Each quarter, our wellness team tries and reviews a popular wellness trend. This quarter, we're trying weight management apps, and Kaitlyn is seeing what MyPlate is all about.
MyPlate by Livestrong is targeted at helping users lose weight and improve their overall health. This app was awarded the 22nd Annual Webby Award’s People’s Voice in the Best Visual Design-Function Mobile Sites and Apps category. It focuses on counting calories and states that “tracking calories is the foundation of every successful diet.” MyPlate uses “the world’s largest database” to provide users with calorie counts, nutritional information, serving sizes and suggestions for healthy foods based on dietary preferences and daily caloric goals.
How It Works
When first opening the app, it asks you to either log in with Facebook, sign up or log in (if you already have an account). When choosing “sign up” it has the option to connect with your iPhone’s health app. When creating your profile, the application asks for your gender, birthday, height and weight. Then the app asks you input how much you would like to weigh, what your activity level is (sedentary, lightly active, active, or very active), and how do you want to achieve your goal. For me, it automated that my goal was maintaining my current weight and it listed my desired daily caloric intake to achieve my goal. Once you have completed this portion, it asks you to set up an account with your email, if you did not select to login with Facebook.
Fitness Tracking – ★★★
All tracking components for this app are located under the Tracking tab or the initial tab when opening the app. You click on the exercise icon and can either enter calories burned or search exercises on the app. You have to allow permission for the app to track your activity through your phone – this app is able to sync with Apple Health Data if you have an iPhone or Google Fit if you have an Android. It is not compatible with other tracking devices like Fitbit or Garmin, but does allow for manual entry of calories. For me, I use my Garmin while running, so I would either enter the calories recorded on my Garmin app or I just searched “Running” and selected the option with my closest mile time. The app keeps a log of “Recently Performed” exercises which allows for easier tracking after using more frequently. The calories you burned from exercise are calculated at the top of your tracking page for easy access.
The workout tab has free exercises with a variety of times and intensity levels. When starting an interval workout, the app has the instructor demonstrating that movement and a countdown prior to starting the movement. The app displays countdowns before and during your interval on your screen. At the end of workouts, you are able to view the calories burned in each movement and it allows you to add the workout to your exercise diary automatically. The workout portion of the app is appealing for those who have less than 30 minutes (some less than 10 minutes!) in their days to exercise. Most of the free workouts available only require you and a mat or towel. One workout was titled “10 minute Basic Gym Equipment Workout” with only a few key pieces of equipment needed. The exercises are designed to target some of those muscle groups that tend to be underworked. However, there are only a handful of workouts available on the free version, so it might not be ideal for those who want more variations in their workouts. There are several more options for workouts that can be unlocked by upgrading your account to Gold.
Food Tracking – ★★★★
All tracking components of this app are located under the Tracking tab. This is the initial tab when opening the app and it has an outline of your day. The top says “Today” with arrows to go back or forth from days. Then below that, it has a box where it lists my calorie goal, the number of calories I consumed, the number of calories I have burned and net calories. These are updated as I input information. Below the box, it has icons to click and input information titled: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, exercise, weight and water. You have access to your food diary on this tab and numerous free recipes with fat, carb and protein information.
To track your food, you select one of the icons (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snack) and it brings you to a search option. This is where you can scan foods with labels, search foods, view recent foods, create foods or create meals. The barcode scanning is a nice feature in food tracking apps; however, I make a lot of my own food which makes scanning each ingredient a bit repetitive. What I did like about this app was the ability to create foods or meals and save those, this feature made tracking a lot easier. To officially log foods or meals, you must select the item, then you are directed to a nutrition page where it breaks down information about the food (you can edit the serving size here), then you click on the top right corner “I Ate This” to log. Once that is complete, your tracking page calories are updated as well as your food diary. I found searching items on this app a little confusing, especially if I was logging food I ate out or did not prepare, which is why I liked the scanning and creating my own meal options.
The food diary on the home page is updated as you track your meals throughout the day. When you click on it, it breakdowns the macronutrients you have consumed; on the free version, it shows fats, carbs, and protein percentages based on the number of calories. Then it shows your personal daily goals for fats, carbs and protein. There are more specifics underneath that like saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and sugars – however, those statistics are based on a general 2000 calorie diet and to unlock the breakdown based on my personal nutrition, I would have to upgrade to Gold.
