Food trackers: The best calorie counter apps and wearables

Tech yourself thin with these food apps and trackers
The best food tracking apps

There's been a lot of debate over recent years about the fact a calorie isn't always a calorie. So just because you cut down your calorie intake it doesn't mean you shouldn't focus on the quality of your food to make sure you feel good and ultimately shift the fat in the long term - not just the weight in the short term.

Having said that, using a calorie tracker is one of the best ways to get control of your diet. Counting up all those snacks and meals can reveal some shocking news about your eating habits and highlight common misconceptions about the food you eat - not to mention the portion sizes you might be over-consuming.

Read this: The best fitness tracker you can buy

It can quickly highlight what your normal eating habits are and where you might make improvements, which can perfectly complement the health and activity information from your wearable gadget.

You can use a variety of methods, from phone apps to fitness trackers, and the trouble isn't finding a tool to track your calories, it's choosing which one is right for you.

There are dozens of diet apps to choose from these days but the best offer so much more than a digital diary. Barcode scanners give instant nutritional information, extensive food libraries make counting calories quick and accurate while some can be synced with a fitness band or step counter app to combine exercise and activity with diet for all-round healthier results.

We've picked out our favourite calorie counting wearables and the apps that do a similar job and a little bit more with your data.

Best fitness trackers for calorie counting

Under Armour HealthBox

calorie counter wearables apps

We've seen families of connected fitness devices before from the likes of Fitbit and Withings. The big difference with Under Armour's HealthBox platform is that it has huge ecosystem to go with its hardware and it's aiming to make the data you collect more meaningful.

The HealthBox is made up of the Under Armour Band fitness tracker, heart rate monitor chest strap and smart scales. MyFitnessPal, which is owned by the sports giant, is deeply integrated into HealthBox. So you can step on the scales and the information will be combined with your food logging data. Under Armour's IBM powered Watson software will then analyse the information and give you insights and tips on how to keep on track.


Jawbone UP3

calorie counter wearables apps

Jawbone's UP3 is packed full of some of the most advanced sensors in the space, which means it takes measuring your calorie burn each day seriously.

It's easy to guestimate the impact 30 minutes of walking will have on your calorie deficit, but the UP3 tries to take out the guesswork, using data about your height, weight, activity intensity and duration from its huge range of sensors.

But with Jawbone it's not just about calorie burn. The newest version of the accompanying app has a beautifully simple food log with large photos sensibly split into meal times and food groups. To make tracking food and calorie intake even easier, Jawbone has recently partnered with Yummly, one of the best food discovery networks.

There's also a barcode scanner and the ability to take photos of your meals, input nutritional information and portion size to help keep your food diary accurate and improve the database.

Additions to the Jawbone app also include Food Score, which rates your choices so you're clued up enough to make better ones in the future. There's also the new Smart Coach, a super clever insight feature that helps you reach your goals and provides you with tips and recommendations.

$179.99, | Amazon

Best apps for calorie counting

Best overall: MyFitnessPal

calorie counter wearables apps

Phenomenally successful and for good reason the MyFitnessPal app (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows) is leagues ahead of the rest when it comes to calorie counting and diet management. Tell it your vitals and what you want to achieve - gain, lose or maintain weight - and MyFitnessPal estimates how many calories your body burns without additional exercise. It's then your job to log everything you eat and drink.

The layout is clean and easy to navigate – essential when you're looking for any excuse not to log last night's fried chicken – and the choice of over three million food items makes keeping tabs on your calories and hitting your targets mercifully simple.

To get the best from the app you should also log your daily activity. This can be done manually, but it can also sync with a vast selection of leading health apps, fitness bands and smart scales from the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings.


Best for simplicity: Lifesum

calorie counter wearables apps

Often cited as the best health and fitness app on the market, LifeSum does everything that MyFitnessPal does including calorie tracking, nutritional information breakdowns and syncing with plenty of third party fitness trackers.

But the thing that Lifesum fans love the most is just how simple the app is to use and great-looking the design is in comparison to the jam-packed experience you get with its rivals

This may seem like a rather small point, but research shows that the more you track the more successful your weight loss journey will be. If you're even slightly put off tracking something because of an overly bloated app design, then three weeks down the line it could be the difference between hitting your goal or falling at the first hurdle.

