The Breakfast Club Blog

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Online meal planning

From TDMN by way of The Washington Post and its Lean Plate Club:

Online meal planning makes diets more effective

By SALLY SQUIRES / Washington Post

To reach a healthier weight, you have to trim calories either by eating less, moving more or doing both.Trouble is that most people are pretty sloppy in calculating how many calories they eat.

So what does work? Planning and portion control, experts say.

But planning meals can be challenging. A strategy that can make it easier is to use a free online Web tool. In the evening, plan meals for the next day. Print the list and you've got a clear dietary game plan to follow.

To test the ease of using these free online tools, I plugged into each site a day's worth of meals and snacks that added up to 1,500 calories. Eating that number of calories would produce about a 1-pound loss per week for an adult who normally consumes 2,000 calories a day. (Find a copy of the menu at This one-day meal plan mostly met the required nutrient intake for a healthy adult, 50 or younger. It fell short only on calcium. (A single calcium supplement would fill the gap without adding calories.)

Here are the Web sites tested and how they stacked up for ease of planning meals:

FitDay ( ): Lots of pie charts show what you're eating and burning. A nifty feature customizes your food so you can tweak some of the standard calorie counts to better represent what you're eating. What I didn't like: Type in a simple food – oatmeal – and you have to wade through five pages of listings for oatmeal bread, oatmeal cookies and more just to find plain oatmeal.

Nutridiary ( Short on time? This site offers a guest feature that lets you use it immediately without registering first. It's a quick way to see how you like planning meals ahead of time. It also provides good first-time user information. Another feature: You can turn off all ads on the site.

NutritionData ( Like technical information? NutritionData not only records food, but will guide you to better choices with its Caloric Ratio Pyramid, Nutrient Balance Indicator and Nutritional Target Map. Or plug in your own recipes and NutritionData will calculate the calories and nutrients for you. To use this feature, however, you'll need to spend some time recording each ingredient in your own personal online "pantry."

SparkPeople ( This site asks for a lot of information before you get started, but that allows you to consider both your food and fitness goals. It sets daily limits on calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein and water based on your goals. It also allows you to add up to 75 other nutrients to track, such as fiber, cholesterol, sodium and more, making it a good option for those who have special dietary or health needs.


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