Week 7: Mike's food tracking diary - The big home cooked meal dilemma

I'm finding more problems and less solutions
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I want so start this week's diary by just saying how great it has been living with the Fitbit Charge 2 again. It's still not the prettiest and I hate that I have to take it off before I get anywhere near any water (shower or swimming pool), but it's served as a reminder of just how good a fitness tracker it is at doing most other things. That said, as far as improving the food tracking experience, it did add the heart rate monitoring for improved calorie burn into the mix. But it wasn't really the dramatic change I yearned for.

The past week has got me thinking a lot about a problem that I've suffered since the first week of the food tracking diary and that's dealing with the home cooked meal. It's problematic because it's the hardest meal to track and Fitbit doesn't make life all that easy.

You can create custom foods but on those occasions I've had to add in a homemade tandoori chicken or one of my mum's Caribbean specials, it's a nightmare getting it logged into the app. Now I have to work out the calories in my meals? This is not going to end well. I even ended up logging something with no calorie total at all by accident and couldn't delete it. Big fail.

Read this: Fitbit Ionic review

It made me appreciate my time with MyFitnessPal a little more as it did make homemade meals slightly easier to log, but even then you're still dealing with rough estimations and that's still not good enough. For most people, cooking at home will help them be more healthy when it comes to food choices so this is worth harping on about.

So what's the solution if you're getting out the chopping board instead of dipping into the fridge or freezer for a ready made meal? Until there's a way we can work out how to accurately measure and track the breakdown of ingredients, it's never going to feel like we can get a true picture of what we're actually eating. It's the same for restaurant meals, which I've already touched on in previous weeks, but I feel like getting the food you eat at home in order is really key here.

There's some interesting ideas in the works (or claiming to be ready to do the job) that I've come across while doing some digging. SCiO by Consumer Physics is a small scanner with an optical sensor that can analyse molecular breakdown of food items. So you scan meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables to discover macro-nutrient information.

There's also the folks behind the SmartPlate who have devised a pretty standard looking plate that's placed on top of a dock. Once you've placed your food inside and snapped a smartphone photo of the items, the companion app promises to recognise items and log them as part of your food tracking.

I think the most exciting development lies with Google and could be the one that makes food tracking the seamless process I'd love it to be. It devised the Im2Calories project a couple of years ago, which uses AI to count calories in food photos. A great idea in theory but we've not heard much more about the project for a while now and it might be some time before it's ready for the masses.

I'm going to be speaking to the folks at SCiO and SmartPlate to see if I can give them in the spin, but for now, it's over to my last fitness tracker and app combo to put through their paces. I'm ditching the Fitbit for the Withings Steel HR, which will soon be renamed the Nokia Steel HR and the Wareable award-winning Health and Fitness Platform, Withings Health Mate.

Mike's food tracking diary

Week 1: The quest to find out if food tracking works
Week 2: I'm in measurement hell
Week 3: The struggle is real
Week 4: It's finally starting to happen
Week 5: Making small steps to big change (hopefully)
Week 6: It's time to talk calories

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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