Just exactly what are the best sites for locating nutrition calculators for calorie counts and nutrient data? I realized I didn’t know the answer to this question as well as I would have liked. So I set out to do some research, comparisons, and write a review. What I discovered is that “best” is relative to what you need. There are many different websites providing a range of services.
I hope this quick review will help you to save time by locating the best sites for your needs. Some sites have massive food databases but offer little else in the way of services or support. Some provide more detailed nutrition information along with the calorie counts. A few sites give you additional feedback by rating the overall nutritional value of foods. This can help you zero in on the best food choices.
A lot of great information is available for free. But some of the best sites require that you sign up first with a free account or become a paid member for access.
I’ve included sites for calculating your calorie needs and calories burned with various activities as well as those with nutrition calculators that only provide the calorie and nutrient content of foods. It all matters if you want to lose weight. I am a firm believer that calories count. But nutrients count also if you choose to increase your chances for a successful outcome from your weight loss efforts. Accomplish this with a healthy diet (way of eating) and lifestyle you can continue for the rest of your life.
Calorie-Count is a service provided by About.com. The food database is huge! They claim to have calorie and nutrient data for more than 74,300 foods. Along with calorie and nutrient data, you are provided with a calorie breakdown by fat, protein, and carbohydrates and tips as to the “good” points for the food in question along with the “bad” points. Another feature I particularly like is the overall rating given to foods. For example do a broad search for something such as macaroni and cheese. A long list of brand name products comes up most with a rating of C, D, or even F. But a few are rated A or B. Really? Now that’s something to follow-up on. Calorie-Count also provides a forum to interact with others, a library of articles, and many recipes.
Something I question about this database is the accuracy of the information. It seems that site users can enter food data that then becomes part of the main database. This limits the reliability of the results.
My Food Diary
MyFoodDiary is not just about calories and weight loss. It is a site that provides you with all the tools you will need for healthier living with diet and exercise. However, to access the tools and services provided you must pay for membership.
At this site you will have a more detailed calorie and nutrient breakdown in a user friendly format than any free site I have found. The nutrient and calorie tracking tools can give you excellent feedback as to how well you are doing with your diet and exercise choices based on your specific dietary needs. I am a member of this site and I am clearly biased but I joined because I feel it is worth every penny of the membership fee. If you would like to learn more you can read my review.
My Calorie Counter
My Calorie Counter has an online diet and exercise journal that is free to access in exchange for creating an account. (You can access many of the calculators and other information without having to sign up but if you want to keep track of calories, carbs, and other nutrients you’ll need to provide your name and email address.) The food database provides calorie and nutrient information on more than 45,000 fast food, brand name, and generic foods.
In addition to tracking calories in the foods you eat, you can calculate the calories burned during exercise. Two nice features of this site are the community forums and the option to create your own blog. Something else they provide that is not easy to find online is a body fat calculator (the results provided are a rough estimate of your body fat).
My Net Diary
MyNetDiary seems to be an attractive and well-designed site that offers a number of helpful tools and services for weight loss assistance. You can take a free test drive to check it out. However, the calorie and nutrient database does not seem to be available without membership. Also, the size of the database is not given.
I am intrigued by the claim that MyNetDiary will “remember” your choices as favorite foods so you will not need to access stored information from past entries when recording the same foods you selected on previous days.
This membership site costs $9.00 per month ($7.00 per month if you purchase an extended membership.)
FoodCount has an extensive food database you can use to calculate and record the calories you consume each day along with certain key nutrients (protein, carbs, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, iron, and grams of fiber). The database has more than 30,000 foods. A feature of this site that I have not found elsewhere is that your nutrient profile is compared with the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for your age and gender. AND you have the option to save your diet history so that you might track your eating patterns over time. This site might be especially helpful if you need to follow the TLC diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes to lower cholesterol levels) in addition to watching calories. Registration is not required but it seems that the ads are not shown if you become a member.
FitDay provides a free Diet and Weight Loss Journal to track the foods you have eaten, daily exercise, current weight, and weight loss goals. Detailed calorie and nutrient calculators are provided but I have not been able to determine the size of the database (the home page says there are 1,000’s of foods). The drawback to this site is that you must set up an account to access the services provided. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often the sites that ask for registration and/or a membership fee are more well-designed, visually attractive, and provide additional services you won’t find at other sites.
