• Meal Snap

    Keeping track of your weight and how much you're eating used to be a difficult and time-consuming task. The App Store has given us dozens of health and fitness applications that complete most of the equation, but they all rely on entering in the number of calories in each meal in order to keep an accurate diary of eating patterns. Recently, a new crop of apps have appeared that use a searchable database of products where the nutritional information is already known, but since it only works with prepackaged food, home made snacks and meals are difficult to enter. Aiming to solve this problem once and for all is Meal Snap, a new application that (as its name suggests) requires nothing more than a photo of whatever you're currently eating to reveal the number of calories it contains.

    Getting started with Meal Snap is very easy. Upon launch, you're taken to the diary screen, which acts as a log of all the food you consume in any given day. Scrolling through the bar on the far left accesses all days while the right side of the screen shows a breakdown of the selected day. Adding food is similarly uncomplicated: tap the giant 'snap' button in the bottom left corner, take a picture and add an optional description/rating. If you feel the need to tell your friends and followers about your food for whatever reason, you can share your meal to Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare too. On the next screen, Meal Snap will guess what type of meal it is (breakfast, dessert etc) by the time of day with the option to tag a location to your meal. The three social networking options appear again at this point, just in case you forgot to tell everyone before.

    Once it has finished processing, Meal Snap will return to the diary screen showing the number of calories in that meal. The app doesn't give an entirely precise count: the margin of error widens as the amount of food becomes larger. A pack of corn chips (as shown in the demonstration) has a relatively small margin, while a full dinner may allow for a difference of hundreds of calories. Considering the technology comes up with a number from a picture this is not a major issue (and in the tests I conducted, Meal Snap was close enough to the actual figure for snacks and small meals), but it would be nice to manually enter the correct number if the information is handy.

    A larger drawback is the lack of other nutritional information. Meal Snap would be even better if it offered more than just a calorie count. Friends of mine (who are far more knowledgeable in fitness and healthy eating than I am) tell me a more detailed nutritional breakdown is necessary if you aim to properly monitor all aspects of your health. Having said that, I was very impressed with the speed that the app returns results. Within seconds of tapping the ‘finished’ button, Meal Snap was able to deliver a completed count.

    Though Meal Snap would benefit greatly from including other statistics when it processes food, this is by far the best solution on the iPhone for keeping a food diary. A process of looking up the number of calories a meal has on the internet, or scanning the pack to find the magic number (then converting from kilojoules as is often the case) has been reduced to taking a photo on your phone and waiting a few seconds. That's a huge step forward for encouraging people to check up on their eating – with so many other barriers removed, the one thing left to do is remember to pull out your iPhone every time you eat.

    Version reviewed: 1.0.2
    Price: $3.99
    Developer: DailyBurn
    Size: 4.1MB
    App Store
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