One of my favourite food and nutrition apps, MyFitnessPal, is taking on one of the biggest battles of the bulge: calorie counts from restaurant meals.
But it wants to do more than just tell you how badly you blew your diet after you down that giant burger and plate of fries.
It wants to help you decide which restaurants are near you with menu items that meet your calorie and nutrition goals.
You can, for instance, see that within 1 mile of you is a place that serves pasta dishes that are all over 600 calories but 5 miles away there’s a pizza place that has a bunch of options for 200 calories a slice.
Almost half of its 100 million users eat out at least once per week, it says and in a recent survey of its users, nearly everyone said they would use nutrition info before ordering, if it were available.
“Our users have given the feedback for years that they wanted a feature that could help them make more healthy choices while dining at restaurants. We are excited that we can deliver on this goal now,” Albert Lee, Cofounder of MyFitnessPal, told Business Insider.
So far the company has gathered calorie and nutrition data from 500,000 restaurants nationwide, and not all of them are from chains or in huge cities like San Francisco and New York.
It had menu items from several popular local eateries in my small town. (If it doesn’t have your favourite restaurant, you can easily request it.)
MyFitnessPal worked with Foursquare to get most of the menu data, a spokesperson says. If the restaurant provides nutritional data online, it uses that data in the app. If the eatery doesn’t, MyFitnessPal is using data science to calculate an estimate of the calories and nutrition.
The new feature, still in beta, is only available in the iOS app right now (they are working on it for Android) and it’s a little hard to find.
From within the app, tap the blue “plus” button, tap food, and pick a meal you’d like to log.
Then tap the location icon to the right of the search bar.
That brings you to a page that looks like this. Click “view restaurants.”
If you don’t see any nearby restaurants you have two options: expand the map area or tell it it to search a specific area.
I was surprised to find menu information for several local eateries in my town. I clicked on one. It not only estimates calorie data but fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fibre, sodium, and other metrics you might be tracking.