss progress, and connects you to a supportive online community. If you’re an avid home cook or have a more diverse diet, you may want to check out MyFitnessPal instead.
Calorie Tracker uses Livestrong.com’s popular and extremely user-friendly MyPlate interface to track goals, input your weekly or monthly weight loss goals, and log calories and exercise. It even allows you to search for healthy recipes within your desired calorie range. The app costs $2.99, and available for both iPhone and Android.
While there’s no guarantee these apps will do the trick, it doesn’t hurt to have some help keeping track of your goals during a busy work week.