Should I Use a Calorie Counting App? Print

Listen to my monthly radio program with Angela Kokott, host of Calgary Today for our segment, “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating.

Listen to episode 67 part one “Should I Use a Calorie Counting App?” here:


Listen to episode 67 part two “Should I Use a Calorie Counting App?” here:


The pros and cons of technology to track your food:

QR77 radioThousands of people are using phone apps, website programs and other technology devices to track calories consumed and calories burned from activity in an attempt to lose weight or change their habits. But are they helpful?

What are the potential benefits of calorie counting apps?

smartphoneAs with most things in our life, what we focus on expands so if you are overweight and trying to lose weight, tracking your calorie intake may help. Logging your food intake helps to bring about awareness of what and how much you are eating. Tracking your calorie intake may also help you to boost your knowledge about which foods are low and high in energy and give you a sense of calories burned during exercise.

What are the potential issues of calorie counting apps?

There are many reasons I am not a supporter of calorie counting apps:

1. Dieting Headspace

Calorie counting puts you in a dieting headspace that you are only “allowed” a certain amount of food and judges your day as good or bad. Research shows that feeling restricted often leads to overcompensation since psychologically we all want what we can’t have.

2. Doesn’t consider other nutrients

Calorie counting categorizes a food by one ingredient rather than the full package of essential nutrients we need such as carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. When a food is judged based on calories alone a low calorie foods such as diet sugar-free candy might be considered good while a nutrient dense food such as nuts, olive oil or avocado can be considered the enemy.

3. Oversimplified calorie and weight goals

Calorie tracking apps provide you with set calorie goals and weight suggestions. A computer can never know precisely how much you “should” eat as this is highly individual and dependent on a wide range of things. A computer can’t also know what you “should” weigh. Your best weight is not simply determined by a weight chart or calculating your BMI (body mass intake). Your best weight is individual and determined by our genetics, family history, nutrition, exercise, body composition, sleep/stress and more. You are not a robot, we are all different.

4. Permission to eat is based on exercise

Many calorie counting apps often tie how much you get to eat based on how much exercise you did today. Exercise should never be the reason you are “allowed” to eat more. Our intuitive hunger patterns change every day and sometimes you may require more food on a non-active day than on a highly active day when your body is recovering.

5. Database inaccuracies

Calorie tracking apps use computer databases of foods and these can be inaccurate and vary based on location and method of analysis. There is also the issue of vague database items such as “a slice of bread” which could range for 60 – 150 calories or a “medium banana” which could be interpreted to mean very different numbers.

What can I do instead of using a calorie counting app?

Since awareness of your habits is indeed an important part of lifestyle change and weight management if you are currently using an app and find this helpful just be aware of some of the pitfalls above and consider using this only for a short period of time.

I am personally a much bigger fan of a pen and paper to journal. There is not only an overwhelming amount of research in the health and weight loss industry, but there are a large number of experts in personal development and business success that preach about the benefit of keeping a journal.  Journaling helps you become aware of your patterns and ultimately what and how to change for the better.  The simple act of writing down what you eat, your physical activity patterns, goals and reflections encourages you to change your behavior for good and achieve success.  It is also much less neurotic than crunching numbers.

What kind of journal is best?

Your journal can be very simple or comprehensive depending on what works for you. A simple form of journaling is by using a weekly yellow sticky note that lists a table with 3 rows for 3 goals and 7 columns for the days of the week. You can give yourself a checkmark beside days you accomplished the goal and provide yourself with a score at the end of the week.

A more detailed form of journaling could involve recording some goals, your activity and hours of sleep along with a food journal that details what, when, where and most importantly WHY you were eating (true hunger or habit or emotional hunger?)

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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