More than two years ago I started using the most popular online food journaling service – MFC (MyFitnessPal). Since then, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You may think that it’s only because I’m a big fan of blogging, but there are many other reasons why I love this site so much.
The first reason is its simplicity. No complicated settings or confusing menus. All you have to do is enter your daily intake and get back a number. There are no complex calculations or anything like that.
The second reason is the fact that it doesn’t require any registration at all! So if you’re not interested in registering, go ahead and use it without worrying about logging in again later.
So let’s see what’s inside…
What Is A Food Diary?
A food diary is a way of tracking your diet. Usually, it consists of several different steps such as how much calories you eat each day, which foods you consume them from and when. These numbers are used to calculate your weight loss goals and overall health status.
You might wonder why someone would want to track their diet with a food diary instead of just counting calories in the kitchen or even taking some dietary supplements. Well, it’s simple really: it works!
Dieting is hard and training at the gym even harder. If you really want to achieve your goals, you need to work on all fronts. Counting calories might be a good place to start, but you shouldn’t rely only on that information. You need to track everything you eat and drink as an additional information source.
The reason for this is simple: your body can react differently on different types of food – why take the risk?
To give you an example, the other day I ate some leftover pasta for lunch. It contained around 800kcal, of which around 200 came from fat. Normally, this amount shouldn’t be a problem because I’m in a caloric surplus with my goal being to grow muscle mass, but the thing is: I had some tuna just before that, also with some added mayo. Now, the mayo had some trans fat in it which makes it very bad when taken in large amounts. I didn’t feel very well after eating my pasta and tuna sandwich and I still wonder if that was because of the trans fat or something else, but next time I’m definitely going to track my food!
The Most Common Features Of All Food Journals
Even though MFP is definitely one of the easiest food logging apps out there, it also comes with quite a few features. These can be split into two major groups: those that are available to everyone and those that can only be used after you register.
The first feature that everyone will see is the barcode scanner. Yes, you heard it right! You don’t even need to type in the information of certain products, all you have to do is point your phone’s camera to it and the app will automatically recognize it.
Pretty neat, huh?
Then, there’s the food diary itself. You can fill in as much or as little information as you want, but the more you write down, the more useful the information is. For example, if you write down how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10 before you eat, the app will use that information to calculate how much you will actually eat.
On the other hand, if you just enter the food items, the app can also calculate your nutrient intake.
This is still not it. With all this information, the app is capable of giving you dietary recommendations and even tell you how many calories you should be eating based on your goals!
How To Start Using MFP For Free
So now that you know what MFP can do, you’re probably wondering how to start using it. If you already have an account and just wish to learn about the new features, feel free to skip this part.
So, let’s start from the beginning: you’ve downloaded the app and you’re ready to go. First of all, when you open it up, you will see 3 big buttons: “Add Food”, “Activities” and “Settings”. If you want to log the food you’ve already eaten, tap on “Add Food”. If you want to track an activity (like walking or running), tap on “Activities”. If you want to change general settings of the app, like language or your weight, tap on “Settings”.
THE LIST OF FOOD
To log the food you’ve eaten, tap on the big, blue “Add Food” button. If this is your first time using MFP, the app will ask you to choose a goal. There are three options: weight loss, weight maintenance and building muscle. Choose the one that best matches your goal. If you’re not sure, just choose weight loss, as this one is the most popular.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a big white screen with lots of options. The first thing you see is a clock symbol. Tapping it will give you the option to set an alarm that will go off at a certain time of the day so you can eat your meals on time. For example, you can set it to remind you to eat your breakfast at 7 AM.
Then, you’ll see two big buttons: “Add Food From Your Favorite Foods” and “Search Food”. If you know the name of the food you’ve eaten or would like to find a recipe to add, tap on “Add Food From Your Favorite Foods”. If you don’t know what you’ve eaten or just want to find different food items to eat, tap on “Search Food”.
We’ll start with the first option. Tap on it and you’ll be prompted to choose a meal plan. Once again, there are three options: weight loss, weight maintenance and building muscle. Choose the one that best fits your goal.
Once you’ve chosen a meal plan, the app will show a list of suggested food items that you can add. If you want, you can scroll through the list and add them manually, or just scan the barcode of the food item with your phone’s camera to add it instantly. If you add food items from this screen, you can choose the portion size if you’re not sure about it. Then, just tap on “Add To Meal” and the food will be added to the big list below. If you want to save this food item in your list so you can add it quickly next time, tap on the blue arrow on the right of the food item.
Next, we’ll move on to “Search Food”. This option allows you to add food items not found in your meal plan. For example, you’re out with friends and want to find the macros of the pizza you’re going to eat.
Sources & references used in this article:
How can weight‐loss app designers’ best engage and support users? A qualitative investigation by J Tang, C Abraham, E Stamp… – British journal of health …, 2015 – Wiley Online Library
Self-monitoring of dietary intake by young women: online food records completed on computer or smartphone are as accurate as paper-based food records but more … by MJ Hutchesson, ME Rollo, R Callister… – Journal of the Academy of …, 2015 – Elsevier
Im2Calories: towards an automated mobile vision food diary by A Meyers, N Johnston, V Rathod… – Proceedings of the …, 2015 – openaccess.thecvf.com
Physician’s guide to the new 2005 dietary guidelines: How best to counsel patients by BA WALTMAN – Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 2005 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Location, location, location: eye-tracking evidence that consumers preferentially view prominently positioned nutrition information by DJ Graham, RW Jeffery – Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2011 – Elsevier