Nutrition directly impacts your workout results, sleep cycles, and stress levels, so it’s vital to manage your diet with care. But sometimes, life happens: we snack throughout the day, we eat what’s available, or we forget to eat altogether — and those small missteps can translate into huge lifestyle faux pas.
You don’t have to be an experienced athlete looking to take it to the next level to benefit from a meal tracker. Anybody can discover health benefits by planning and logging what they eat throughout the day. For those with slammed schedules, meal tracker apps are the ultimate convenience because they help you manage your nutrition and find new recipe ideas, and many of them seamlessly integrate into any number of fitness apps.
While not every meal tracker out there features smartwatch support, the ones below definitely do — and they’re worth a second look.
The Meal Tracker Swiss Army Knife: MyPlate
MyPlate is the best all-around meal tracker with smartwatch support. It features a wealth of meal tracking options combined with workout logs and health advice. With over 2 million items in the food library, alongside nutrient profiles, you shouldn’t struggle to find what you’re looking for.
You can add food to your meal plan using the barcode scanner. Some of the details like vitamin tracking require the pro version, but major macronutrients — like calories, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, sugar, carbs, fat, and the all-powerful protein — are readily available for many foods using the free version. If you don’t have the food on hand to scan, no worries. The online library is easy to search, and you can pull up surprisingly specific foods. For example, not just chicken, but specific brands of chicken are preloaded and ready to go.
MyPlate is unique, particularly for a free app, because you can make your profile and let the meal tracker build a menu for you. With the touch of a toggle, it populates breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks within your caloric and macronutrient goals. Some of the results are standard (egg sandwich and coffee, anyone?). But others are more creative, like a portabella mushroom and white bean salad with a side of pita bread.
The user interface excels at providing lots of useful progress reports without overwhelming you. The best part of the app is the handy pie chart that breaks down your total caloric intake into protein, fats, and carbs. And while “pie chart” is a cruel, cruel name for a nutritional guide, its at-a-glance effectiveness for balancing your diet can’t be denied.
Beyond food, this exceptional meal tracker has simple ways to monitor water consumption by the glass, log your workouts, and get exercise ideas and advice. The calories you burn while exercising can be automatically deducted from your calorie intake goals within the meal tracker, so it all ties together nicely.
Smartwatch support is available for picking food from the library, tracking water intake, viewing the nifty pie chart, and counting calories. MyPlate automatically sets the calorie intake for the day based on your biometrics and level of activity. But if you disagree with the number, you can set the calorie level manually. The feature is a little buried, but you can see how to do it here.
You can let MyPlate autofill entries for you, or take more control and customize it to your needs. With so many extra features, MyPlate can be your one-stop-shop for meal tracking and workout logs, and it boasts full support for Android Mobile Devices and Android Wear. The app has lots of functionality for Apple products as well, making it a good choice for smartwatches that are compatible with either operating system, such as the Samsung Gear S3.
A Meal Tracker For Restaurant Aficionados: MyFitnessPal
If the only place we ate was in the kitchen, we would get in way less trouble. But you know what? Some trouble is worth getting into — especially if it involves the words “chocolate,” “caramel,” and “professional chef.” Enter MyFitnessPal and the devastatingly awesome restaurant logging feature.
Within the app, you can look at a map of where you are, select a nearby restaurant, and peruse the menu, getting item-by-item nutritional information. When you decide where to eat, you can quickly add what you consume to your meal tracker at the push of a button, which frees up your hands to reach across the table and snag the last mozzarella stick.
MyFitnessPal has more than a staggering 6 million items in its database. That’s enough to give the Library of Congress an inferiority complex. If you are one of those people who pride themselves on eating bizarre foods that no one has ever heard of before, you may have met your match. Calorie information is available for bintje, kabocha, and seckel. And no, those aren’t botched Scrabble attempts — those are real foods.
Beyond meal tracking, MyFitnessPal offers food insight advice, which is personalized based on what you eat. That said, the advice can be a bit general, so if you are on a very specific diet plan and the advice isn’t helpful, you can turn this feature off easily enough.
Another really slick feature is recipe importing. If you like making your own meals and constantly stalk recipe sites like a hunting cat in the tall grasses, this feature is a real time-saver. You can plug in the website address, and the app imports the nutritional information right off the page. Your meal can be consumed in seclusion later, or shared with the rest of the pack based on serving sizes.
This meal tracker also has exercise support, including step tracking and a workout log. If you don’t already own a wearable device, you can theoretically track all of your activity directly within the app. However, most smartwatches and fitness trackers will want you to track exercise within their respective apps, so MyFitnessPal’s exercise feature is really more of a nice-to-have.
MyFitnessPal has solid overall performance as a meal tracker, and it connects to an impressive list of smartwatches and apps, including Garmin Connect, Fitbit, and others. If you are a food tourist, restaurant pioneer, or culinary ninja, this app has all the meal tracking support you want plus the convenience you need.
Don’t Go It Alone. The Best Social Meal Tracker: LoseIt!
Extra pounds are like uninvited guests that won’t take the hint and leave. It’s been how long, and they’re still hanging around? That’s why you should gang up on those pounds with your friends and make them rue the day they were born. The LoseIt! meal tracker focuses on making weight loss more fun by integrating strong social support and encouraging ways to tap that competitive edge, one-on-one or in groups.
Another awesome feature is how the app teams up with Snap It. You can take a picture of a food item with your smartphone, then get a nutrient profile. It’s important to note that Snap It is still in its beta stages, so don’t be too shocked if it struggles to analyze things that are tough to identify, such as airline food and meatloaf surprise. Hopefully, your surprise isn’t the fact that the meatloaf explodes. (True story.)
This meal tracker has fewer extra options than some of the other choices on the market, but it’s also simpler to use. If you want something intuitive and focused on weight loss, and you’re interested in trying the super cool photo-snapping feature, LoseIt! can be a fun social app to experiment with. It works with a variety of devices and can send some data, like steps taken, workouts, and calorie info to your Apple Watch 2.
A Meal Tracker For Every Goal
Meal trackers work with your smartwatch to remind you how to eat right for your personal level of activity and fitness. Some meal trackers can also integrate with other apps, like the popular Google Fit and MapMyRun.
Unfortunately, there isn’t as much support yet for direct integration with specialized apps, like swimming apps, but smartwatches are evolving at an incredible pace, so that may change. Whether you are eating on the fly or planning your meals out ahead of time, these apps will help you meet or exceed your nutritional goals.
Have you tried the photo-snapping feature in LoseIt!? Have you discovered a food so unusual it doesn’t show up in MyFitnessPal’s expansive database? Which meal trackers do you enjoy? Post your comments below.