Fitness and Nutrition Tracking on Smartphones

Q. I’m looking for an app for my smartphone to track the nutrition of the food I eat throughout the day and there are so many to choose from. Can you recommend one?

A. The choices can be overwhelming. There are not only a lot of good solutions out there for all aspects of nutrition intake, but they also vary in cost from free to one-time purchase to monthly subscriptions. My personal favorite is MyPlate by I have been using it for years and not only is it a free app for both iOS (iPhone) and Android, the publisher has continued to develop the capabilities and features of the app. MyPlate is very customizable to what you tell it your needs are: merely tracking nutrition content of what you eat to setting goals for losing or gaining weight. The app features access to a comprehensive database of common foods both from the grocery and restaurants and even allows you to enter your own custom info. For example, I eat the same thing for lunch nearly every day. Rather than input each of the six foods in it, I have a meal that I built and just click on the saved lunch to enter it. I can easily add the exercise I had for the day to get a realistic estimate of how many additional calories I should take in based on my age, gender, weight, and height rather than my prior mindset of “hey, I worked out a LOT. I’m sure I earned whatever I want to eat the rest of the day.” Now I know what I actually “earned” from my hard workout is about a small chocolate dipped cone… and admittedly you’ll find me slipping through drive-thrus most days to claim that prize. My last search showed MyPlate app available and still free for both iOS and Android.

Q. Now that school has started I’m going to try to make time to exercise more. Do you have a fitness app you can recommend?

A. Much like the nutrition apps, there are many to choose from and vary from tracking and monitoring progress to instruction. In our household, we use Wahoo and RunKeeper. The Wahoo app works with their heart monitor (street price of about $59 – $89 as of writing). My heart rate is very high and I use the app as a visual check when I skate to make sure I keep my pulse under the threshold I am supposed to. My husband, on the other hand, has a very low heart rate and he watches to make sure he gets his up to the range he wants during a workout. We both then sync the results with RunKeeper, which is the app we used before we got our heart monitors; this adds to our previous workout history so we can keep it in one place. We’ve had each of our heart monitor straps for over three years and the button cell battery was easily replaced at about 2 years. RunKeeper is also a great solution when I’ve forgotten my heart monitor strap or when I am transitioning from my normal workouts back to running. There are great tools on RunKeeper for goal setting and pacing that aren’t currently available on Wahoo. RunKeeper has a free version, as well as a paid upgraded version with advanced goal setting. Both Wahoo and RunKeeper are available for iOS and Android. While RunKeeper doesn’t require a heart rate monitor, one can be used with the app.