&noscript=1""/>
Foods

What Is Nutrition Tracking and How Is It Different from Calorie Counting?

While calorie counting food portions, nutrition tracking has more emphasis on other aspects of food and eating patterns.
What Is Nutrition Tracking and How Is It Different from Calorie Counting?
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Should you use a nutrition tracking app? It may be worthwhile if you want to lose weight and improve health. That is because you will need to make changes to your regular habits if you want to lose weight. Nutrition tracking can help by increasing awareness of what and how much you eat and drink and holding yourself accountable. 

If you choose a nutrition tracking app that also offers coaching, such as Lark, you might learn more about which foods can help with weight loss and other strategies for losing weight.

While calorie counting focuses on precise measurements of all food portions, nutrition tracking is less obsessive and includes more emphasis on other aspects of food and eating patterns.

No Cost Health Kit to Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

Free Health Kit
Weight 160lbs
Height 64
low
Risk

How Can Nutrition Tracking Help?


The main reason to track nutrition is simple: it works. Research on self-monitoring behaviors, such as logging what you eat, shows that logging what you eat can help you lose more weight than if you did not log what you ate. Why does nutrition tracking work?

These are some possible effects of nutrition tracking:

  • Helpful insights, such as noticing which foods might be higher in calories or carbs than you had thought, or which foods might have smaller serving sizes than you had thought.
  • Increased accountability as you know you will be telling your nutrition tracker what you ate. When choosing between a snack of cheese puffs versus baby carrots, for example, visualize logging your choice later on…you may feel better later if you get to log the carrots and not the puffs!
  • Improved ability to plan meals if you log foods ahead of time to see how they would affect progress towards your daily goals. If you log a food and see that it gets in the way of your goal for that day, you can find an alternative food, reduce the planned portion size, or change around other foods on that day to make it work.
  • Better nutrient balance as you work towards healthy protein, carbohydrate, and fat goals. Over time, this can increase fullness and support weight loss naturally.

When it comes to how to track food, a nutrition tracking app that is also a health coach can change your focus. You might start to consider calories as just one part of your overall nutritional profile for the meal or day. Nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber are also critical for weight loss and health. Lark’s nutrition tracker goes a step beyond and also tracks food groups, such as servings of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, starches, red meat, and fried foods.

Nutrition Tracking vs. Calorie Counting


Shouldn’t I be tracking calories? 

Calories are definitely important when it comes to weight loss and health. After all, there is no way to lose weight besides to reduce your calorie consumption compared to the amount of calories you burn. However, is calorie counting necessary or enough on its own?

Some food tracking apps focus mainly on calories. They may give you a daily calorie goal and encourage you to select foods based on their calorie content so you can stay below your calorie limit. 

Possibly the best-known calorie goal level is 2,000 calories per day, so you may be wondering where that comes from. In other words, why is it 2,000 calories per day? In reality, your own individual limit is likely to be different from that exact amount.

Your daily limit may consider your age, height, weight, and gender. It might incorporate your average daily physical activity levels, or your calorie counter might offer the choice to include any physical activity that you log when calculating your calorie goal for a particular day. In addition, a calorie goal considers your weight loss goal by subtracting hundreds to up to 1,000 calories per day, depending on your goal rate of weight loss, or your weight loss goal and goal date.

That makes sense, but what is the result of counting calories without regarding much else? A calorie counting app may place equal weight on all types of food as long as they have the same number of calories per portion. That means you may get equal credit or feedback for choosing, for example, peanut butter on whole-grain bread or an iced doughnut for breakfast if they both have 240 calories. 

Those two breakfast choices are intuitively different even though a calorie counting app may consider them to be the same. The peanut butter on whole-grain bread has fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fat. The doughnut has added sugars, refined starch, and questionable types of grease. These are some effects that each food choice could have on the body.

Effect on the Body Peanut Butter on Whole-Grain Bread Iced Doughnut
Blood sugar
Relatively stable
Dramatic spike, then drop
Weight
Weight loss is supported because protein, healthy fats, and fiber increase fullness and reduce hunger.
Weight loss is more difficult because hunger increases with more blood sugar swings.
Blood lipids
Increased “good” HDL cholesterol from the monounsaturated fat in peanut butter
Increased triglycerides from excessive added sugars
Cravings
Decreased because of delayed satiety from meal
Increased because refined carbs lead to cravings for more refined carbs like sugar and starch.

These above effects do not happen in a single meal, but over time, your body will feel and show the effects of healthy or less-healthy choices, regardless of calorie content.

A nutrition tracking app that considers more than just calories sees an iced doughnut and a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread as very different. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), for example, will note several aspects, such as the following, of whichever choice you make.

