05 May 2007

#19. See Food Diet on the Web

This week the Tool Bar & Grill jumps on the wholesome lifestyle bandwagon with its special Diet & Health Menu. If you know me, you know this won’t last long, so get on board while you can. I am usually devoted to the “see food” diet – I see food, I eat it. (Hmmm, that one doesn’t work so well in writing.) I have discovered some great Web sites that help you lose weight and get strong by keeping track of your meals and exercise.

If you need to diet, you might be amazed at the importance of tracking your food intake. Keeping a log of your meals and snacks, as well as your exercise, is the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. The Web sites described here are designed to do just that. It takes time and discipline to faithfully log your eating and exercise, but that’s the only way to stick to a healthy program.


I surveyed nutrition tracking sites several years ago and picked NutriDiary as the best, and have been benefiting ever since. Enter your weight goal and your current weight, age, and other vitals into NutriDiary’s somber interface, and it recommends a daily calorie quota.

NutriDiary includes the US government’s massive food database, and if you pay for a premium membership plan, you get access to thousands more foods, including many brand name groceries and restaurants. Pick the foods you’ve eaten to log them, or assemble foods into meals and log those. You can add foods to your own personal database, too. NutriDiary keeps constant track of your calories and important nutrient levels. You can also log your exercise (also picked from a database), weight, cups of water drunk, and more. The site also include forums and the advice of a professional dietician (for a fee).

Here’s the upper part of my log screen:

NutriDiary has been a great help to me. NutriDiary is not perfect, however. For instance, you cannot export your personal database to share it with other members. This is a major drawback, because it takes a good deal of time and effort to build up a personal database of foods and meals. You can generate reports of your weight, calories, nutrition, etc., but only for 10-week periods. And I also have found customer support to be inadequate and sometimes completely absent.

Despite the drawbacks, I am a faithful NutriDiary adherent. Basic membership is free at http://www.nutridiary.com.


A more recent and very promising entry into this field is SparkPeople. This all-free site offers everything NutriDiary does – food logging from the same US government database, personal meal assembly, goal setting, exercise tracking, forums – and more. Its strengths are its relentlessly cheery interface and bubbly advice on nutrition and fitness. SparkPeople offers lessons, recipes and meal plans, instructional videos, email newsletters, and breathlessly indefatigable enthusiasm.

Here is an example of SparkPeople’s colorful but cluttered opening page (note the advertiser sponsorship):

I found it a bit harder to log foods, enter new foods, and assemble meals in SparkPeople than in NutriDiary. Nevertheless, SparkPeople can be an excellent choice if you are just starting out on a fitness or weight loss plan. Try it for free at http://www.sparkpeople.com.


If you just want to quickly check the caloric and nutritional content of a food, try Calorie-Count from about.com. Enter a food name, then pick the specific food from a list of matches from the US government database and various brand-name grocery products and restaurants. Calorie-Count presents you the US government-mandated Nutrition Facts panel.

The Calorie-Count interface is a bit busy, but the site offers a wealth of good information, including diet and nutrition advice, food logging, exercise information, and a handy browser tool bar that enable you to quickly look up foods. Set up a free account at http://www.calorie-count.com.

I hope today’s Tool Bar & Grill has satisfied your appetite for healthy eating. If you have any opinions to share, click “comments” below or email jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. Y’all hurry back and see us here next week!

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