Tools

September 27, 2010

To journal or not to journal (part 2)

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The analysis (now remember it all counts!):

So how many online food journals are available? A Google search of “online food journals” will pull up over 75 million results. A Google search of “free online food journals” will result in even more choices.

I go back and forth between the composition book/pen and online journal methods. Since, I have been journaling for awhile, I am always looking for a good online program that is easy to use, allows for the entry of custom foods, tracks intake versus goals, and delivers summary information that is clear and easy to understand. Following is my review of three programs (one for the iPhone/iTouch). It is important to note that I was not asked to review these programs or offered any incentives.

Lose It! by FitNow is a good program for the person on the go and who is never without their iTouch, iPhone, or iPad. Requires free account registration at loseit.com.

  • Ease of Use: It is easy to take out during or at the end of a meal to log your food items. The icons at the bottom of the application make it easy to log entries and view quick summary snapshots.
  • Food Database: The food database is extensive and even includes popular restaurant items. In addition, you are able to enter customized food items or recipes for the meals you are unable to find or that do not quite fit one of the general categories.
  • Tracking: You are able to set caloric intake goals to achieve a personal weight goal. However, it does not track against the USDA recommended guidelines. For example, the USDA recommended daily fat intake is between 10 and 35%. On the Lose It! nutrients tab, you can see what percentage of your calories consumed came from fat; however, it will not let you know if you are over or under the recommended ranges. Staying within the recommended ranges for Fat, Carbohydrates and Protein is important in achieving a balanced diet.
  • Reports: You can view your calories consumed and burned against a daily calorie budget, as well as by week. The Goals tab, tracks your weight on a simple line graph. You can also view larger versions of the report online at loseit.com.

MyPyramid Tracker has the potential to be a good program but pales in comparison to other online programs.

  • Ease of Use: Navigating to the MyPyramid Tracker was not easy to find as it seems to be lost in a sea of information on the homepage.
  • Food Database: The database seems limited to major brands found in grocery stores. I was not able to enter custom food items or create recipes. This is important to me because as serving sizes are not standard, I want to be as accurate as possible when recording that tablespoon of organic peanut butter as opposed to selecting the best selection available.
  • Tracking: The values inputted track against the Recommended Daily Guidelines for nutrients and vitamins.
  • Reports: There are five analysis reports that may be generated. Out of the five, the Daily Guidelines comparison and My Pyramid Stats were the most useful. The Daily Guidelines report returned happy, neutral, or sad faces for food groups and for Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Oils, and Discretionary calories. When I clicked on the sad faces, a separate window came up to confirm that my intake for the particular item was low and suggestions on how to improve intake were provided. The My Pyramid Stats report provided a colored bar chart that measures your intake of the five food groups (grains are orange, vegetables are green, fruits are red, milk is blue, meats and beans are purple, oils are yellow) against the recommended guidelines.

Calorie Count (My favorite!) is an About.com website that offers compatible mobile applications for the iTouch/Phone/Pad user or smart device. *This review is of the online internet program.

  • Ease of Use: The site was easy to use and navigate.
  • Food Database: The food database has approximately 110,000 commonly purchased foods and brands, and you are able to enter custom foods and recipes.
  • Tracking: You can choose to track against the USDA guidelines, a low-carb diet plan, a vegetarian diet plan, or six other options.
  • Reports: The site’s analysis tool breaks down your food log into the energy yielding nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and vitamins and minerals commonly listed on nutrition fact panels (Vitamins A and C, Minerals Calcium, Iron, Sodium, and Potassium). Also, the charts track Fiber, Sugars, and Cholesterol. The charts and reports are easy to read and quickly let you know if you are “too high”, “good”, or “too low” in any of the nutrients, vitamins or minerals according to the guidelines you choose.

The summary:

The first time I took out my notebook in a restaurant, my friends looked at me in surprise. They quickly became used to me and my notebook aptly titled “Tab’s Diet Journal”, and were amazed at my discipline and results! After a few months of journaling, I was able to transition to recording my food entries at the end of the day and became skilled at quickly estimating the amount of food on my plate. Today, I food journal online and now concentrate of eating a more balanced diet within my calorie goals.

Whichever method you choose, old school composition book and pen or online convenience, the value you receive will only be as good as your ability to accurately and honestly record your entries. Once you see in writing what you eat, you will be able to acknowledge the amount and value of what you eat. Once you become aware of your food choices and habits, you can decide to change. Once you decide to change, you will begin your journey towards wellness…because life is amazing!


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