A Personal Review of Today’s Most Popular Nutrition Apps

Over the summer I had the pleasure of having two volunteers work with me at Fuel Up Nutrition. One of the projects I had planned was to create a personal review of today’s most popular nutrition apps. I had one of my volunteers download 5 of the most common nutrition apps on today’s market. She spent a period of time trailing each of these apps and created a personal record of her experience. Below is a review of her experience with each app. Hopefully, this will provide you all with some insight into today’s world of nutrition apps available. Both pros and cons are provided!

“A Personal Review of Today’s Most Popular Nutrition Apps” – Marika Laird, Nutrition Student
Below is a chart summarizing my experience using five of the most popular nutrition apps. This experience is personal and your opinion may differ, but all-in-all my experience was positive. While these apps all offer similar platforms, each differs depending on your personal goals. In totality, these apps are most beneficial for those wishing to track eating and fitness habits for a goal – most popularly weight loss.

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The App Chart – for a clearer view of the above chart click this link

Considering these apps mainly offer the same content with minimal differences, including subscription add-ons, the decision on what app to use might be confusing you. So, what is the best route for nutritional planning? The answer may surprise you.

With all these apps, time is an issue. To log and track all your foods requires a large amount of effort and in some cases stress. I found I was always worried about what I was eating because I wanted to make sure I could find it in the food database. It was easy to forget to log because days are busy and it’s not a habit of mine. In saying this, I found I did eat healthier using the apps because it was a literal log of my eating and it made me aware of the quantity and quality of my food.

Nutrino is the anomaly, not calorie tracking but instead meal-planning to help those who find healthy eating stressful and time-consuming. The largest downside is the cost of the subscription. But for some, the benefits would outweigh the low monthly cost of around $5.00 per month. I didn’t pay for any subscriptions apart from Nutrino, which I use mainly during the school year to help in meal-planning. I find the stress of planning meals while studying is too much, so this app has helped me continue to eat healthy while on-the-go.

If you are looking for help staying on track with your journey to a healthy lifestyle, starting off with MyFitnessPal, MyNetDiary, Lose It!, or MyPlate might benefit you. After using them all, the differences were so minimal that the better app truly does depend on the user. The biggest issue for me was ease of use and format of the app itself since the content was very similar across the board. I am most comfortable with MyFitnessPal and find that its longtime reign as the most popular nutrition app makes syncing it with other apps seamless. Its competitors have continued to improve on themselves by adding popular logging features so I would give them all a try to see which form you prefer. Seeing as they are all free, there really isn’t a downside.

An important point about nutrition logging is the connection. These are all apps, tied into technology. Our usage and dependence on apps and software to manage our lives can be consuming. I have had to acknowledge the increased stress of managing so many devices in recent years and make a point of disconnecting myself in ways that calm me and reset me physically and mentally. Everyone has their own “peace”, mine being biking, hiking or camping. In all three, I ditch the phone and just enjoy the moment outside – whether it be with friends, family, or just me alone with my thoughts. Having to e-mail, text, phone, Facebook, instant message, Instagram, Snapchat… (you get the idea), makes me stressed just thinking about it. Adding something else to manage isn’t for everybody and does add unneeded stress. Eating is a frequent and necessary part of life, and shouldn’t be something else you need to control and hyper-manage.

If you’re looking for a long-term solution for weight loss, or even to manage your weight, constricting yourself to calorie counting is not sustainable. These apps are beneficial for those who need help with accountability for their dietary and fitness choices. Otherwise, the stress of managing these apps might not be worth it. Therefore, as a start to creating a long-term lifestyle change, these apps are perfect… but really do keep in mind that diets, in general, can be mentally stressful and lead to unhealthy mindfulness. These apps also have food databases where anybody can create foods and isn’t a Dietitian-level database. This means the foods you are logging may not be nutritionally accurate and the number of calories they are suggesting doesn’t consider the individual or their lifestyle – only your height and weight. Overall, I wouldn’t suggest depending on calorie counting to maintain weight long-term. It is a helpful foundation to create healthy habits. Most importantly, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, contacting a professional will be the safest and most effective option.

 

Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
www.fuelupnutrition.ca
info@fuelupnutrition.ca

Improve Your Eating Habits with Mindfulness

“There has been a great deal of hype around Mindfulness in 2017. Furthermore, people are recognizing its importance in developing a healthy relationship with food and better eating habits.  One may ask – how does mindfulness improve nutrition? GREAT QUESTION. Let’s take a closer look at what mindfulness is and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives.how hungry am I-

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.