  • Healthy protein in the peanut butter
  • Healthy fat in the peanut butter
  • Whole-grain choice from the bread
  • Dietary fiber from the bread and peanut butter
  • Added sugar in the doughnut
  • Refined carbohydrates in the doughnut
  • Fried food from the doughnut

With nutrition tracking, you can get an idea of the calories you are consuming and how they compare to the amount needed for weight loss. You can also learn how various foods or nutrients may affect weight and health, which can put you in a better position to incorporate foods to help you maintain healthy habits.

What About Carb Counting?


Similar to calorie counting, carb counting is a method of self-monitoring your dietary intake for weight loss or health reasons. Reducing carbohydrate consumption can lead to weight loss and have other effects. For example, the American Diabetes Association says it can lower blood sugar and improve blood lipid levels that can affect heart disease risk.

The thing is, just like calories, not all carbs are equal. Sources of carbohydrates that are higher in fiber and less processed tend to be more healthier and more filling than more processed foods. Similarly, if you are following a carb-controlled diet, not all low-carb foods are created equal. 

More Nutritious Carbohydrates
(About 30 grams)
Less Nutritious Carbohydrates
(About 30 grams)
  • Whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, bulgur
  • Lentils, beans, split peas
  • Starchy vegetables, such as yams, sweet potatoes, peas, winter squash, corn, potatoes
  • Fresh fruit
  • Plain yogurt and skim milk
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, coffee beverages, sweetened tea
  • Refined grains, such as white bread, pasta, and rice
  • Candy, desserts, and sweets, such as cake, cookies, pie
  • Breaded or doughy fried foods, such as onion rings, doughnuts, and fried chicken
More Nutritious Low-Carb Foods Less Nutritious Low-Carb Foods
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Lettuce, greens, and other non-starchy vegetables
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Peanuts, nuts, and seeds
  • Reduced fat cheese and cottage cheese
  • Butter and cream
  • Processed meats, such as sausage, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and bacon
  • Red meat, such as beef, veal, lamb, and pork, especially fatty cuts such as ribs, steak with visible fat, and ground beef
  • Palm oil
  • Poultry with skin

According to a review article published in Healthcare (Basel), it appears that a low-carb diet can be most helpful for long-term weight loss when the plan emphasizes nutritious foods and includes a progression from very low carb levels to moderate levels.

Because of the possible benefits of counting carbs while considering their quality and also tracking other nutrients, Lark’s nutrition tracking feature provides target ranges for total daily carbohydrates, and different types of carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches.

Calorie and Carb Counting Versus Nutrition Coaching


Another consideration when looking at weight loss strategies and tools is counting versus coaching. Counting can be limiting because it focuses only on quantities of calories or carbohydrates. Coaching, on the other hand, can include:

  • Information on types of foods and their dietary quality.
  • Insights linking your intake to outcomes such as weight loss.
  • Education on which foods have the right amount of calories and other nutrients to help you reach your goals.
  • Praise and encouragement to keep you motivated.

A nutrition coach such as Lark does more than just count. 

Nutrition Tracking App


Many weight loss and food apps are available for calorie counting and carbohydrate counting. They often let you count protein, fat, and other nutrients, as well. Still, a nutrition tracking app can provide more in-depth analysis and assist with healthy habit-building. 

Food logging is simple in Lark and good news: research shows simple is good when it comes to food logging! Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who used an abbreviated method for logging food lost as much weight as people who followed a more detailed protocol. Keeping your logging simple with Lark can make it easier to keep it up and eventually lead to more sustained weight loss.

Lark’s nutrition tracking includes easy-to-use food logging features to make logging a cinch and not a chore. All that food information you put into Lark is used for nutrition coaching, such as providing real-time feedback on the impact of the foods you ate or what might be a better choice next time to help you reach nutrition or weight loss goals. You can also see trends over time on your choices and how they compare to goals.

Eating healthier and losing weight are some of the most important steps you can take for your health, and nutrition tracking can help. Tracking your foods and beverages can hold you accountable with your good intentions and make sure you know exactly what you are eating and how much.

A good nutrition tracker can fit right into your lifestyle without weighing you down, and it is not hard to find one. Lark offers intuitive tracking features, such as recognizing favorite foods and keeping a history of your choices. Plus, Lark’s nutrition coaching includes instant feedback to celebrate the good choices you made and guide you towards any possible improvements next time.

Lark’s nutrition tracking is part of the entire coaching program for weight loss and improved health. The program may be available to you at no cost if your health insurer participates! Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

Looking for a Diabetes Prevention Program?

You could be eligible for Lark – at no cost to you. Find out in 1 minute!