Counting calories is a necessary part of dieting, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Calorie counting apps make tracking your daily meals and exercise easy, and they include tons of helpful features that make getting healthier fun.
Update, 12/4/21: Verified links still good. Removed SparkPeople as it’s no longer available.
Although each of these apps has a unique approach to tracking calories, they all share a common goal: to make it easier for you to stay on top of your diet. Here are the most important features to look for in calorie counting apps:
- Easy Accurate Logging: Because you’ll be using the app multiple times a day, logging should be easy. The best calorie counting apps let you quickly log meals and snacks right from the app’s Home page, and they support barcode scanning or even have image recognition for common foods. Many of them can also track nutrients and macros, adjust for exercise, and let you set up fitness goals.
- Reliable Reminders: Eventually, logging calories becomes a habit. Until then, however, it’s important to have regular reminders so you can log consistently. Some apps even let you customize your reminders.
- Community Support: Anyone who has tried dieting can tell you how tough it is to stick to it, let alone exercise every day and stay below your recommended daily caloric intake. But having a supportive community behind you makes you feel less alone and more likely to keep tracking and exercising on a regular basis, which is what these apps are all about. These communities are an awesome place where you can share your victories, and they make it easy to find friends you can chat with.
- Helpful Extras: Many apps have tools beyond calorie tracking that often go unnoticed. Features like workout guides, weight loss challenges, recipes, diet plans, and even meal planning can make all the difference in your journey to get fit. Bonus points to apps that remind you to drink water.
MyFitnessPal (Free, with in-app purchases) is not just a calorie counter—it’s a solid all-around fitness app. From tracking what you eat and how much you exercise each day to helping you create goals, it’s your best bet overall if you are serious about getting healthy. MyFitnessPal has the largest food database out there—over 11 million foods—plus it recognizes over four million barcodes and thousands of meals from popular restaurants, so you’ll never be left estimating your meals. The app also tracks macros and various nutrients, which is great if you need to keep a close eye on what you’re eating.
If you have a weight loss, gain, or maintenance goal in mind, MyFitnessPal makes it easy to set it up or to create one from scratch. Another one of the app’s outstanding features is its massive compatibility with other workout apps and devices, like Fitbit, Strava, Runtastic, MapMyFitness, Jawbone, Garmin, and more. You can share your fitness accomplishments on the app and find friends for added support and accountability. By charting your progress with text or photo updates on MyFitnessPal, you can stay motivated and even inspire others.
Editor’s Note: I can’t say enough good things about MyFitnessPal. I used it (along with exercise) to lose a bunch of weight and donate a kidney to my son. It’s a literal life changer.
If your primary reason for counting calories is for weight loss, Lose It! (Free, with in-app purchases) is the app for you. When you first set up your profile, you’ll input information like your height and weight, then add your goal weight and how aggressively you want to work towards that goal. This is how the app calculates your target caloric intake, which automatically adjusts as you lose weight. Logging food, exercise, and water consumption with the app is super easy—just scan a barcode, take photos of your food, or enter in items manually. The app can track macros and nutrients, which is essential if you’re on a specialized diet.
As you continue to log each day, the app’s algorithm can spot patterns (especially those that are problematic, like snacking before bed) and send you a report right to your inbox so that you can identify issues that might be preventing progress. The app also has fun community challenges to join, where you can update your progress and compete against other Lose It members. It also offers meal planning, recipes, and workout guides, making it a well-rounded app focused on helping you watch what you eat and lose weight.
Keto dieters know that it’s all about tracking carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake. This diet requires you to keep a running list of tons of numbers, so having a little help from an app like Carb Manager (Free) is a must for staying in ketosis. Carb Manager makes it easy to log your food intake, which you can do manually using autocomplete or scanning barcodes. It automatically tracks your input and displays your net carbs and macros, so at any point in your day, you can open the app and see your current fat, protein, and carb metrics.
Carb Manager also tracks calories, and it has a database of over one million foods to choose from. Built into the app is a fasting tracker, which lets you track fasting times if you’re pairing your diet with intermittent fasting, and it also lets you set up your own custom intake ratio for carbs, protein, and fat (or choose a preset option like 5:25:70). You can also look through over 350,000 keto recipes and get personalized meal plans, which can be the trickiest part of being on the ketogenic diet.
If you’re not interested in shelling out your hard-earned cash for a calorie tracker app (or its upgrades), don’t worry—FatSecret (Free) has your back. You can efficiently keep track of your daily food intake, exercise, and weight, and regular reminders for logging meals and weigh ins without spending a single dollar. FatSecret supports barcode scanning, has image recognition for photographing your foods, and its search tool has autocomplete for faster logging. The app can sync with devices like Fitbit, Google Fit, and Samsung Health.
FatSecret has a built-in community of other folks who use the app, and you can follow other people to see their entries and comments. There are tons of recipes and meal ideas you use if you need inspiration, as well as a journal where you can record your progress.