Need a nutrition-tracking app? Try MyFitnessPal

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After recently capping my daily running streak at 425 days and buying a new Bluetooth 4.0 heart monitor, I’m adding more mobile tech to my health-tracking obsession. Since I generally have poor eating habits, I figure that I can improve both my overall heath and my race times by taking a closer look at my nutrition. After some research, I settled on the free MyFitnessPal app.

As I often do when looking for apps or services, I lean towards options that offer cross-platform support. MyFitnessPal qualifies, with a web interface in addition to mobile apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

All of the apps are in their respective app stores, or you can find them here. Of course, the service has to be easy to use and has to solve a specific problem. MyFitnessPal does both and does them well. The app uses a simple interface: pick which meal you want to track — breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks — and then search for the items you ate.

You can either type and search or use the integrated barcode scanner to find a specific food item. The app offers a database of more than 1 million food items, and in the several days I’ve been using it, MyFitnessPal has found every item without fail. Then it’s just a matter of choosing how many servings of the food you ate. You can save custom meals as well.

 

The whole process of data entry takes me 30 seconds or less, making it easy to do. As you capture your meals, the app calculates all of the nutritional values for you. Before using the app, you specify your height, weight, age and any weight goals you have; using that data, MyFitnessPal keeps a running total of remaining calories you have in a given day, along with the total fat, protein, carb and vitamin/mineral intake you have left.

If you want to track exercise, the app can do that as well, using the same search functionality. No barcode scanning for that, of course! I initially didn’t plan to use the exercise tracking, but after trying it, I changed my mind. Why? Because the burned calories from exercise are added to the daily caloric intake figure that the app calculates. If I skip that, I may not be replenishing my body enough after difficult workouts.

The market for food-tracking apps is large, and I’m not suggesting that MyFitnessPal is the best solution for everyone. But based on my use, I think it’s worth a look by anyone who wants to track their daily nutrition intake, exercise activities or both. It’s free, works great and is supported on four mobile platforms. I call that a win all around.

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