Calorie King provides free access to a large database (50,000) of brand name as well as generic foods. Whenever possible foods are rated for calorie density. This is a nice feature that can help you make better choices at a glance based on the calorie count for different foods. Clicking on a food item pulls up another window with nutrition facts. Calorie King also sells software for a complete food and exercise diary, including a food database, for use on your Palm OS or Pocket PC.
Don’t overlook this website as I almost did. If you want quick access to a wealth of calorie and nutrient information without having to set up an account or pay for membership this may be your site. At CalorieLab you can do food searches with a database that includes 70,000 foods and 500 restaurants. When you do a search, a list comes up that gives you instant results for protein, fat, carbs, and calories for a number of related foods. Just click on the “more” link for the specific food you are looking for and you will be taken to a new page that expands on the information with a complete nutrient profile (if available). I like the level of detail and organization with multiple categories. What I don’t like on this site is the visual clutter and the type size is too small for my older eyes. However, I understand the site owner may be making some changes soon.
The Daily Plate
I think The Daily Plate takes the prize for the largest food database online. They claim to provide calorie and nutrition data for more than 237,000 foods! Amazing! However that said, finding what you are looking for with this massive database does require having a little patience and being specific in choosing the words you use for a search.
Also provided for you are a free Food Journal, Calorie Calculator, and a Fitness Log. The food database and a number of other features are provided for free. However, if you want to track your vitamin and mineral intake (as well as calories from fat, protein, and carbs), and receive additional support for weight loss, you will need to purchase a membership. ($29.95 for six months)
The Calorie Control Council
The Calorie Control Council is sponsored by contributions from corporations in the beverage and sweeteners industry. Membership in this site costs $25.00 for a six-month plan. With membership you can access a large database of foods (but it is not clear how many) as well as many other services to help you succeed with weight loss. The free calorie database seems to be quite limited.
Diet Facts provides calorie and nutrient information on brand name foods. I have found this site to be most helpful for doing research on restaurant food but it doesn’t seem to be updated as well or as frequently as some of the other sites.
Nutrition Analysis Tools and System
This site has a quick and easy to use energy calculator. If you want to estimate your daily calorie needs based on your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level with just a few easy steps this is the site. The results are not likely to be as accurate as what you might find with the health tools at the Global Health and Fitness site but it seems to be close. (Be honest with your estimates!)
[UPDATE March 2009: The Nutrition Analysis Tools are no longer available?]
Calories per Hour
Calories per Hour is a site you will want to visit when you need to calculate calories burned for just about any activity you could imagine. From changing bed linens to standing and talking with someone at church to bobsledding, they should have you covered. You’ll also find a Food Calories and Nutrition Calculator for a nicely organized list of foods in categories ranging from Groceries, Ethnic cuisines, Fast Foods & Restaurants to Brand name foods. An interesting feature is a category for 100-calorie snack foods. The one thing I think could be improved upon at this site is the nutrient breakdown. At the moment it seems to be limited to calories, protein, fat, carbs, fiber, and sodium.
The Nutrition Data site is one you will want to bookmark (or save to favorites) if you have a need to search for foods that are good sources of specific nutrients. This may be especially important if you have specific dietary needs. Say you would like to have a list of breakfast cereals with a high nutrient content for iron, folic acid, and fiber but are low in sugar and sodium. It’s that specific. But I will warn you that you will still have quite a list to plow through and look at more closely to find the best choices.
The nutrition information on this site comes from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. It is supplemented with data from restaurants and food manufacturers. Although the size of the database is not clear, it must be huge.
There are many more weight loss sites with nutrition calculators that provide calorie and nutrient data such as eDiets and Weight Watchers. But I have chosen to single out the sites that have free access to databases or those that have membership sites but the primary focus is on calculating calorie needs, calorie counts, and nutrient data. I hope you find this information to be helpful. If you do, would you please help me out by spreading the word? Bookmark this article at your favorite bookmarking site. Thank you!