Food tracking is a valuable tool for anyone looking to improve their health. By tracking what you eat, you can get a better understanding of your dietary habits and make changes as needed. It can also provide insight into what foods work best for you and your body.
But if you’ve never tracked your food intake before, it can be daunting and seem like a lot of work. Here are five tips to help you stay on track and make the most of food tracking.
Research Behind Food Tracking
Food tracking is an effective tool for weight loss and glucose management. In one study, participants who tracked their food intake lost twice as much weight<sup>1</sup> as those who didn’t track their food. Research also shows that individuals who track their food intake have experienced greater diet adherence<sup>2</sup> because food logging asks users to take a moment to think about their choices and creates a sense of responsibility.
There are a few reasons why food tracking can be so beneficial. It can help you become more aware of the foods you’re eating and give you a better understanding of your dietary habits. It allows you to see where changes can be made as well as recognize what foods work best for you. Recording your intake can also help keep you on track to make healthy changes. Seeing the progress you’ve made can give you the motivation to continue making healthy choices.
Food Tracking to Manage Glucose for Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, tracking food is especially important. Logging your food intake, as well as other lifestyle factors, can give you different insights into what can affect your health. You may find that you have to adjust your calorie intake, carbohydrate consumption, or even meal times to lose weight.
A continuous glucose monitor that sends your glucose data to an app that includes a food log can show you how different foods affect your blood sugar in real-time. As you watch your glucose response and log the foods you eat, you’ll learn which foods, how much food, and how food eaten under certain circumstances (after exercise, for example, or when you’re sleep deprived) may impact your blood sugar levels.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Read more:</strong> Blood sugar and weight loss: How tracking glucose can change our mindset</p>
How to Track Foods
Tracking your food can seem daunting at first, but it's pretty easy to learn how to do it. First, you’ll need to track your food intake in some type of app or journal. There are several different tracking apps available, so find one that works best for you.
Then, simply enter the foods you ate and the amount you ate. Depending on the app’s features, you may also be able to track other information about how food affects your body. Things like bloating and even blood sugar responses can be assessed within specific apps. This information can help identify food triggers and trends.
The Best Food Tracking Apps in 2022
There are many different tracking apps available, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few of the best food tracking apps available based on ratings and reviews in the App store:
Signos members get access to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that sends their glucose data via bluetooth to the Signos app. Members can see their daily 24/7 glucose line graph and how what they eat, when they exercise, how they sleep, and more affect their glucose levels.
The Signos app encourages users to track foods from a full database of ingredients and products. You’ll see the calorie content and macronutrient breakdown of all of the meals and snacks you log as well as your glucose response to the food (or combination of foods) so you can compare and contrast how different variables impact your blood sugar. This helps you make more informed decisions based on how your glucose reacts to certain foods and the app even gives you recommendations for how to stabilize your glucose if there’s a spike.
Favorite foods and save homemade meals in the food log to make tracking the foods you eat often easier.
<p class="pro-tip">See how Signos Works</p>
MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular (and oldest!) food tracking apps available. It has a large database of foods—including menu options at many popular restaurants—and you can track both calories and macronutrients. The app also includes a barcode scanner to make tracking food easier. People who have used MFP for a long time often get hooked because they have access to years of food logs and favorite recipes.
Lose It! is similar to MyFitnessPal, has a large database of foods, and allows you to track both calories and macronutrients. The app also offers a lot of helpful features, such as a calorie goal calculator and a food journal.
Cronometer is an app that specializes in tracking macro and micronutrients. Although it has a smaller food database than other apps, it offers more detailed information about the nutrients in those foods. This app is ideal for people who are looking to track their macros while also keeping an eye on their micronutrient intake.
MyNetDiary is a food tracking app that focuses on weight loss. It has a large database of foods and allows users to track calories and macronutrients, as well as body measurements such as waist size. The app also includes features like food journaling and meal plans.
Lifesum is another food tracking app that focuses on weight loss. Users can choose from a variety of diets and eating plans, including high protein and clean eating, and then choose diet-specific meal plans with four recipes per day available in the app. Use the barcode scanner and stick to recipes that suit your macros to help you stay accountable.
MyPlate Calorie Counter
MyPlate Calorie Counter is an app from Livestrong that focuses on calorie counting. Its robust food database includes nutritional information and serving sizes for millions of foods and allows barcode scanning for quick or customized entry. MyPlate suggests foods based on your diet and preferences that align with your daily calorie goal, and includes free meal plans.
