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Weight-Loss Software > Free Calorie Counter

Which Free Calorie Counter Is Best?

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

It's easy to find a free calorie counter on the Web these days, but it's not easy to find one that's trouble-free. I've tested hundreds since 1996. Here are five kinds you should avoid:

The Free Calorie Counter that Spams

Beats Any Free Calorie Counter
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It asks for your email address (or worse yet, steals every address stored in your computer) and triggers hundreds of messages to you and your friends about colon cleansers, açai berries, life insurance, gourmet coffee, and penis enlargers.

Tip: Read the privacy statement.

The Free Calorie Counter that Isn't

It's free for a week or two—maybe even a month. Once you've accumulated enough diet records to be hooked, it demands money every 28 days. If you change your mind, it exacts a cancellation fee.

Tip: Check prices and terms before taking the bait.

The Free Calorie Counter that Lies

It brags about its huge database of foods, but most of these are contributed by other users instead of a paid staff. As a result, you have to wade through dozens of near-duplicates every time you search for an item to log. You're also at the mercy of everyone else's typing mistakes. (One counter that I tested said that a pat of butter contained four calories. The true calorie count is 35.)

Tip: Ask about data sources.

The Free Calorie Counter that Dawdles

It makes you wait five or ten seconds every time you log a food. At first you blame your Internet connection, but after a few tedious sessions you realize it's the site's server.

Tip: Look for a performance guarantee.

The Free Calorie Counter that Won't Talk

It doesn't publish a phone number—or if it does, you get an answering machine and nobody calls you back. If you try emailing, you get an autorespond that tells you to read the FAQs that you've already read twice.

Tip: Test for live, human support. (It's rare.)

With all these problems... you still want a free calorie counting program, or would your rather spend $29 on a good one that installs on your own computer and is supported 365 days a year, 24/7, by nice people who speak flawless English and use the program themselves?

(Is your health worth $29? How about all the time you'll save by avoiding the ads and the long waits for pages to load? Or the frustration you'll avoid by getting an intelligent, empathetic fellow dieter on the phone instead of a robot that insists, "Your call is important to us.")

Tip: It's true: you get what you pay for.


*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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