Being mindful and living moment to moment is almost unheard of today. We are constantly thinking about our future, or past, giving little time and energy to our present. Many of our daily processes have become automatic and we run most of our day on autopilot (including the process of eating). We can compare eating to the act of driving a vehicle. If you have been driving for years you can multitask and no longer think about your moment to moment decisions. This has also happened to the act of eating. Can you remember the last time your family, or you as an individual, sat down at a table and completely unplugged from the world during meal time? Many of us can agree that we are often watching television, connecting on social media, or flipping through a book, magazine, or newspaper. Taking the time to analyze the taste of each bite or waiting for our body’s subtle cues of satisfaction is rare.

Without mindfulness, we often forget to appreciate the small things and we miss many of our body’s subtle cues that can help us live a healthier life. By incorporating mindfulness, we can make better decisions moment to moment and can start to recognize the cues our body provides. This can ultimately lead to a healthier and happier YOU.

Here are a few simple and quick tips to make mindfulness a bigger part of eating:

Slow Down:
Instead of eating on the go or wolfing down a whole plate in record time, try and prolong meal time. Take about 20 to 30 minutes to consume each meal. It takes our body approximately 20 minutes to send out fullness cues. These cues are extremely important in preventing overeating! Here are some table tricks that will help slow you down:

  • Chew 20-30 times before swallowing your foodroad-90390_1920
  • Eat with the opposite hand
  • Put your utensil down every 1-3 bites
  • Take a moment to breath (take 3 deep breaths before consuming more food)
  • Instead of shoveling your food onto your utensil, mindfully poke and pick up small amounts per bite

Unplug:
Mealtimes have become a time in which many people catch up on missed ephone-1586198_1920.png-mails or watch the latest episode of “This is Us” or “Grey’s Anatomy”. Although staying connected is tempting, it causes the process of eating to become automated. Distractions such as books, magazines, or electronics will only make it more difficult to slow down and be mindful. Try this exercise: consume a meal in complete silence. Let your thoughts wonder but practice the skill of bringing those thoughts back to the present and think about each bite and how it tastes.

Self-Talk:
Talking to yourself may sound like something you do when you are a child, but it can prove to be very rewarding when it comes to making food decisions. If you think back on all your food decisions today, can you remember what your thought process was behind each choice? Next time you go to grab cookies take the time to self-talk. Ask yourself the following questions. Is this food choice going to bring me closer to my goal? Is this food choice in-line with my values? How much of this food do I need to make me happy and satisfied? Often the things we want in the moment address our immediate wants/desires but fall short in providing our long-term needs.

Listen to Your Body:
Our bodies have a built-in mechanism to help us determine how much food we need to eat. When we make healthy food choices and consume wholesome real food our body sends us the appropriate cues of fullness. These cues are subtle and it will take time to develop the skill of defining hunger and fullness appropriately. You are following these cues correctly when you feel hungry before a meal, but not STARVING, and when you feel satisfied following a meal, but not STUFFED. It is important that we avoid filling up on highly processed foods as these foods do not send out appropriate fullness cues and leave us feeling hungry shortly after consumption.

Critique your Food:
Have you ever finished a meal or snack and almost instantly felt like you never ate? This tip goes together with slowing down and unplugging at mealtimes. We often take our food for granted by wolfing it down in record time. We spend a great deal of time preparing a meal so why should we be eating it in record time? Instead, we need to be food critiques each time we eat. Take your time to analyze the taste and texture of your food. Next time you sit down to eat a meal or have a snack take the time to taste your food. You will be shocked at how it will change your perception of food. Try the following exercise found in the book “The Mindful Diet” by Ruth Wolever and Beth Rearson: place a chip in your mouth and hold it there for a period of time exploring the taste and texture. You will likely notice that the outer seasoning quickly disappears leaving you with what tastes like cardboard. You need more and more chips to gain a sense of taste satisfaction. Now try this exercise with a wholesome REAL food of your choice. You will note that taste satisfaction is reached more quickly and in a lesser amount than that of chips.

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Now with these tips in hand, start making mindful eating a priority and reap the benefits!

 

Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
Fuel Up Nutrition
info@fuelupnutrition.ca
www.fuelupnutrition.ca

 

Ditch The Meal Plan

application-1756278_1280One of the first questions I am asked is “Can you make me a meal plan?”. This is often followed by “Just tell me what to eat!”. I was not opposed to meal plans when I first entered the nutrition field. After spending years in the classroom and reading textbooks, I believed that a calculated meal plan would lead to successful weight loss. However, after a few years practicing nutrition and trying to follow a meal plan myself, I discovered that meal plans rarely lead to long-term success.

