We Tested Five Food Tracker Apps. Here’s the Best Macro Calculator for Keto
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
June 25, 2018
- No matter what you’re measuring, no matter what your goals, your macronutrients — calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein — come into play.
- When you first go keto, you’ll figure out by lunch that you don’t want to hand-calculate your calories, fat, protein, and carbs every meal, every day.
- With hundreds of apps out there for counting macros, how to pick?
- Read on to find out how some of the top food tracker apps compare to each other, and which one will help you reach your goals.
It’s a wonder that calorie counting was so popular in the ‘80s, given that people had no app or smartphone to tuck into their neon leg warmers. In my world, the pencil-paper-five-function-calculator method would last a few days, tops.
Thankfully, today’s world is full of shortcuts. We have tech and measurement for everything, and it’s never been easier to reach your goals. Now, not only can you track your food, but you can also get some labs to see what your hormones will do with it, and on top of that, find out how your gut bacteria will react to what you eat.
No matter what you’re measuring, no matter what your goals, your macronutrients — calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein — come into play. If you have a goal around muscle gain, weight loss, or even just controlling hunger so you’re less distracted during the day, finding a good macronutrient calculator is the way to take the guesswork out of everything.
Read on to find out how some of the top food tracker apps compare to each other, and which one will help you reach your goals.
Here’s another shortcut for you: instantly download a keto-friendly grocery list so you know you’re stocking your kitchen with the foods that will get you closer to your goals.
My Fitness Pal
My Fitness Pal (MFP) is likely the most widely used food tracking app out there. Its popularity, combined with the fact that Under Armour owns it and backs it with deep pockets, means it has loads of functionality.
Of all the food trackers I tested, MFP has hands-down the largest database of foods it will automatically fill in nutrition information for you — to the tune of 5 million foods, according to the MFP web site. Every food and ingredient you can think of is pre-loaded, so you’ll be doing minimal manual data entry, if any at all. I’m sure there’s something out there that MFP doesn’t have stats on, but so far, everything I’ve searched for is in there and populates with one click. My Lemon Cookie Collagen Protein Bar was in there, but not the other apps I tested.
Note that not all food stats are verified by the app. The majority will be user-submitted nutrition information that might be worth double-checking. During my experience, I didn’t make any changes.
MFP is available on desktop and any mobile device you have, and you can seamlessly sync between devices and maintain your data if you’re using more than one. It also boasts pages and pages of integrations that you can sync up to your wearable or health and activity app of choice. If there’s an app or device it doesn’t work with, I wasn’t able to find it.
Cost $0, or $9.99/mo or $49.99/year for Premium
You can fully get by on the free version. The premium version is ad-free and offers exclusive meal plans, recipes, and other premium content.
One Premium feature that I appreciated is the ability to change your goals on exercise days. That goes well with the Bulletproof lifestyle because it’s a cyclical ketogenic diet, where I’ll increase carbs when I do my intense HIIT or hard lifting days. Personally, I don’t want to have to look past angry red numbers on those days. I like to know that I’m succeeding at my goals on those days, too, and you can set it up this way with My Fitness Pal Premium.
Things to note:
- The default settings align with a calories in, calories out model for weight loss. If you’re eating more fat, like you would on Bulletproof, keto, or paleo, your fat totals will turn an angry, scolding red before you get through lunch. Simple answer to that: change your parameters before you even get started.
- If you do better with an element of accountability, MFP easily finds your Facebook friends who are also using the app and you can support each other.
- An across-the-board complaint about MFP is that it doesn’t calculate net carbs for you, and if you’re paying attention to your sugar alcohols, you have to add them manually. It does calculate your fiber and it’s simple enough to subtract that out. Only you can decide whether or not you’ll get annoyed by having to do the math in your head every day.
The free version of Carb Manager is a full-service nutrient tracker that will get the job done if you want your functionality to fall somewhere between basic and advanced. It gives you an extensive set of calculations in an easy-to-use interface.
On initial setup, it asks you a few questions to come up with your macronutrient targets — fat, protein, and calories. You have the choice whether to track total carbs, net carbs (total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols) or diabetes carbs (total carbs minus fiber and half the sugar alcohols). It gives you your fiber count, although there’s no target there because fiber is a freebie. All in all, setup took less than five minutes.
It breaks down your daily intake into a convenient pie chart and snapshots your net carb intake on a bar below. It’s green when you’re within range, red when you’ve gone overboard.
The database of foods is pretty well populated with nearly everything you’re going to eat in a day. During my 5-day trial, I had to manually enter only a few things, like my Lemon Cookie Collagen Protein Bar.
