This morning Good Morning America did a segment about using food diaries to lose weight. I’ve found them to be an important tool in my battle to get (and stay) in shape, mainly because they make me accountable for my food choices. I can’t “forget” about that small bag of Cheetos, and I can see that it added 20 grams of fat to my day. That’s hard to ignore, and makes me not want to eat them so I don’t have to record them again, or forces me to adjust the rest of my food for the day so that I avoid going over my fat gram goal.I’ve used a PDA-based diet diary in the past, and happily paid $20 for the privilege. Now I prefer to use a free online food diary, which is frugal and easier to use. To help you decide between the free online versions, I’m comparing the two free sites: FitDay and The Daily Plate
Both food diary tools track the foods you eat, your daily exercise, and your weight. They calculate the number of calories you’re allowed per day to reach your stated goal. They also show you how many calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein are in those foods so you can better fine-tune your diet.
Main Food Diary Interfaces
FitDay, which is the tool I use, has a barebones interface that shows you the basic details in an easy-to-read format and pie chart. It shows your total calories, protein, fat, and carbs. Your total permitted calories for the day are on the exercise interface screen. The diary interface also takes you to the options for adding foods.
The Daily Plate’s interface is more attractive and shows you more information up front, like how many calories you have left and how your were feeling that day. If you tend to be an emotional eater, this could help you discover your triggers.
Adding Foods to Your Log
FitDay’s food database is large, but not complete. Adding foods to your diary requires either searching for them and then scrolling through a list, or using a series of menus. You can also see the total nutrition information for each food if you continue to click through to the individual item.
The Daily Plate’s database is much larger and has more name-brand foods. It has pictures of the logos and offers the ability to search by brand or a number of other factors. Once you select the food, you’re taken to another screen to review the nutrition data and add it to your food diary.
Both sites also use their interfaces to add exercise, but The Daily Plate has more options in the database.
Which Food Diary Should You Choose?
Personally, I prefer FitDay because it allows me to add foods to my personal database. Since I have to eat a special diet and therefore have a lot of my own recipes, I calculate the information for the whole batch, divide that by a single serving, and then add it to my database.
The Daily Plate instead requires you to build meals using its built-in database. Some of the foods I eat aren’t in the database, and can’t be added because everyone shares the same database. Creating a meal for a single homemade cookie would be difficult.
However, if you’re not on a restricted diet, The Daily Plate seems like a winner. My friend’s personal trainer recommended it to him, which is a pretty strong endorsement.
If you have a different food diary that you like, recommend it in the comments!