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Diet Calculators
2003-04-15

I know, I've been ranting a lot today. I really need a way of capturing the rants in my head that I usually have while I'm exercising or lying in bed before/after sleeping, but that'll just have to wait on Neural Implants of some kind or another.

Anyways, recently I've been putting together yet another diet calculator program because I hate the ones that are out there. Since I'm so bad at listening to my body (read: I never feel hungry, and I rarely feel full, and only when its too late anyways), I wanted a better way to keep track of how much I'm eating. What I really want is the opposite of BodyMedia's Sensewear Armband, which monitors how many calories your body burns automatically. I want one that measures how many calories you ingest (well, and the one that measures how many you burn). So, until someone invents that, I'll have to rely on keep track myself.

Now, when I've kept track in the past, I either used a simple paper chart, or just a text file. Both of these had the benefit of ease of use: you just write/type what you ate. Usually, I included some round estimates of how many calories things were.

Now, my estimates don't seem that accurate, and its mostly a matter of memorization, and the accuracy has always been questionable. So, I figure there's got to be a better way, so I downloaded a bunch of programs for keeping track of what you eat, and they all suck.

Now, I'm sure they work for some people, but on the "accuracy vs. ease of use" spectrum, they are all clearly way to far in the accuracy camp. They are usually based on the USDA Nutrient Database, but the problem with that database is that 95% of it is just ingredients and not dishes. Usually these programs have a mechanism for creating a "Recipe" out of the ingredients, but its amazingly cumbersome and none of them came with any of them.

I'm willing to give up some accuracy for speed. I don't care about all of these random nutrition information that is in the database, I really only care about calories. I want to be able to type in a recipe as I see it in a book and have it calculate the approximate calories for me, without having to perform some complicated searching for each ingredient in the database of 6200 ingredients. I want to have a huge database of recipes/dishes, so maybe I type in "Fettucine Alfredo" and I get a range of possible calories per serving (and maybe it prompts me with what a standard serving size is so I can say that the restaurant gave me 2 servings worth).

None of this is rocket science, its just a matter of taking the various sources out there and putting it together with a decent user interface. Well, in my copious free time (HAH!) I think I'll be doing just that.

Now, people tell me I should just use Weight Watchers instead, since their huge books is more like this, in that it has a lot of specific restaurants and specific foods in it... but where's the fun in that?


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