Anyone who has considered using a smartphone health app to aid in their fitness or weight loss goals knows there are hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from. Unfortunately, many are difficult to use, or contain information that’s inaccurate or not based on true nutritional data. Before committing to an app, it would be wise to research basic information regarding its functions and warnings.

Healthcare technology industry blog explains that there are two factors necessary to choose the right app: proper information and awareness of your own capabilities. They advise, “Definitely look at where a health app gets it data and methodology for analyzing it. Also, make sure you find one that aligns with your goals and lifestyle.

Below, we’ve picked out a few of our favorites that both doctors and nutritionists can happily back:

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is highly recommended, mainly due to its versatility. Whether you choose to focus on calorie counting, exercise, healthier food choices, or greater movement throughout the day – MyFitnessPal can do it all. The app boasts the largest database of food and drinks out of any fitness app, with a strong search functionality which allows you to easily find and record foods. There’s even a easy-to-use recipe builder which saves and records homemade recipes.

To receive the most benefits from the app, you will need to log not only what you eat, but also how often you move. Runs, swims and bike rides are easily logged manually but also the app can connect to popular fitness trackers such as the Fitbit, Jawbone, the RunKeeper and the Withings Pulse O2 and exercise apps like Pact and Map My Run. The full list of connectable items and apps is fairly extensive.

Of all the calorie-logging apps available, it’s easy to praise MyFitnessPal’s tracker as the best. Beyond simply logging, the tracker allows selection of portion size and even the amount of that portion that you ate. That way, if you didn’t finish the meal, you don’t have to count unnecessary calories. The app also breaks down daily and weekly nutrient consumption and tracks your weight in pounds or kilos down to the smallest decimal.

Nutrino

Nutrino has been dubbed “the personal nutritionist in your pocket” for its ability to create a personalized daily menu based on the profile you create based on your lifestyle habits. The app has access to thousands of delicious, good-for-you, recipes (including vegetarian and vegan options) and, like MyFitnessPal, summarizes your daily intake of protein, carbs, fiber and fat. After creating a weekly meal plan, the app will even build you a personalized grocery list – allowing you to easily purchase the items needed to fulfill your goals.

Perhaps the best aspect of Nutrino is its ability to adapt to your choices. If certain meals are nixed or you didn’t like them, Nutrino will remember not to suggest it again in the future. In addition, Nutrino can also integrate with fitness and lifestyle apps and fitness trackers, making it another app that can be as all-encompassing or specific as you’d like it to be.

The app also continues to improve. For example Sara Abbasi of iFitnessApps praised it’s newest feature for diabetics, saying, “Bottom line, Nutrino provides you with specially catered meal plans which are customized perfectly to suit your needs and help you lose weight.”

Pact

Besides knowledge, one factor that can help with weight loss and is motivation. For some, simply viewing their food and exercise trackers is enough, but others may need more. While there are a large number of game-based apps, which focus on points and leveling, there are also apps like Pact, which offer monetary rewards and losses. Each week, users essentially bet on themselves for the number of workouts they will complete, or even number of veggies they will consume that week, and either pay up or receive rewards based on their performance. Gaining a few dollars may seem insignificant (the money is collected from the pot of those who failed to reach their goals) but what won’t seem ignorable is your own losses. Five to ten dollars a workout can add up quickly!

The app includes its own social motivation as well. Users can cheer each other on and view pictures of each other’s success. Overall, it’s far more inspirational than a notification that you’ve only worked out once this week!

Best yet, the app syncs easily with MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and fitness trackers, and offers three different kinds of “packs”: food, gym, and veggie. An article from CNET explains, “Interestingly, even though there’s not a ton of money at stake here, research has shown that when cash is on the line, people are more likely to stick to diet and exercise goals. But obviously some won’t make it, hence the pool of payout cash.”

No matter what tacker or motivational tool you use, it’s important to stick with what works, and forget the rest. No app works without being opened, so choose from those which fit your habits and personality!

If you have used an app to help with your diet and exercise goals, please share your thoughts.

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