I’ve been a dietitian for over six years, and I’ll tell you right now that my most successful clients are those who record their food, daily.   It doesn’t even matter what their goals are; whether it’s to lose weight, eat more fruits and vegetables, eat less saturated fat, consume more fiber, or decrease their sugar intake, recording their food on a mobile app or website inevitably is the key to their success.

You can use your iPhone or another smart phone to track your calories on some of today’s most popular food and calorie-tracking apps.  You can also use your computer.

Simply put, by recording your food you automatically become more mindful of what you are eating. You literally have to think about every single thing you consume!  You can’t just pick up a piece of chocolate and pop it in your mouth. You have to record it.  You have to be responsible for what you eat. You have to think about what you eat, and that can often make all the difference.

I’m not going to pretend like I really know what the best food and calorie tracking phone application is, as I haven’t used them all.  In fact, the only one I’m personally familiar with is MyFitnessPal.  However, I’ve had clients who have used Lose It, and Sparkpeople, and I always hear great things about those apps.  But when I wanted to prepare for my wedding back in September 2012, I chose My Fitness Pal simply because I had heard more about it, and it seemed the most user-friendly for my personal needs.  I was able to log onto my account on my computer, and on the run (on my phone).

I used MyFitness Pal to get me ready for my destination wedding in North Carolina. I didn’t use it to lose weight, but to maintain it.  With so many showers and other celebrations that accompanied the pre-wedding months, MyFitness Pal was a lifesaver.

I always have snacks at night, but I never really knew how many calories I was consuming until I started recording them.  I had a rough estimate in my head, but I used MyFitnessPal to add up the calories in my nightly snack (“Gina’s Nightly Snack”) so I knew exactly how many calories I was getting.  Next, I added it to my diary every morning so I could always account for it right away, I never skip a night of my nightly snack!  I was also sure to add anything else I ate, even a 15-calorie popsicle and 1/3rd of a piece of cake (those calories add up!).

How many times are you faced with a table of delicious foods and you don’t know how to control yourself?!  Knowing that you have to record what you eat, sometimes you will automatically eat less.

Then there are those foods that you can’t really find on any food and calorie tracking apps because they are from small chains that don’t post their calories online.  That’s when estimates are necessary.  This was Nick’s Banh mi sandwich, below.  I took several bites of it and estimated (simply by how fatty and delicious it tasted) that it was about 150 calories worth of bites.  I could be slightly off, but at least I accounted for it, and as I said, that makes a huge difference!  Those bites weren’t ignored.

I recently found two great articles that described some of the most popular calorie tracking (And general health and wellness) smartphone apps;

Smart Phone Diet Apps–Part 2 Track Your Food and Exercise

(This is a great article to read if you are trying to decide which calorie tracking app is best for you)

Smart Phone Apps for Heart Health

(This includes some calorie-tracking apps, as well as general heart nutrition apps, quit smoking apps, and even exercise apps.  I liked this because the apps were all reviewed by professional registered dietitians)

Don’t have a smartphone?  It’s ok!  Use your computer, or record your food and calories the “old fashioned way” (haha, old fashioned….).  Get a calorie counter book and a diet journal. That’s all you need!

I quit tracking my food and calories the day I got to North Carolina for my wedding, but I’ll tell you that I learned a lot about being mindful just by recording my food for a couple of months.  There might be a day when I decide to track my calories again, just to get back on track, but for now, I think I’m ok on my own.  I  mean….I’m a dietitian.  I already think about food all the time!