In the Progress tab on the app, you can view data analysis of your calories, weight, BMI, carbs, fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, and dietary fiber. It defaults calories but there is a right arrow where you can see all of the free options. You must “Go Gold” or pay extra to view calories burned, water and daily average macros. You can view by 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year – the data analysis is a bar graph with the dates and your intake of calories (or any other options you’re viewing) and a recommended line. This allows you to see if you are above/below the recommendation. Then there is the Meal Plans tab where you can sign up for a free 8-Week STRONGER Fitness Challenge, which is a complete workout and nutrition program. You have to sign up for this free feature in this tab and the challenge always starts on a Monday. This plan is created by nutritionists tailored to your eating; omnivore, vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. Before signing up, they sent an email and a “Checklist for Success.” This is where the app encourages you to find your goals, take before & after photos and measurements, review your first week’s menu and shopping list, start logging your meals and snacks in the app, and encourage you to find support within the MyPlate community. They provide weekly shopping lists for the meal plan and all the recipes – you can look ahead once the challenge starts to prepare for the coming weeks. Additionally, they send daily emails with inspirational quotes, longer workouts and your daily menu.
The app prompts notifications to track breakfast, lunch, and dinner at specific times. You can manage the times you receive these alerts or turn them off all together if you prefer. I think the timing customization a unique feature I haven’t seen in other tracking apps before.
At first, I was good about tracking my food and exercise, but I often tend to fall off when using tracking apps. I received a few emails when I signed up on starting with the app and some helpful resources, then an email when I hadn’t tracked in a while. I didn’t explore the Meal Plan until a couple of weeks into using this app and I found those daily emails as a small little check-in. Personally, I find a ton of notifications overwhelming. I liked that I didn’t receive an overload of them and that the communications I did receive were concise. This app provides a lot of resources related to nutrition and cooking. I think that if you are very interested in learning about your fat, carb and protein intake and preparing new meals this app would be a great tool to keep you engaged in those interests.
The last tab in this app is Community where other MyPlate users can interact with each other. At the top of this tab, there are several categories you can access for free, then an “Exclusive – Gold Members Only” option for Gold members. You can click on a topic and read through comments and questions from other users or post and reply on here. It’s filtered by most recent and has your username listed only.
The app heavily focuses on calories. Weight loss and weight management are affected by factors other than physical wellness and nutrition that MyPlate doesn’t really address; that’s why I think this feature sets MyPlate apart from some of the other tracking apps. The community feature is a unique way to connect with people who maybe have similar goals as you or provide you with a support system.
Ease of Use ★★★★
As far as compatibility with Apple and Android devices, it appears that users have good experiences with either device. I have an iPhone and the app asked to sync with my Apple Health Data during the initial set up. According to the Google Play app description, MyPlate has similar capabilities with the Google Fit App.
I found the app’s appearance fairly user-friendly. There are five tabs when you open the app:
- Meal Plans
During the time I was using this app, I was at the end of my training for a half marathon. I would have liked more compatibility with tracking devices and the app directly. I like that with my tracking device app, my physical activity statistics sync when I open it. Entering activities again on MyPlate felt repetitive. As I mentioned in the Fitness Tracking section, I logged my running activities either by searching “Running” and selecting the option with my closest mile time or looking at my Garmin app and manually entering the calories from that run. I would feel a little confused when the calories didn’t line up with what my Garmin said. In general, I don’t try to focus too much on counting calories but I can see how differences in caloric measures with the same activity can be confusing for folks who may be trying to lose weight. For Apple users, the MyPlate website advertises compatibility with the Apple Watch.
There is a website version of MyPlate available that I did not explore too much. It looks different than the app but has the same basic components. One feature I found unique was the ability to export the data. There are additional resources on their website as well.
All features of this app I used were free, there is an option to “Go Gold” for MyPlate with three different price tiers:
- 1 month: $9.99
- 6 months: $29.99
- 1 year: 44.99
Based on my experience, I think you can get a lot out of the free app if you are looking for nutrition resources. The main features I see as a benefit in upgrading are if you want more details personal nutrition data and additional workouts on the app.
In a nutshell: If you are interested in learning more about your daily calories, improving your nutrition, and learning new recipes tailored to your eating, MyPlate is for you.