Weight-Loss Software > Fast Food Calorie Counter
Fast Food Calorie Counter: Finding the Best
By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*
You can eat healthfully in fast food restaurants, but you have to be careful what you choose. The calorie content of fast foods is notoriously variable. This means that if you're a busy dieter on a budget, a fast food calorie counter is essential.
Although a customer-friendly restaurant may publish such a counter on its website or in the restaurant itself, the average restaurant does not. In a study of the top 100 chains in the United States, my company found that only 32 made their nutrition facts easy to locate. That's one reason we added fast foods to DietPowerŽ, our weight loss and nutrition software, more than ten years ago.
Since then, dozens of software companies and websites have incorporated a fast foods into their calorie counters. Some have done it well, others poorly. Here are five factors to consider when choosing one:
Fast Food Calorie Counter Precision
Ask when the calorie counter's food database was last updated. Fast food restaurants regularly introduce new menu items or adopt new suppliers.
If your calorie counter calculates a calorie budget for you, check it against the budget provided by the DietPower calorie budget calculator. The results should match within 100 calories. If they don't, your counter may be one of many who aren't careful about their math.
Fast Food Calorie Counter Speed
Most people eat at least 20 different foods each day. Logging them can become time-consuming if your calorie counter's search function doesn't minimize scrolling, and clicking. Choose one that doesn't ask you to specify a category for each food search (are hashed browns a Vegetable or a Side Dish?). See if it can find a food in less than one second, even if you misspell its name.
A really good calorie counter will also remember your favorites and put them at the top of the list when you do a keyword search.
Fast Food Calorie Counter Depth
Most fast food restaurants publish data for only a few nutrients. Nevertheless, some calorie counters include additional nutrients, so that you can track not only your calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrates, but also cholesterol, calcium, folic acid, potassium, zinc, selenium, and several dozen other key nutrients.
In addition, some counters track calories that you burn in exercise, adding them back into your daily budget so you can eat more and still reach your goal on schedule.
Fast Food Calorie Counter Intelligence
In a few cases, calorie counters actively recommend foods that are best for your nutrition. DietPower is one of these. Based on your nutrient balance, for example, it can show you which fast food is best to have seconds in.
DietPower also monitors your metabolism and automatically tweaks your calorie budget to keep you tracking precisely toward your goal. It even adjusts the budget for water loss from high-temperature exercise, as well as water retention from high sodium intake (a common problem for fast food eaters).
Fast Food Calorie Counter Guarantees
Choose a calorie counter that a) lets you test-drive it for at least a week or two, and b) provides a money-back guarantee. Many don't; the best do. (DietPower does even better: 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.