My Quantified Self - Keeping a Food Diary

18 January 2012 12:44 AM CST

Health and wellness are extremely popular subjects for those interested in the Quantified Self.  Accordingly, two of the most important factors in determining health and wellness are exercise and diet.  It's becoming rather easy to track exercise habits with the proliferation of devices and apps to help you quantify your exercise.  Not as easy is tracking everything you eat.  Several months ago I created a spreadsheet to record every item I consumed.  The process was tedious and time consuming (no pun intended).  I took it upon myself to record the nutritional information of everything I ate.  I made PDF copies of  the food labels of everything I ate (with the help of DocScan for iPhone), and then transferred all the relevant information back into my monster food tracking spreadsheet.  I did a rather remarkable job of keeping up with my consumption.  However, after a month and a half I ditched the project.  It was just too hard.

I'm now happy to report that thanks to a tip from a fellow self quantifier (thanks, Nick Such!) I'm using an app that makes this process super simple.  The app is called MyFitnessPal.  It's amazing.  First of all, it has a user created and curated food database of over 1 million items.  The company crowd sourced the effort of loading their database with all the most popularly consumed foods.  And, to make matters even easier, one of my favorite parts of the app is the integrated bar code scanner.  That's right, you can simply take a picture of the barcode of any item you're eating and the app finds all the relevant nutrition information for you.  Once you've located the food you're consuming it's super simple to add the item to your food diary and to properly adjust your given serving size.  As an example of how simple this app makes keeping a food diary, today when making my lunch I conveniently loaded all foods as I took them back and forth to the pantry or to the fridge.  Thank you, MyFitnessPal for making a killer app.


A look at one of my typical food diary entries.

In addition to using MyFitnessPal, Laura gave me a kitchen scale for Christmas (thanks, Laura!).  I'm not too keen on guessing the weight of an item and having a kitchen scale has made it super easy to keep accurate information.

Adam's Food Scale

My food scale (thanks, Laura!)

If you'd like to share any food tracking tips, I'd love to hear them!