What Makes a Great Free Weight Loss App?
In this post you will find a review of the best free weight loss apps for the iPhone. Because weight loss requires both diet and exercise for long term maintenance and optimal health, we will only be reviewing apps that fall within a certain criteria.
In order for the app to make it onto our list it must have the ability to:
- Be able to track exercise through data input/ step counting.
- Be able to track weight loss/ body composition goals.
- Have the ability to search and save foods from a large database, including various restaurants.
- Be able to track calories for weight loss goals, and preferably macro and micronutrients.
- Provide an online community for motivation and support.
My Fitness Pal
Best feature: Abundant data for chain and local restaurants, and the ability to sort a menu by calories. If you are a “foodie” but still are conscious about your health, this is the app for you.
My Fitness Pal, is by far one of the top health, wellness, and weight loss apps available at the moment.
This app comes in with a built in step counter, that works even when the app is not open. As you do more activity, or a specific exercise that you can search for within the database and plug in, your calorie goal for the day will be reflected in how much you exercise. This app has a wide variety of different exercises within the database and there are both cardio and strength exercises already loaded.
The ability to add in and keep track of your strength training regime, including number of sets, reps, and weight is a fantastic feature, often times overlooked in other health apps.
Unfortunately though, the app does not calculate calories for the input of specific strength exercises, and if you want to see your exercise reflected in your daily calorie goal you have to also plug in generic “weight lifting” in the cardio section, and it will then calculate the calories you burned based on the duration of your lifting session. This I believe leaves a lot to be desired, and hopefully will be changed in a future update.
One of the best aspects of My Fitness Pal, that surpasses most of the competition, is the option to search for restaurants near your location. You are able to see the calorie and macronutrient info for local restaurants, even if they are not chain restaurants. If the restaurant does not have any nutrition information you can also request their menu be put in the app’s database. You are also able to search for restaurants, and find out how far away a particular restaurant is from your location.
One more incredible aspect to the restaurant data is that when you do select a restaurant that you want to eat at, you are able to sort the menu by calories. So if you are really trying to eat a low calorie meal, you do not need to manually check each meal, but can view all their low calorie foods quickly and easily.
As for general food input, there are a plethora of foods to chose from in the database, you can also scan in products with a barcode scanner, and also add your own recipes and meals.
When you do enter in your food, you are able to see a running total of your macro and various micronutrients for the day, which will help make you aware if you need to eat more or less of a specific type of food i.e. sugar, fat, fiber etc. This is a great feature, because most apps require you to upgrade and pay for their “pro”, “gold”, or “member” services to be able to keep track of most micronutrients.
Community Support and Maintenance of Goals
Within the My Fitness Pal community there are many different forums that connect you with fellow app users. There are topics ranging from success stories, to motivation and support, to recipes, and health and fitness related debates. You also have the ability to add friends through the app, they can be your personal friends or people who you don’t know but are also using the My Fitness Pal app.
Creating goals with My Fitness Pal is easy, you are able to quickly type in your weight goal and the app will calculate how many calories you require per day based on your gender, activity level, age, height, and and weekly weight loss goals.
You can also easily track your progress with a series of graphs showing your progress over different time periods. My Fitness Pal not only lets you track your weight goals but also goals you have for daily steps, neck, west, and hip measurements.
Bonus Features: My Fitness pal has an app for those with Apple Watches. There is also an online website that allows you to track your goals, and input nutrition and exercise information, which is a nice feature if you prefer using your computer over a phone.
Best feature: The visual effects of this app, there are an abundance of graphs, and data, if you are a visual person, this is the app for you!
Lose It! also has the ability to track steps, and input exercise, and automatically adds on the calories you burn from exercise to your daily calorie allowance. One of the best aspects of Lose It! is that it has a huge database of exercises that you can chose from, where you chose the intensity of your workout, the duration of the exercise, and Lose It! will give you a fairly accurate guess as to how many calories you burned.
Lose it! has activities that might not be considered “exercise” in their database such as raking leaves, weeding, breastfeeding etc. This is such an ingenious idea by Lose It! because there are so many chores and activities people conduct in their everyday lives that can burn just as many calories as jogging on the treadmill at the gym. However, if for some reason the database does not have your activity, you can always input it in manually.
Lose It! is great if you are a visual person. You can easily see how many calories you have consumed throughout the day with a modified pie chart. This is such a great feature because it gives you the ability to see not just your day, but the week as a whole, and therefore may motivate you that day if you week has been less than stellar.
You can also see a standard food diary of all the foods you have plugged in for the day along with any exercises. You can easily search for standard food items or scan items with a barcode with a built in scanner. If the food you are looking for is not already in the database you can easily add a new food or recipe.
