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Weight-Loss Software > Fat and Calorie Counter

Finding the Best Fat and Calorie Counter

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

A fat and calorie counter is one of the most valuable tools for weight loss, because a) controlling your calorie intake is the only way to control your weight, and b) fat is the most concentrated source of calories in your diet. In addition, eating too much fat is a known cause of heart disease and cancer.

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In my 30 years as a medical journalist and 20 years developing nutrition software, I've seen many a fat and calorie counter appear on the market—more than 200, in all. Here's what separates the good from the bad:

Database Size

A top-flight fat and calorie counter will have at least 20,000 foods in its database. In addition, each food will carry data on at least the 12 nutrients on food labels—and better yet, several dozen more. (Selenium, for example, is an important antioxidant that protects you against premature aging, cancer, and other maladies, yet it's rarely listed on labels.)

The counter should also have an exercise database covering at least 500 activities, including not only sports and leisure but also occupational and domestic tasks. By logging these, you earn extra calories that you can eat without breaking your budget.

Function Integration

Looking up the fat grams and calories in the foods you eat is only the beginning of weight loss. You also have to tally these, compare what you've had to the amount you should have, and carry a balance from one day to the next so you can stay fixed on your long-range goal. A good fat and calorie counter will do all of this for you automatically. The only thing it should ask you to do is log all your foods and exercise each day, and your weight at least once a week.


Don't bother with a counter that takes more than five to ten minutes a day to use. Ask the seller to provide you with a free trial. If the seller won't comply, drop the product like a hot potato. Using such a tool generally requires months of dedication; there is no point in making the task harder by choosing a confusing or cumbersome tool.


My company's fat and calorie counter "learns" your personal metabolism and adjusts your calorie budget daily in order to keep you tracking toward your goal. It also "knows" your favorite foods and shows you which are best to eat right now if you want to improve your Nutrition QuotientT.

No other counter performs either of these feats, but you may find a counter that has alternative functions that impress you even more. The point is that you should try many before choosing one. You're going to live with your counter for a long time. It should be a friend, not a scourge.


I probably should have listed this first, because it's crucial. You will probably need help in learning your counter. DietPower offers six kinds of help, ranging from video tutorials to free email and 800-number telephone support. If you find another company that offers more, let us know—we like to keep tabs on our competition.


*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.

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Last modified August 12, 2010

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