Foodility is an app that specializes in tracking food allergies and sensitivities. It has a database of foods, as well as a database of ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Users can track their symptoms and see if they have any food allergies or sensitivities. The app also includes features like food journaling and meal plans.
CarbManager is a food tracking app that specializes in tracking carbohydrates. Keto and low-carb lovers flock to this app because it makes sticking to the lifestyle easier. Manage your health goals by integrating data from leading trackers and health apps like Garmin, FitBit, and Apple Health, so you can correlate how what you eat may impact your energy, cravings, and weight.
My Diet Coach
Gamify the sometimes tedious task of tracking your food by getting points. The My Diet Coach app rewards users for healthy habits, not just weight loss. Take pictures of your meals if you don’t have time to log after eating, then go back and update when you’re ready. Customizable features in the pro version include adding photos, personalizing your avatar, scanning food barcodes, and creating unique challenges.
5 Helpful Tips to Stay on Top of Tracking
Food tracking can be a valuable tool for improving your health. By tracking what you eat, you can become more aware of your dietary habits and make changes as needed. It can also provide insight into what foods work best for you and your body. In the beginning, cataloging what you’re eating can be difficult.
To help you get into the habit of food logging, Signos’ content director provides the following tips to make tracking more seamless.
1. Pre-log meals and recipes you eat often. We all have our favorite foods and go-to meals that work well to keep us sated and energized. When you aren’t running to a work meeting after a quick lunch or you aren’t helping wash the dishes and get the kids started on homework, take five or 10 minutes to pre-log meals or recipes you plan to eat this week. Or, plan your meals and snacks for the next day the night before and pre-log them when the house is quiet and before you wind down for bed. This will make it easier to track what you’re eating when you’re busy and more likely to skip logging.
2. Pre-log meals when you meal prep. Similar to the recommendation above, if you take an hour or two to prep lunches, dinners, and breakfasts, tack on an extra 10 minutes to that meal prep time to log what you made. That way you’ll remember how much arugula and roasted veggies you added to your prep-ahead mason jar salads, and you remember what you added to that chicken and veggie curry. If you take a weekend afternoon to meal prep, spend an extra 10 minutes logging the recipes you made, favorite them in the app, and then you can easily pull up what you ate during the week when you're busy (that's why you needed to meal prep, am I right?).
3. Keep an eye on the bigger picture. This means don't stress out about logging every single teaspoon of spices, fresh herbs used for garnish, or whether you used 4 Tbsp. or 2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar. It's awesome to be precise but if accounting for every bit of every bob you add to your homemade chili creates a roadblock to you logging the meal, strip it back to the ingredients you use in larger quantities—ground beef or turkey, beans, quinoa, chopped onions and mushrooms, canned tomatoes, etc. You’ll still likely land within 10–15 calories and around the same macronutrient breakdown for your overall meal.
4. Be reasonably accurate. The takeaway of food tracking is not to get lost in the weeds but to identify trends over time. What foods and food combinations helped you feel good and get closer to achieving your health goals? That said, accuracy matters too, when it comes to learning about portion sizes. The amount of food you eat can impact your overall health and goals. How can you be more accurate? Invest in a kitchen scale. Measuring cups and spoons work, too. How much homemade chili did you eat? How many grams of dark chocolate did you have for dessert? Approximating amounts of the main components of your meals or snacks can lead to inaccuracies that could impede your progress. If you know how much your chili bowl weighs (tip: weigh it without anything in it), then you can weigh the amount of chili you ladle into it (and subtract the weight of the bowl) and know more precisely how many portions of that homemade chili you ate.
5. Change your lens. Food logging is about gathering data and having a record to look back on. Not losing weight? Ask your doctor or a dietitian or health coach to review your food log with you to see where you might be able to make changes. Feeling lethargic? Consult your food log to see if you ate bigger portions or more high-glycemic carbs or perhaps drank more alcohol than usual. You can put more pep in your step by playing around with your macros (the amount of carbs, protein, and fat you eat) and by adding more energizing sources of whole foods (like fresh fruits and veggies, oatmeal, matcha, etc.) Yes, food logging can be tedious at times but it also lets you play food sleuth so you can start learning more about how your body responds to different foods and food combinations.
If you’re looking to improve your health, tracking your food intake is a great way to start. There are many different ways to track what you eat, and Signos offers a program that allows users to gather insights based on food tracking and glucose spikes. By understanding how different foods affect your body, you can make better choices about the foods you eat—which will help you reach your health goals.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about planning </strong> <a href="/blog/healthy-work-lunches-weight-loss">healthy work lunches for weight loss</a>.</p>
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