Cool tools

I’ve mentioned the importance of keeping a food journal when you’re actively trying to make a change to your eating habits and/or body weight. It’s also a good idea if you’re working on maintaining your weight and notice that the scale is creeping up a bit or your favorite pants are getting just a touch too tight. It’s a concrete way of seeing what’s what so you can make any necessary adjustments. Relying on your memory to track your food intake just does not cut it.

While some people prefer to simply write down everything they eat and drink, with or without the additional step of looking up calorie counts and crunching some numbers, others prefer a more high tech method.

I’ve used a handful of different programs to track my meals. Fitday.com wasn’t bad, but the free online version runs so slowly sometimes that I wanted to pull my hair out (I’m too cheap to pay for an upgraded version…I’d rather spend that money on a peice of fitness equipment).

I have some great software from a nutrition class I took a few terms ago that lets you run really, really detailed reports, but it’s not designed to track more than seven days at at time, which is not so good when you’re doing a 14-week burn the fat challenge!

I’ve tried two different iPhone apps that wouldn’t let me enter all foods by weight (which is important to me), and it’s harder to create listings for custom foods with an app.

I heard great things about Calorie King, but they are not longer free, but I’m still too cheap 😉

Enter SparkPeople.com. I’ve been using this FREE site for about a week now, and am quite pleased. It’s easy to create a database of my custom foods, almost every food can be entered by weight (sometimes grams but not ounces, but that’s not a huge deal, since I use a digital scale), and they are bright and cheerful and colorful, which doesn’t hurt. I also really, really, really like that when you have a daily food intake page up on your computer screen, for each meal there is a button that lets you copy the entire meal over to another day of your choosing. This is SO fantastic when you have frequent meal repeats. Even if you switch just an element or two, you can copy the meal over then make the changes, instead of adding each food from scratch.

There is so much you can do with this site, in terms of tracking exercise and other goals. I think they even offer meal plans, diet plans, workout plans. Like, there’s a lot there. I’ve really only scratched the surface, since I’ve been busy and my priority need is the nutrition tracking.

So, if you like to track your food online, I highly recommend giving SparkPeople a look. You can also find a bonanza of healthy recipes and calculate the calories in your own recipes at SparkRecipes.com.