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App review: Calorie Counter by FatSecret

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Net carbs counterCalorie Counter by FatSecret has a deceptively simple name. It does what it says on the tin, plus about a dozen of other things – including counting of net carbs. This is a very impressive app and a good tool to support a low-carb diet.

One major advantage of this app is the tailored regional versions – almost 30 countries in total, including the UK. In addition to filtering out foods not commonly available in your country, this helps to solve the net carbs dilemma.

Net carbs count

Net carbs are counted differently in US and Europe, and this is a constant source of confusion. Carbs count on food packaging in Europe is the same as net carbs, whereas in the US you need to first subtract grams of fibre from the total carb count to get the net carbs value. But you don’t have to worry about this issue if you use Calorie Counter, as they will apply whatever system is appropriate in your country.

Net carbs are not displayed by default but you can amend this by going to “Change columns” option from the main menu on the app home page.

Food diary

As most other self-respecting diet trackers, this app helps you to tracks your food intake and exercise, and to keep a record of your weight over time. You can enter food by choosing from their extensive database, by adding your own item or recipe, or by scanning a product barcode.

The food database is very good. In addition to a comprehensive list of raw foods, it includes data from many popular UK supermarkets and restaurant chains. Entries submitted by other users are highlighted, so you can double check whether they are accurate.  Unfortunately, it seems that there is no automated mechanism to verify the quality of user-entered data (such as confirmations count in MFP).

Exercise diary

The exercise database – more of a small list, really – is very basic, but does cover most popular activities like running and weight lifting. (For some reason, they also have “Desk work” on the list of exercise, at 102 calories per hour – what’s that all about?). The app does let you add your own activity to the list.

Interestingly, you can also add sleeping and resting to your activities list. This could be useful if one of your goals is to get enough sleep or ensure you rest properly between weight-lifting sessions.

Reports and subtotal view

FatSecret Calorie Counter is great at reporting info back to you.

It displays quick summaries of where you are at any given point. Food diary main view shows you the macros totals for the day, plus a breakdown for every meal. You can choose to show up to four macro types (for example, calories/fat/protein/net carbs) for your three main meals and any snacks. On the bottom of the page, there is a little diagram showing how many calories you got left. Overall, I think this is one of the best snapshot views I’ve ever seen.

There is also a monthly summary view showing total calories input/output for each day and total averages for a month. This big-picture view is very handy for tracking your progress overall.

App interface

The app interface is mostly simple, but does include blinking ads – no paid version is available to get rid of these. I also found links to their recipes a bit intrusive – big and colourful with lots of photos, which is great if you happen to be looking for recipes, but a bit distracting if you are not.

Adding food to the diary is a bit fiddly, requiring several clicks at least. When you add food from the database, you need to scroll down the screen in order to find “Add” button – very clumsy. The app does have “Most eaten” list which provides a quicker way to add your favourite foods.

Online interface

FatSecret made a lot of effort to create an online community for app users. There are options to keep an online journal, make buddies, take part in challenges etc – basically attempting to create their own mini-social network.  All these extra options make the online interface rather cluttered to my taste.

This online community business might work well for some people but I find that I get enough interactions with fellow dieters on existing established networks like Twitter and Pinterest – I am not interested in also entering a gated community that only includes Calorie Counter users. But each to his own.

Summary

Calorie Counter by FatSecret is a free app, available for iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

Best points: support for regional versions, accurate counting of net carbs, good food database, great reports and snapshot views

Worst points: no verification of user-submitted food info, no option to pay for an ad-free version, nterface a bit cluttered with extra non-core features

Overall: FatSecret Calorie Counter wins hands down on its accurate counting of net carbs, so would be definitely a great choice for anyone on Atkins or other ketogenic plans.  Also great for anyone who likes to constantly check their progress (like yours truly).

Have you tried Calorie Counter?

Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.

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