Weight-Loss Software > Easy Calorie Counter
How to Find an Easy Calorie Counter
By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*
Counting calories is by far the most effective way to lose weight, because the number of calories you eat—not the type of food you eat—is ultimately what determines how much you weigh. (Fad diets may claim otherwise, but they aren’t based on science.)
Because counting calories by hand is cumbersome, hundreds of time-saving tools have sprung up in recent years. Some are more complicated than others, however. Based on 20 years of testing all the major brands, here are the attributes of a genuinely easy calorie counter:
Don’t bother with a printed calorie guide. It will go out of date as food manufacturers change recipes. To get a really easy calorie counter, choose an electronic device—one you can use on your computer or phone.
According to studies my company has conducted, most people won’t spend more than five minutes a day counting calories. This is the first principle an easy calorie counter must obey.
Because the average person eats about two dozen foods per day, breaking the five-minute barrier is a major challenge. It allows only 20 seconds to find each food, factor its calories for the serving size, and add the results to your tally.
So far, we haven’t found a Web-based calorie counter that meets this criterion, even on a high-speed cable connection. Much faster are calorie counters installed directly on your hard drive. DietPower®, for example, has consistently beat the five-minute standard ever since its first version in 1992. We achieved this performance by a) basing the program on the hard drive and b) implementing Smart Search technology that knows every name of every food and remembers your favorites.
It Tracks Exercise
An easy calorie counter will automatically award you extra calories if you log exercise. The best calorie counters even factor your calorie burn according to your body weight and exercise speed.
An easy calorie counter not only finds foods and their calorie counts at lightning speed, but automatically compares your tally with a budget designed to take you to your goal weight on your target date.
To calculate your calorie budget, most calorie counters use the Harris Benedict equations, a pair of rules (one for men, one for women) developed by physiologists a century ago. These only approximate your calorie needs, however. Yours may vary as much as 30 percent from the norm—or even more if you’ve had bariatric surgery or take weight-loss drugs. It may also fluctuate daily or at certain times of the month.
DietPower solved this problem in 1988 with Calorie Feedback™, which monitors your personal metabolism by comparing your weight change with your eating and exercise history and tweaks your budget every day to keep you tracking toward your goal. We know of no other program that does this.
It Has 24/7 Help
If you’re having trouble logging your midnight snack, who can you call? These days, you generally can’t phone a human operator—or if you can, you get someone who speaks toddler English and doesn’t use the program himself. There are a few exceptions, however (one is DietPower). Make sure you know before you whip out your wallet.
It's Free—or at Least Offers a Free Trial
The best way to identify an easy calorie counter is to test-drive each candidate yourself. Look for a trial period of at least a week—preferably two weeks. The trial should have no strings attached. If the manufacturer wants your credit-card number first, run the
An easy calorie counter is likely to offer a money-back guarantee, because the seller knows that products are unlikely to be
returned if they’re genuinely easy to use. The more generous and easy the refund, the better. (Because DietPower® is free, you don't have to worry about this.)
*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.