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How tech can help you keep better track of what you eat

Sep. 30, 2012 at 11:37 AM ET

Eating healthy is always a bit tough, and while everyone's definition of "healthy" is slightly different, you can easily track what you're eating and get an idea of where you can improve. While a billion dieting apps exist, this is less about losing weight, and more about knowing more about the foods you're eating, how they're affecting your body in the long run, and using technology to keep yourself on track. There's no magic bullet for perfect health, but you can use technology to get a much better idea of your overall eating habits, and find the best ways to achieve the goals you want.

Lose It via Lifehacker /

Track what you eat for a better view of your health

One facet of eating healthy is taking a close look at what you eat. You can do this in any number of ways, but a food journal is one of the most common recommendations. That sounds like a lot of work, but it's surprisingly easy.

For this, we like Lose It, because it's available online, and as iPhone and Android apps. Lose It is technically geared toward losing weight, but since its database of foods is huge, it's an easy way to track what you're eating (and how much you're working out) over the course of a couple weeks to get a better idea of where you need to improve. To use it, just enter in your meals after you eat them, and move on. It's as easy as that.

If you're anything like me, you'll probably be surprised at the results. While I typically consider myself a healthy eater, looking back on a week or two of meals says otherwise. But this isn't about guilting yourself into eating more vegetables. Take a look at your history, and see where you can add (or subtract) foods, or improve the types of meals you enjoy.

Plan your meals with all the information you could possibly need

USDA's SuperTracker via Lifehacker /

We've talked a lot about meal planning as a way to speed up the process of grocery shopping and make your week easier in the long run. Fortunately, with the help of a little tech, you can also plan out your meals in a healthy manner, and know exactly what type of nutritional benefits you'll get. To start, you need to figure out what you really need to be eating.

For this, we like the USDA's SuperTracker. When you sign up for an account you'll enter in your weight, height, and daily activity. SuperTracker then generates a target calorie allowance, and then suggests the mix of food groups (and amounts) to integrate into your diet.

From there, you can plan your meals according to what you should be eating using an app like Menu Planner for iOS, or Food Planner for Android. Both also offer a basic calorie count for your meals.

Get on-the-go nutritional info for meals

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When you're out eating at a restaurant, grocery shopping, or you're just too tired for anything but fast food, you can still make a decent choice about what to eat. We like a few different options for finding the best meals no matter where you are:

  • At the grocery store: If you plan your meals well you should have a pretty good idea of what you're buying at the grocery store. But if you want more information, we like Fooducate (iPhone/Android). You can scan (or type in) any food in the store and you'll get a far more accurate set of nutritional information than you'll find on the label. It makes picking between a couple different options incredibly easy.
  • At a restaurant: While we don't recommend you trust a mobile app to get updated with the latest nutritional information for every restaurant around, Restaurant Nutrition (iPhone/Android) does a good job of giving you a view of what's in your meal at most major chains.
  • On a road trip: Before you hit the road, the Eat Well Guide is an excellent resource for finding healthy meals on the highway. Simply type in your starting and ending address, and the Eat Well Guide spits out a list of healthy restaurant options on the way. You can even save it as a PDF file and keep it with you anywhere.

Eating healthy has a ton of different variables, like a dysfunctional diet, a diet that comes with a lot of exercise, and even just healthy eating for those who hate cooking. With the help of tech you can focus those variables on what you need, and figure out where you need to improve in the long run.

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