So if simplified tracking and consistency is what you're after, then Lifesum is likely to be your new calorie counting BFF.


Best for beginners: Calorie Counter PRO

calorie counter wearables apps

With MyFitnessPal offering so much for free it seems odd to want to pay, but it's a small price for the extra features on Calorie Counter PRO. Aside from the usual calorie counting, tracking and diet advice PRO is brilliant at educating users on their choice of foods and by using the barcode scanner you can get nutritional advice on over 600,000 different foods.

It will also adjust to specific diets so if you are on a low carb plan you can choose to show carbs instead of calories and can track up to 45 different nutrients to ensure you are getting enough – handy if you're deficient in something specific and need a boost.

While the main focus is on food tracking exercise isn't ignored and you can sync your fitness band – Fitbit, Withings or Jawbone – or download their own fitness tracking app to help get you motivated.

From $3.99,

Best for coaching: HAPIcoach

calorie counter wearables apps

From the folks that brought you the electronic fork that tracks eating habits, the HAPIcoach app claims to get you eating better in just five days.

The idea is to take photos of what you eat, logging at least 10 meals over those five days. A nutrition expert will then be able to analyse your eating habits and gradually over time help you make substantial and worthwhile changes with your diet.

This isn't an AI powered nutritionist, those insights come from a licensed nutritionist to give you more personal suggestions and feedback on your data. Aside from logging meals, you can also track activity and weight giving you pretty much the complete package all wrapped up in a clean, easy to use app.


Best for fitness trackers: Lose It!

calorie counter wearables apps

Fitbit, Misfit, Nike+, Withings are just a few of the devices that play nice with one of the most comprehensive weight loss apps available right now.

Like MyFitnessPal, it's built around deciding how much weight you want to lose. Then you're given a daily calorie budget to work from. It uses your phone to scan barcodes to log meals and will calculate how many calories you'll burn from a session in the gym. It also takes into consideration all the other factors that can affect a diet such as sleep and your macronutrients intake.

Keeping things social is a big part of how Lose It! works. You can join groups, share your favourite meals and enter challenges to keep you motivated.

If you upgrade to the premium package, you'll unlock a whole host of extra features including the ability to store body measurements and get a breakdown of all the key nutrients.


Shop for recommended fitness trackers on Amazon

Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Charge 2
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Withings Steel HR
Withings Steel HR
Moov Now
Moov Now

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  • seasideslut says:

    My experience with My Fitness Pal is that it is shit. Its info on food types comes from data entry done by random users around the world, who may or may not have entered it accurately, leaving you with wildly unreliable results. The Jawbone barcode scanning uses data in a similar way. I can't wait for wareables that are good enough to just analyse my wee or blood and tell me what vitamins I need. Manual data entry is laborious at best and completely inaccurate at worst.

    • farmboy622 says:

      My experience with seasideslut's review is that it is shit.

      MFP does, in some cases, rely on user input for nutrition information. However, they have a huge amount of verified data (noted by green checkmarks), and that list is expanding. Items found by scanning a barcode will actually have a higher likelihood of being verified - these are manufactured items and will have consistent values. MFP has also started to offer a location service - you can see what restaurants nearby have submitted their menus.

      Finally, anything you see in MFP that is only based on an estimate will make sure to let you know with a friendly pop-up alert.

      As for your idea for a wearable that can analyze your blood/urine samples - you're talking about highly sophisticated medical technology that, by itself in a laboratory takes hours at least to give accurate results. You also have to consider that in order to give you that level of accuracy, lab works are highly trained in how to handle a specimen to give accurate results. 

      Trying to rely on a wristband for that is pointless at best, and fatally dangerous at best.

      • FitnessApp says:

        Well, yeah... Even those "verified" ones are incorrect. They "verify" them when a number of users say the info is correct. Guess what? 80% it's not.

        And the barcode? Same. Users can change a link and point to their inaccurate custom food entries.

        And the interface is... well... bloated. I won't change because I spent a great deal adding my own private food just to prevent the rest of users to mess with it.

  • jci says:

    Not exactly food tracker but DrinkControl app that tracks and monitors your alcohol consumption (including calories you get from the booze) could be a great candidate for this list of apps.

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