When downloading a calorie counting app, it's important to remember that calories alone won't take into account whether your food is nutrient-dense, satiating or just out-and-out healthy. For example, you could hit your daily calorie target but in actuality have eaten twice your daily sugar allowance. Not so good.
So, what to do? How best to track?
First of all, while being mindful of the above, it's best not to dismiss calorie counting totally. Calories can be a handy resource – the NHS maintain that calorie counting is still a good overall way to understand your food intake and can be an invaluable tool if you're trying to lose weight in a sustainable, healthy way. When it comes to weight loss and learning how to lose body fat, CICO (calories in, calories out) is a tried and tested measure.
Not everyone who goes looking for information about calorie counting apps should be using them. If you're already at a healthy weight for your height and are still trying to lose weight, consider reaching out to a medical or mental health professional to work with you on creating a healthy body image and moving away from unnecessary weight loss.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with an eating disorder, contact Beat, the UK-based charity who hope to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.
T: 0808 801 0677
E: firstname.lastname@example.org, under-18s: email@example.com
What are calories? A quick refresher
First up, let's get clear on what a calorie actually is: a unit of measurement used to establish the amount of energy in our food. To get really technical, it's the exact amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
Some foods have more calories than others – e.g. an apple vs. a steak – as well as being made up of different macronutrients (protein, fat or carbohydrates). Learning how to count calories can be the difference between fuelling your goals or accidentally overeating a certain macro, like protein or fat.
To make the whole thing easier (and give you a more detailed snapshot of how rounded your eating is), it's worth downloading an app that goes beyond just numbers and gives you an insight into exactly how your food fuels you.
How many calories should I eat in a day to lose weight?
How many calories you eat a day will be dependent on your age, weight, lifestyle and activity level. The number of calories you need to eat to lose weight will be different to the next person, to the next person, to the... well, you get it. Basically, it's highly individual.
The equation to calculate how many calories you need to eat to lose weight is fairly simple but many calorie counting apps will do this for you when you sign up. One of the many perks of technology.
If you'd prefer to take it old school before tracking your calories on an app, then get around our handy infographic below, it'll walk you through step by step how to calculate a calorie deficit.
Is there a free app to count calories?
For sure. Most of the calorie counting apps WH recommends below are free – though some have 'premium' options, while others cost a few quid a month. It's what works for you and your monthly budget.
Which calorie counter app is most accurate?
While no app is going to be 100% accurate, the best ones are going to be around 99%. It's tricky to not factor in a little human error when it comes to calculating super precise amounts. Even the best calorie counting app will only be as accurate as you make it – if you're trying to keenly track your calorie intake, you'll need to be more precise. Looking for a looser evaluation? Estimates can give you a good idea of how much you're eating and from what sources.
6 best calorie counting apps to hit your healthy nutrition goals
1. Best all-round calorie counting app: MyFitnessPal
- Price: Free, premium option available.
- Best for: Easily counting calories and macros on Android, iOs or Windows
The kaiser of food calorie counter apps, MyFitnessPal has long been the go-to tracker of everything from calories to macros. Flexible for whatever health goals you're looking to achieve, it will track your weight and height and then calculate a recommended daily calorie and macro intake dependent on your fitness goals.
For the IIFYM pros, you can set macro goals dependent on your fitness goals. The biggest win? The MyFitnessPal blog that offers nutritional tips and fitness coaching. Check-in daily for free workouts and recipes. Plus, you can use it on your Apple Watch.
2. Best motivational calorie counting app: Control My Weight
- Price: Free
- Best for: Morale boosting progress updates
This calorie counter free app helps you reach a targeted weight by giving you progress updates and telling you the amount of fat, carbs and sugar you have consumed throughout the day.
If you're someone who likes to eat pre-made healthy snacks, you'll make good use the barcode scanner to take the faff out of food tracking. But, on evenings when you have more time to cook, log whole recipes easily using the ingredients functions.
This free fitness app also helps to revamp your diet, by suggesting foods to add and to discard. Winner.
3. Best nutrition database calorie counting app: MyNetDiary
- Price: £3.99
- Best for: A support network
This app to scan food for calories allows you to scan the barcodes of your food, calculating calorie intake on the spot. According to MND they have more than 988,000 foods in their database – pretty impressive.
It beats most other diet apps as it has a community forum that gives you the chance to speak with fellow users looking to share tips, motivation, and recipe ideas. A perfect tool for those on the go.
4. Best calorie counting app to stop dieting: Noom
- Price: Free
- Best for: Coaching you through lifestyle changes
Noom sets itself apart from day one: this app isn't about quick or rash fixes, the goal is to make lasting change.
'We work with customers across the globe to help them create healthier habits, reduce their risk of chronic health problems, reverse disease, and foster healthier relationships with themselves in the process,' says the brand.
Great marketing spiel, but what does that actually mean for you? A loss of 5% or more of body weight and a reduction in risk of diabetes and other conditions, according to research published in journal British Medical Journal (BMJ).
To get you started on your journey you'll answer an online survey so Noom's 360-degree team can gather information about your health and environment. Your results then inform a plan that's delivered to your inbox.
The app links you up with an interactive coach, giving you access to your recorded exercise and food diary and ensuring you're making progress.
Link it up to your Apple Watch to get daily breakdowns of your meals. Now that's easy.
5. Best free calorie counting app: Lose it!
- Price: Free
- Best for: a user-friendly comprehensive food database
This food calorie counter app is not just another calorie counter app, it takes your grocery shopping to another level. With a detailed database of what you may be putting into your body, this app also works as a food diary with its barcode scanner. (Adding new foods also isn't a big task).
On Lose It! you can check your fat loss journey through graphs and keep in touch with a community online.
6. Best UK database calorie counting app: Calorie Counter+
- Price: Free 7 day trial, then £3.99 per month
- Best for: UK food database
With over 250,000 products with photos of their UK food database, this is the app for anyone trying to log food and being caught out by the 'Americanisms' of some of the big apps.
Over your 7-day free trial, track your carbs, sugar, protein, fat, saturated fat, salt and fibre and be secure in the knowledge each product has been verified for accuracy.
Link up with your activity tracker via Apple Health to bring all your goals into one place - just remember, if counting calories ever begins to feel restrictive or a bit too much, take a break. Come back when you feel ready or leave it for a little longer depending on how you feel. These tools are there to help you, not rule your life or cause anxiety.
Now you're app-ed up, get kitted out with a new fitness tracker
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