Counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practice that, despite being a common way to track eating, is not as beneficial as we might think – for professionals or for patients. There is value in having patients record the foods they eat, to understand what they are consuming and offer accountability, and it is critical that patients understand relative calories (like, high for brownies versus low for broccoli), but it’s not necessary that they record every single calorie they intake.
Most professionals know the drawbacks of written food logs, but let’s highlight the biggest ones here:
- Low compliance: It requires a big time commitment and a hearty helping of patience for patients to keep a detailed record of what they eat. Even if patients understand the value in theory, they rarely complete them. Interrupting their usual activities to journal their meals is too cumbersome for most. Without a baseline, it’s hard to help patients correct their course.
- Inaccurate estimates: People are notoriously bad at eyeballing what their meals contain. When they write out what they have eaten, it is difficult to guess the true amounts. This means, if a patient’s progress stalls, and they look to me for guidance, how can I troubleshoot?
- Hard to maintain: Patients do a better job sticking to a dietary plan when they are recording what they are eating. But given how tedious written food diaries are, no one wants to continue doing them for long. While people may learn to make healthier substitutions, they also may focus on repeating the same foods so that they minimize the need to calculate the calories for every meal of every day.
Using MealLogger takes a lot of the burden off the patient and a lot of the guesswork away from the professional. It is a simple, user-friendly, and non-intrusive app that takes negligible time and energy to implement.
MealLogger requires no measurements, and estimates are not necessary. With a photo of the actual meal consumed, the professional gets a sense of a patients’ meals without getting caught up in the details and losing the forest for the trees.
What’s more, patients win on several fronts. Using MealLogger demands significantly less time and interruption, which makes it more likely that patients will comply. They can even log meals conveniently while traveling.
Without having to focus on calculating the number of calories, patients can take time to enjoy the meal they’re eating. Most importantly, they learn to recognize a healthy meal when they see it, without having to stop and compute the caloric value of every component. And that is the best way to turn new dietary changes into lifelong habits.