Weight-Loss Software > Calorie Counter Diary
Choosing a Calorie Counter Diary
By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*
A calorie counter diary can be a perfect tool for weight loss. Besides focusing on calories (the only thing that really counts in controlling your weight), it will save you from arduous calculations by running a tally of your intake and expenditures over the course of your diet.
You'll find many calorie counter diaries on the market today, ranging from wonderful to worthless. Here are the most important attributes to consider when choosing.
Nobody wants to spend more than a few minutes a day counting calories. The fastest calorie counter diaries are installed on your hard drive. You can download these from the Web—but you don't actually use them on the Web, as that would be too slow. Hard-drive-based software such as DietPowerŽ (a leading brand) is much faster. It also keeps your records safely on your own computer.
Look for a calorie counter diary that can log all your foods in five to seven minutes a day. According to my company's studies, this is the limit beyond which most people give up logging.
Your calorie counter diary should contain at least 20,000 foods. That may sound like overkill, but even a modest supermarket contains 30,000 items these days. In addition, make sure your counter lets you add foods to the database by keying in nutrition facts from labels.
Besides calories, the database should include other nutrient values—not only for the "energy nutrients" fat, protein, carbohydrate, and alcohol, but also for saturated and trans fat; sodium; potassium; fiber; sugars; calcium; vitamins A, C, D, and E; folic acid; and selenium. These nutrients are important in preventing or treating diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other killers.
Finally, your diary should let you record exercise, and automatically award you extra calories for each workout.
A full-featured calorie counter diary will do a lot more than counting calories and other nutrients. The best will also compare your intake of each nutrient to your Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is based on your age, sex, size, and reproductive state. A few will calculate a single score (such as DietPower's "Nutrition QuotientT") telling how smart an eater you've been today and which foods will help or hurt your score.
(DietPower is uniquely intelligent in other ways. It continually identifies your Smart SecondT—the food you've already eaten that will raise your score most if eaten again. It also monitors your metabolism to guarantee reaching your goal weight on your target date. In addition, it color-codes foods to indicate whether they will raise or lower your health risks. It even corrects your calorie budget for water loss or retention from high sodium intake or menstrual bloat.)
To get help with most software these days, you have to search a voluminous knowledge base, post a question online, email a support group (and wonder whether it is selling your address to spammers), or if you're lucky, talk to someone in India with broken English and little experience in using the software. That's why my company is proud to have 24/7 support by Americans who, for years, have used our calorie counter diary themselves. We know of no other programs with equally strong support, but you may be able to find one. Ask.
Don't buy a calorie counter diary that doesn't offer a 100-percent money-back guarantee. If the warranty carries restrictions— a restocking fee, an unreasonably short deadline, or expensive return shipping—that's a sure sign that the seller is trying to hide something.
A free trial will enable you to buy your calorie counter diary with complete confidence. The trial should be complete—not "dumbed down"—and last for at least a week, preferably two. It should not require you to give your credit-card information up-front. Nor should it force you to cancel anything if you decide against buying.
*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading maker of nutrition and weight-loss software.