Thinking about shedding some weight and getting fit before the New Year? Thanks to your smartphone and the wide world of the Internet, it’s never been easier to adopt, track and maintain a healthy lifestyle. From digital diaries to more sophisticated constructs like Gympact, digital tools are at your disposal, motivating you to lose that gut and up your fitness level.
But any good health expert will tell you that physical activities are only half of the equation. In order to prime your body for weight loss, muscle gain and higher energy levels, you must also watch your nutrition levels and maintain a healthy diet. And while there’s no panacea for getting rid of the excess poundage you’ve accumulated (thanks to late nights of dollar beers and taquito platters), there are a melange of diets to suit your specific needs. The best part, of course, is that there’s no nutritionist, meal delivery or book required — these dieting platforms will help you lose weight and keep it off at roughly the price of a large coffee.
Here’s a roundup of some standout diet apps, based on some popular dieting methods. What’s your go-to diet application or software? Let us know in the comments.
Perhaps the most popular system to keep track of calories, MyFitnessPal is essentially a comprehensive food dictionary and diary that assists in the raw numbers of calories-in, calories-out dieting. Simply type in your height and weight, your average exercise level and your goal weight, and MyFitnessPal will set a recommended daily amount of calories to safely lose those pounds.
While it doesn’t offer recipes, MyFitnessPal stores the nutritional information of an amazing number of food items, both store-bought and at popular chain restaurants. For example, a simple type of “Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast” will yield multiple user-produced entries for the popular breakfast meal, including optional additions such as hash browns and pancakes. MyFitnessPal tries to take the headache out of calorie counting by providing as many of these items as possible, and for the most part, it succeeds. The app does require an active commitment, though, so don’t expect it to work miracles if you’re less than inclined to record your intake (or fudge it).
MyFitnessPal is totally free, and operates in a comprehensive browser app and via every major smartphone carrier. The only investment you need to make is your own effort.
Another food and fitness diary, LoseIt! is a sleek and stylized program that relies on user input to accurately read and record the calorie count of every meal — as well as exercise regiments. That sounds like a tall order, but LoseIt! incorporates an important feature to jumpstart your commitment to a healthy lifestyle: gamification.
From the moment you start your tailored diary program to the moment you achieve your first weight or maintenance milestone, LoseIt! awards badges for a user’s hard work. The app also rewards for burning calories and longstanding trends; the “Inferno” badge, for example, rewards a user for “burning an amazing amount of calories for eight weeks in a row.” In addition to badges, LoseIt! sends weekly motivational emails and progress tracks to keep users from derailing.
LoseIt! costs nothing to sign up and includes outlets on all major platforms. It’s worth noting that LoseIt! also has the added benefit of a very active social network — meaning it’s better with friends.
A meatless diet is relatively ubiquitous these days as both a healthy and ethical option, and more people are turning to vegetarianism and veganism than ever before. But one of the most difficult things about going meatless (and eschewing dairy and other animal byproducts) is getting enough variety. While it can be incredibly boring to reheat the same frozen Boca Burger every evening, lacking variety can also lead to malnutrition. Because vegetarians and vegans don’t get the comprehensive protein construct that animals provide, having a diverse amount of food is key to preventing poor health.
Enter VegWeb, a free online community where vegetarians and vegans can upload their favorite meatless meals. In addition to providing recipes from popular vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, VegWeb works as a sort of AllRecipes platform, enabling users to share and review each other’s favorite home-cooking staples.
The free website also includes access to a message board community, which covers diet and exercise as well as lifestyle queries and product sharing.
When forgoing animals in your diet, it’s only half the battle to construct a meal plan that meets your nutritional needs. It can be a serious bummer when you meet friends at a local hotspot, where the closest thing to a vegetarian option is a bacon-flecked potato skin. Luckily, many restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options, and some are going whole-hog (so to speak) and abolishing meat from the menu en masse.
HappyCow does an amazing job at documenting veg-friendly restaurants. The Yelp-like web resource offers listings and reviews of restaurants and health food stores across the world. Users are able to search restaurants by location and narrow down results by vegetarian, vegan and veg-friendly. Also, in addition to user ratings, the astute members of the HappyCow community do well to give comprehensive nutritional information and tidbits beyond “try the quinoa.”
While the online version of HappyCow is free, the mobile outlet of the website — which includes integrated maps and a list of the most popular restaurants — costs between two and three bucks, depending on your platform. Still, HappyCow is an invaluable resource for vegetarians and vegans looking to eat out without packing their own meals.
Gluten-free is one of the hottest trends in dieting right now, but it also hints at a major health risk that could be impeding many lives. Approximately one in 133 people suffers from Celiac disease — the body attacks the small intestine when it attempts to process gluten, leading to damage and perpetual malnourishment. It’s estimated that roughly 10% of humans suffer from some form of gluten intolerance. But perhaps more shockingly, gluten intolerance is rarely diagnosed by doctors, and the methods for determining sensitivity to gluten-based products are often invasive and lead to murky results.
If you decide to kick gluten from your diet, it can be hard to find restaurants that offer options without breads, pastas and other carb-heavy food. That’s where Fine Me Gluten-Free comes in. The mobile application for iPhone and Android has received high marks from the g-free community for its comprehensive reviews of local restaurants. In addition to listings and detailed posts from gluten-free users, the app includes a dining card that helps spot gluten dishes in exotic cuisines — including gluten-loaded sauces.
Find Me Gluten-Free is also completely free, so it’s a worthwhile test-drive if you’re looking to avoid gluten in your diet.
One of the fastest-rising food and lifestyle programs is the Paleolithic diet — called “Paleo,” for short. Followers of Paleo adhere to a simple rule: If our great-great ancestors, the hunter-gatherers, couldn’t eat it, then we shouldn’t either. For the uninitiated, this means that Paleo adopters don’t eat grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy products, refined sugars or oils.
It’s a challenging diet, but the key is variety and resources like FastPaleo. With a bank of roughly 1,200 recipes, FastPaleo includes many balanced and comprehensive meals that would make any Paleo follower a happy camper. And if you’re not keen on following a strict Paleo diet or are easing into the process, there are plenty of dairy recipes to help with the full transition. With comprehensive reviews, shopping list capabilities and a smart cheat sheet, there’s plenty of food strategies to keep out of a rut.
Users can sign in to the website for free, but should be prepared to cough up a dollar for smartphone access. Regardless, FastPaleo is a great way to find recipes all in one place, rather than combing blogs and books for your diet needs.
7. Do Eat Raw
Celebrities like Demi Moore and Alicia Silverstone swear by the raw food diet, which — if you can’t guess — involves only eating food that heated to 118 degrees or less. Completely nixing animals and their byproducts, as well as wheats and grains like rice and quinoa, raw foodists rely on fruits and vegetables to make up about 75% of their diets.
With such a restrictive diet program, it can be incredibly difficult to not only find food variety to keep adequate nutrition, but also to prevent burnout. One website, Do Eat Raw, provides a rich recipe-sharing platform for all raw foodists. Including recipes such as raw beet ravioli and banana chocolate ice cream, Do Eat Raw features a good mix of different cuisines to spice up the raw diet. Naturally, there is also a rich juicing and smoothie section fit for everyone, so even those who are skittish of the raw food lifestyle can find good information.
While Do Eat Raw provides free recipes for all, the website also contains a $10 e-book that covers everything from dressings to dessert. There is also an app for the iPhone, which includes shopping lists. If you’re ready to take the plunge, Do Eat Raw will help you eat the diet of the stars.