Cost – $0, $3.34/month for Premium
Carb Manager Premium gives you the standard premium content — recipes, meal plans, etc. — and a lot more. You get advanced analyses so that you can look for trends over time and make predictions about how certain proportions of macronutrients will affect your weight. You can set goals and see how many days in a row you’ve met your goals to motivate yourself.
Premium also makes data entry easier, using features like food dictation to enter it, and using image recognition so you can snap a pic of your food, and it will recognize your meal and enter it for you.
Carb Manager integrates with iOS Health App, Google Fit, and Fitbit integration, and it works with the most popular apps and devices. You have to sign up for Premium to integrate it, though. Not only that, but a Premium account is the only way to sync your data across devices.
Things to note:
If you want a simple at-a-glance look at how you’re doing throughout the day, Carb Manager will give you that. You can dig into to more detailed nutrients, even with the free version, but it’s not nearly as detailed as CRON-O-meter, coming up next.
CRON-O-meter is the biohacker’s tracker. It gets pretty granular with your metrics, down to the nutrient level. It parses out your macro nutrients, vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, protein, fiber, and so much more. The default settings show most of the basics and a lot of advanced calculations like caffeine and vitamins.
You can customize your default screen to calculate additional totals. For example, if you want a detailed carbohydrate breakdown, you can make things like sugar alcohols visible in your settings.
This one is the most detailed app I came across. To give you an idea — not only does it track your protein, but you can see how much of each of 12 amino acids you’re getting — and that’s just the basic version of the app. If you’re the type to wonder how much zeaxanthin you ate last week, and whether you’ve had enough electrolytes to get through a 10K, this one’s for you.
Cost – $0, or $5.99/month for Gold
The desktop version is free. To use CRON-o-meter on the go, you have to cough up $2.99 for the basic version of the mobile app.
You can upgrade to Gold for $5.99 a month (less if you subscribe for six or 12 months), which gives you an ad-free experience, premium content, and even more detail. You also get advanced charts and analyses. One example is the function that shows your nutrient ratios on a scale from green to red, like your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (here’s why that matters) and your zinc to copper ratio (here’s why that matters). There’s lots of opportunity to geek out on CRON-O-meter Gold.
CRON-O-meter integrates with the most popular health apps, like Google Fit, FitBit, and Apple Health, which makes it compatible with wearables and apps that run on those three. The list is growing and you can weigh in on what the developers integrate next on their community message boards.
Things to note:
If you’re just starting, the data will most certainly overwhelm you. There’s just so much to sift through. It’s easy enough to use, but if there’s too much coming at you in the beginning, you might give up. Ask yourself whether you’ll nerd out on all of this information, or whether minimal information is more your speed.
Keto Diet Tracker (Mikhail Platonov)
Keto Diet Tracker tracks calories, net carbs, protein, and fat at a glance. It gives you a quick, easy-to-read snapshot once you’ve entered everything. Beginners might appreciate the information page, which explains a lot of the basic concepts of the keto diet.
Information is more general than all the other apps I tried. Most keto dieters want to know how sugar alcohols come into play, and the app doesn’t address them. If you want detailed nutritional information, you might want to try some of the other keto apps out there.
Keto Diet has a fairly well populated food library that you can search by name or barcode. I had to manually enter three items in five days, including my Lemon Cookie Collagen Protein Bar.
Keto Diet Tracker integrates with Apple Health and FitBit.
Cost – $0, or $2.99/month to $1/month for Pro, depending on your subscription period
This app hard-sells a Pro account at the expense of user experience and flow. It seems like if you want to add more than a few meals or more a few ingredients within a meal, it wants you to subscribe. Pro promises more foods per day, and premium content. My impression was that KetoDiet wanted to charge for the functionality that its competitors do for free.
Things to note:
Keto Diet Tracker wasn’t as intuitive to navigate as the others. Between that and the push for the Pro version, I would hold off and check out later versions as the developers respond to feedback.
Fat Secret was super nosy, and I didn’t want to enter that much personal information just to test an app. I bailed on that one before I got started. Visually, it was the prettiest opening screen of all of them, with looping videos of cooking, exercise, and fun. I didn’t get any further, though.
My recommendation is to pick one or two to download and try them side-by-side for a few days. You’ll quickly figure out which one works with your habits and preferences. The important thing is that you’re adding some mindfulness to what you’re popping into your mouth. When you know you have to log a food, you’ll be more intentional about it, and that alone will take you further than you think.