Another great feature is that when searching for foods you have the option of searching by brand ie. Heinz, Quaker Oats, Hershey etc. Lose It! leaves the competition in the dust when it comes to it’s database that contains supermarket brand foods i.e. Safeway, Sam’s Club, Aldi etc, which is great for everyone on a tight budge that can’t always afford specific brand name foods.
Also, the app also allows you to search for foods via different restaurants. These are chain restaurants, granted, however they have a plethora of them including: California Pizza Kitchen, Denny’s, Macaroni Grill, Olive Garden, and Outback Steakhouse, just to name a few. Each restaurant categorizes the different meals by alphabetical order, showing the calories, which makes it easy to find if you are looking for something low calorie to order.
Another of Lose It’s fantastic visual images to keep you on track each day is the ‘in your face’ reminder of the percentage of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats consumed each day of the week, as well as your current day. This is a very handy feature if you are following an eating plan that requires you to keep certain macronutrients within a specific range such as the Zone Diet, or the Atkins Diet.
Community Support and Maintenance of Goals
You can easily set your weight goals, and determine how much you want to lose per week (up to 2 pounds per week). The app recommends how many calories you need per day, based on your weight loss goals per week, gender, age, height, and weight, or you can override this and set your own goals.
My only critique about having the app recommend your daily calorie intake is that sometimes it will recommend consuming less than 1,200 calories per day, which for most people can be dangerous, and really should only be done under the supervision of a doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian.
If what you seek is to socialize with others who are also on their own health journeys you can easily connect with friends, or people you do not know using the app. Lose It! also has an active online community. There are various ‘challenges’ you can compete in with other Lose It! users. These can be really great at motivating people, especially someone who is competitive by nature.
Added Bonuses: Lose It! offers an Apple Watch app. Similar to My Fitness Pal, Lose It! also has an online website where you can go online and track your goals, plug in food, body composition, and get in involved with the online community.
Best feature: Videos of various workouts and techniques, if you are looking for a personal trainer for your pocket, this is the app for you!
My Plate provides a series of short but effective sample workouts, some that require workout equipment, and some that do not require workout equipment. What is so amazing is that the app actually has a pre recorded video of someone demonstrating each workout, and the app will talk to you, time you, and guide you through the various movements.
Also, there is a built in step counter in the app, which if you enable, will automatically track your steps and add the amount of calories you burn to the total amount of calories you are able to eat that day.
There is also the ability to plug in exercise that you complete, and the amount of calories burned. This feature is not one of the apps finest points though because there are no pre loaded workouts with calorie information of different exercises in My Plate’s database. Therefore if you use this app it would require you to either have a smart watch or other device that records calories burned during exercise, or look that information up, which somewhat defeats the point of going to a single app for all your health needs.
With MyPlate, a branch of LIVESTRONG, you can easily search for different foods, create your own foods/ recipes, and scan barcodes for pre packaged foods. As a bonus you will see the macronutrient breakdown percentage for each food including protein, fat, and carbs.
I really enjoy the fact that if you enter in your foods as you consume them throughout the day, you are given a running total breakdown for the percentage of protein, fat, and carbs you have consumed so far all one one screen. This is a really neat feature especially if you are trying to adhere to specific macronutrient percentages.
Although My Plate does have nutrition info for different restaurants, it is more cumbersome to search by restaurant compared to Lose It! and My Fitness Pal. You are not actually given a list of restaurants that are pre loaded into the app, but are made to manually search for the restaurant and food. I also found the restaurants that did have nutrition facts uploaded had incomplete menus and were missing many dishes.
Community Support and Maintenance of Goals
There is an online community where you are able to connect with others. There are several different chat boards/ groups/ Q&A sections where you can almost certainly find the answer or support to anything relating to weight loss, exercise, recipes etc.
You can also set your weight loss goals, and determine how much you want to gain/lose per week. You can have the app recommend how many calories you need per day or you can override this and set in your own number (no lower than 1,200 and no higher than 9,000).
Another great feature is that you are able to tweak the recommended percent of your daily calories that should be coming from protein, carbs, and fat. This is really handy if you are trying to follow an eating plan that recommends certain macronutrient percentage goals for each day.
There are also many progress reports that you can look at that help you track various factors including calories, weight, BMI, fiber, cholesterol, sugars etc. over different periods of time
Bonus Features: Has an app for Apple Watches.
Mr and Mrs Nutritionist’s Final Thoughts
In summary, there are so many different apps out there because we all have slightly different goals, wants, and needs, but My Fitness Pal, Lose It!, and My Plate, are three top quality apps that we feel can really help motivate and guide you through your weight loss journey.
We would love to hear some feedback from our readers, do you agree with our picks? Do you use another app that your really enjoy, and have had success with? We want to know your thoughts and opinions!
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