I am not opposed to teaching you how to plan, however I will do my best to talk you out of a meal plan. I truly believe in the saying “practice what you preach” and that is why I myself experimented with following a meal plan. I have drawn on personal and client experiences to express my thoughts on why meal plans rarely work . . .  for LONG-TERM success.

1) Change, Change, and More Change

When I first set out to follow a meal plan I was excited, motivated, and committed to the task ahead. This excitement was something I also saw in my clients who I developed a meal plan for. However, I looked at the meal plan as a task I needed to complete instead of a way of life. After one week, I noticed that the changes started to add up. I was spending a great deal of time each day weighing, measuring, and portioning my food. This was not sustainable and after week two burn-out set in. As with many fad diets a meal plan encourages an ALL-OR-NOTHING approach. It’s either all-in or all-out. During week three I gave up and resorted back to my normal eating habits. There was no middle ground! Following a meal plan could mean 20+ changes all at once (examples: frequent trips to the grocery store, incorporating new cooking techniques, time management, addition of new foods, eating at regular intervals, new recipes/ingredients etc.). This can set you up for failure. It is only a matter of time in which burn-out sets in, like it did for me, and you resort back to your old eating habits. In addition to burn-out, I felt shame, guilt, and a lack of will power. “I am a dietitian, why is this so difficult?” I asked myself. I played the blame game instead of realizing that the meal plan was asking too much of me all at once. This negative thinking is common for many and can lead to a downward spiral. Instead of trying to make a million changes all at once, try to pick small, sustainable, and attainable goals. Skip the meal plan and opt for 2-3 mini goals that you can track. Once these goals have developed into habits try to incorporate additional goals.

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How does that old saying go . . . “slow and steady wins the race”!

2. What About Reality?
Even with all the will power in the world a meal plan can be hard to follow as it doesn’t account for all of life’s plans. I’d like to think of myself as a very determined individual, but when I was hit with an unplanned family dinner my meal plan had to take a back seat. Budget, taste, cravings, schedule, personal goals, culture, lifestyle, and fitness are just a few of the things a meal plan must consider to be successful. Even if these things are considered in a meal plan there are still birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, travel and reunions to consider. A common ingredient to these life events is FOOD. Will you be able to follow your meal plan at these events? Maybe, but what about the unexpected? Illness, last minute meetings, order-in lunches, food in the staff room, family emergencies, etc. Trying to follow a meal plan day-to-day is hard enough, adding in an unexpected event and it is next to impossible. The ALL-OR-NOTHING approach promoted by fad diets and meal plans will leave you feeling shameful and guilty when you do not follow it perfectly, as it did for me. This once again leads to the ultimate demise of the meal plan. A meal plan often falls short in accounting for all of life’s events and does not help teach you how to survive various hardships. Instead of acquiring a meal plan, acquire the skills that will help you develop healthy eating habits that can be implemented in various situations. A regimented meal plan does not leave room for the unexpected.
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“Expect the unexpected” was ignored when meal plans were developed!

3) Hunger and Fullness Cues are Ignored
Meal plans do very little teaching, but ask A LOT of you. A meal plan is based off a calculation and does not teach mindfulness. A meal plan will tell you what to eat and how much. A meal plan does not ask you to listen to your body or to determine when you feel hungry or full. The skill of mindfulness is ignored and it is this skill that will help you with LONG-TERM success. Think way back to when you were a baby. Did you count calories? Measure your food? Likely no. Instead you relied on the natural ability to determine when you were hungry and when you were full. In today’s busy world, eating has become automatic. It is rare to see a family sit down at a dining room table for dinner and unplug from the world. We rarely spend greater then 10-15 minutes eating a meal. This has all led to ignoring mindfulness and can lead to overeating and weight gain. When you are faced with the inability to follow your meal plan, you will feel lost because it taught you very little on why you eat. Skip the meal plan and start listening to your body’s natural cues. If you fill your body with wholesome foods, your body will reward you!

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In the end a meal plan may help you in the short-term but falls short in providing a long-term solution. If you are considering a meal plan ask yourself this. “Will I be able to follow this meal plan for the rest of my life?”. If not skip the meal plan and opt for learning and developing the skills to build healthy eating habits for the long-term. Many of us already know what to eat (what a meal plan will provide you). The piece many of us are missing is ACCOUNTABILITY. A meal plan will not teach you this! Start making small, sustainable, and attainable goals today!

Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
Fuel Up Nutrition
info@fuelupnutrition.ca
www.fuelupnutrition.ca

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