Tracking food intake can be beneficial for weight loss, understanding portion sizes and macronutrient content and even to rule out potential intolerances or make sure someone is getting enough food! While all of these uses may sound positive, food tracking could be detrimental to your health if not done under the supervision of a health professional such as a registered dietitian. If you do choose to pursue this method, it’s good to be aware of the negatives.
1.These apps are not always accurate.
You can find multiple different nutrient breakdowns of “chicken breast” which can be frustrating and confusing. Do you choose the highest or the lowest calorie? The one with the least or the most amount of protein? How do you factor in the preparation method?
2. They are time consuming
Preparing food and feeding ourselves takes time as it is, and with food tracking you add in the additional time to look up each food or ingredient, enter in recipes and adjust meals as needed. In theory this could become easier if you ate the same meals and snacks every single day, and while that isn’t always a bad thing, it's not realistic for many.
Tracking food gets complicated when dining out, getting take out or if someone else prepares your food, which are all normal activities and should be enjoyed without worry.
3. Our calorie needs are not the same every day
Many of these apps set a calorie goal each day, and often reward you if you are under and warn you if you go over.
Some days, we might need more energy than others, and we shouldn’t feel compelled to eat more or less driven by a recommended number
Food intake is not about numbers and shouldn’t be driven by a number on the scale or a calorie recommendation from an app
Food intake is about how we feel, honoring our hunger cues and getting to a point of food freedom where we trust ourselves to know when to start and stop eating.
4. Using apps puts you at risk for becoming reliant and losing connection with your body's intuition
Listening to our hunger cues is a powerful tool we can use throughout our lives to maintain a positive relationship with food. Relying on an app to tell you when and how much to eat can be disruptive to our natural cues and understanding of how much to eat.
5. Bottom line: It isn't right for everyone
Tracking food intake is not recommended for those who have or have had an eating disorder or disordered eating
For some, tracking food intake could lead to disordered eating patterns, even if they have not been diagnosed in the past
As we know, there are positives and negatives to everything in life! What is most important is that we are aware of both sides when making a decision. Some techniques work well for some and not at all for others! If you have questions or concerns about tracking food intake, consider speaking with a registered dietitian.
Banerjee P, Mendu VVR, Korrapati D, Gavaravarapu SM. Calorie counting smart phone apps: Effectiveness in nutritional awareness, lifestyle modification and weight management among young Indian adults. Health Informatics Journal. 2020;26(2):816-828. doi:10.1177/1460458219852531