For the past few months I've been using LiveStrong My Plate to track the amount of calories and nutrients that I consume on a daily basis. MyPlate is a great tool, available both online and as an iPhone app, in free or freemium form. Like many other "personal trackers" and "self quantifiers", I started scrutinizing my eating habits for a specific reason: several studies show a surprising link between vegetarianism and diabetes (ironic, considering that a vegetarian diet is often recommended to people who suffer from this widespread disease) and I wanted to know if my diet was indeed balanced. I have been a vegetarian for 20+ years and although my blood tests have always been reassuring so far, I wanted to better understanding my food consumption.
The result? Well, Livestrong is pretty a effective tool, as it allows you to easily track your daily, weekly, and monthly calories/nutrients intake. It offers that kind of granularity and accuracy that makes the difference between a decent app and a killer app.
Here's how they break down your food nutrients intake:
Here's a sample of my findings:
- I am consuming WAY TOO MUCH sugar, even though I don't eat candies, cakes and other sweets. Full disclosure: energy bars, especially Odwalla and Greens+, are my guilty pleasure. Apparently, they are full of sugar. How's that for an "healthy choice"? Below is a table that summarizes my monthly intake totals (May 2010). As you can see, the real anomaly is my sugar consumption. Crazy!
- I don't eat nowhere as many vegetables as I should both in terms of quantity and variety, which is kind of ironic for a professed vegetarian. On the other hand, I get a bunch of vitamins and minerals elsewhere. I add Navitas Naturals' powder mixes to salads, yogurts, and smoothies. Good stuff, if you are too lazy to shop for the "real" things.
- Although I have been able to reduce my caffeine and alcohol consumption significantly, there's always room for improvement. I basically eliminated cocktails from my diet, aside from the occasional Stoli Vanilla on the rocks. Oh, well. I'm not a saint.
- I should definitely cut down my dairy products consumption. That means: enough lattes already! I don''t eat cheese at all (aside from the monthly - ok, bi-weekly - pizza), but I have a yogurt for breakfast pretty much every day. I mean, it's hard to resist siggi's orange and ginger combo. Who knew the best yogurt in the world came from Iceland? I am considering becoming vegan, but that would require an extra effort on my part and right now I simply don't have the bandwidth. Plus, I became diffident of soy products after reading this.Livestrong MyPlate also allows you to track your physical activity, which in my case mostly means running, something that I am already tracking with my Nike+iPod combo. Alas, LiveStrong lacks the slick graphics and brilliant interface of the "New Nike+ Bold Website". Even worse, it does not feature that kind of rewards and gratifications that make the Nike+ running experience so compelling and addictive.
Here's a few examples (LiveStrong: take notice, please):
Video congratulations from Nike-sponsored athletes:
Personalized kudos on the Nike+ website (badges, prizes, leader boards, challenges etc.)
And I still don't know how to cut my sugar consumption...
I wonder if EA Sports Active 2.0 will be able to close the gap between nutrition tracking and fitness tracking, both expanding and synthesizing personal tracking practices. The good news is that fitness games are bound to make their debut on next-gen consoles (read: PlayStation3 and the Xbox 360) this Fall thanks to new gesture-based controls (Move and Natal/Wave). I simply refuse to buy a Wii just to play Wii Fit and EA Sports Active!
Stay tuned for my review of FitBit, which should arrive in my mailbox in June (after months of delay!).
Related: Personal Tracking: A Gallery