Weight-Loss Software > Electronic Calorie Counter
Shopping for an Electronic Calorie Counter
By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*
I counted calories by hand until 1984, when I got my first personal computer. A few years later, my company released one of the very first electronic calorie counters. Known as DietPowerŽ, it is now among the most popular programs of its type.
I'm not here to tout DietPower, however. Our weight-loss software may not be right for you. But I do have five important tips for you to consider when shopping for an electronic calorie counter. Here's what to look for:
1. A Trustworthy Electronic Calorie Counter
There are three types of electronic calorie counters. One is a handheld device that doesn't do anything else. Another is a website you can access from your computer. The third is software that you install on your computer.
The best of these, by far, is software you install on your compuer. Reasons:
- Handheld calorie counters have limited food sets that don't automatically update when food manufacturers change their recipes.
- Websites sometimes boast a large selection of foods, but usually that's because they let users contribute nutrition facts copied from food labels—and the sites don't bother checking these data for accuracy.
- A software company is less likely to share your email address and diet records with third parties who want to sell you supplements, workout tapes, and other diet paraphernalia.
Some calorie counters aren't good at math. If your counter gives you a calorie budget that differs by more than 100 calories from DietPower's calorie budget calculator, something may be amiss.
2. A Fast Electronic Calorie Counter
On an adverage day, you'll need to record between 20 and 35 foods. If finding and logging a food takes more than a few seconds, keeping track of your meals will quickly become drudgery, and you'll give up.
Look for a calorie counter that zeroes in on a food just a fraction of a second after you enter a couple of keywords and click Search. Don't accept one that asks you to choose a food group or category before searching.
Expect your counter to remember all the foods you've logged recently, because you probably still have these on hand and will be logging them again soon.
Finally, choose a calorie counter that lets you create "recipes" of your customary breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. That way, you can log an entire meal as a single item.
3. A Multi-Talented Electronic Calorie Counter
Why only count calories when you can simultaneously monitor fat, protein, carbohydrate, and dozens of vitamins and minerals? It doesn't take any longer, yet it tells you a lot more about your nutrition.
The best electronic calorie counters cover dozens of nutrients, including antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E and selenium (for preventing cancer and premature aging); fats, saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and potassium (for lowering cardiovascular risks); folic acid (for curbing birth defects); calcium (to prevent osteoporosis); and water (vital to good athletic and mental performance).
Good calorie counters also estimate calories burned in exercise. In addition, they provide a scoreboard board comparing your intake and expenditures to your budget.
4. A Proactive Electronic Calorie Counter
One or two calorie counters actually "coach" you by recommending foods that are best for your nutrition, giving you personalized advice, and alerting you to negative habits that they discern by analyzing your records.
We believe DietPower's Real-Time Eating Coach™ is the most sophisticated of this type. (It's the only program that tells you which food is best to have seconds in, for example.) But of course you'll be the judge of that.
5. A No-Risk Electronic Calorie Counter
Don't bother with an electronic calorie counter that has no refund policy. Most good ones do. And look for one that you can try free before purchasing. (DietPower doesn't offer a free trial, because the entire program is free.)
*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.