The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 18, 2013

Food journaling an effective way to maintain diet dedication

April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

---- — Q: I have been really serious for the past few months on losing weight and have been keeping track of my food and activity. I am getting tired of writing it all down and would much prefer an app for my phone or online site. Do you have any suggestions?

A: A food journal is one of the most effective tools you can use to help lose weight and keep the weight off. According to the National Weight Control Registry, the nation's longest-running weight-loss research study, one of the best ways to predict how much weight a person will lose is how good they are at self-monitoring. Food journaling is the best way to keep track of what you are eating.

Food journaling makes you accountable and helps you see where your calories and nutrients are coming from. They key to good health is to get nutrients in the recommended amounts. Food journaling spells that out for you.

Food journaling can seem like a daunting task, but there are many great tools out there to help liven it up. Traditionally food journaling required that you had paper, pen, calculator and a food calorie guide. A task looked at by most like homework. There are now many different apps and online programs out there that make keeping track of your food and exercise almost fun! Some apps can instantly upload a product’s nutritional information by simply scanning its barcode.

Choosing an online or mobile food journal is a matter of preference. Here, I highlight a few services that I like. Each of these are free to use and have both mobile and online versions that sync to each other (what you add on your phone will show up online and vice versa).

My Fitness Pal: One of My Fitness Pal's strengths is its large database of foods (more than 2 million). Another benefit is that you can connect several different fitness trackers such as the Fitbit allowing you easily update how many calories you have burned. My Fitness Pal has a barcode scanner on the mobile app that uploads all the nutrition information at once.

Lose It!: Especially easy for those who like to know what percentage of carbs, proteins and fat they are taking in. Allows you to easily duplicate meals and foods from one day to the next, convenient for people who tend to eat the same meals day-to-day. Lose It! offers a great sense of community through challenges, forums and weekly e-mail progress reports. This app also features a barcode scanner for ease of use.

My Plate (from Livestrong): Offers an easy-to-use, at-a-glance dashboard, where some of the other applications require a few more clicks to get the same data. It also includes an impressive database of exercises and calories burned. But the true benefit of My Plate is the Livestrong website. Click around on the site, with its real-time take on nutritional news and array of motivational articles, and you'll find yourself jumping up off the couch and heading out the door for a workout.

April Graff is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores in Mankato. She can be reached with questions at AGraff@hy-vee.com.