Use mobile dieting apps to help shed some pounds

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The time has come to put down those tasty holiday treats. The days of concealing the damage done by weeks of festive feasts beneath horrible holiday sweaters are at an end. A new year brings with it new resolve to taking off those extra pounds you packed on during the holidays. And, loaded up with the right apps, your mobile device can be a useful tool for helping you eat better in 2013.

As weight loss apps go, Lose It (free, iOS and Android) and Weight Watchers Mobile (free, iOS and Android) are the veritable heavyweights in the category.

Feature recipes highlight the mobile app from Weight Watchers. To unlock the recipe database, you’ll either need to buy an online subscription or be a paid member of a local group.

The Weight Watchers app provides a few tools for free, like Featured Recipes, Cheat Sheets and Shopping Lists. But to unlock other features like tracking tools, the recipe database and health/fitness content, for example, you either need to pay for an online subscription or be a paid member of a local Weight Watchers group, making this app a no-brainer for members of that program.

You log meals and exercise on Lose It to calculate your caloric intake and what kind of nutrients you’re getting from your food.

On the other hand, Lose It provides loads of features for free, like a food/activity database, meal logging (either manually or by scanning barcodes) and nutritional tracking. The app recommends that you create a free account with their service; that gets you additional features like social connections, reminders to log your meals and integration with Lose It’s web-based app, which lets you track your progress either from your device or online. For those going the extra distance, a premium account lets you integrate the app with devices and services including the FitBit Ultra and Runkeeper.

If you’re the type who needs some motivation to pull yourself up off the couch, look no further than Jillian Michaels Weight Loss Plan (free, iOS). While you don’t get Jillian Michaels herself screaming in your face (that would be an awesome in-app purchase, by the way), this free iPhone- and iPad-compatible app provides several fitness plan exercises, some meal plan recipes, a tool for logging your activities, as well as podcasts and weight loss tips. Upgrading to the premium service ($4 per week) adds a customized meal and fitness plan, additional recipes and exercises, social tools, and integration with the associated website, among other goodies.

The Jillian Michaels Weight Loss Plan app includes meal plan recipes alongside exercise programs.

If you’re more focused on just meal planning, then Diet Point - Weight loss meal planner (free, iOS and Android) will take your age, height, weight and gender, and then provide customized meal plans in a variety of categories, such as Vegan, Low Carb, Paleo and Dukan, among others. The app then presents a menu for each meal, prompts you when it’s time to eat, and helps you track your calorie intake. The free offering provides full access to a couple of programs in each category with samples of all the others, which can be purchased separately if you want.

Look up an item in Fooducate—or use your phone’s camera to scan its barcode—and you’ll get an array of nutritional information along with suggestions for healthier alternatives.

If you prefer to plan your own meals, but need some help knowing which foods are naughty and which ones are nice, look no further than Fooducate ($4 on iOS, or free with ads on iOS or Android). This app maintains a huge database of foods in various categories. You can either search for an item manually or, quite handily, scan its barcode. Fooducate will then provide a wealth of info about that item including calories, key nutritional info and healthier alternatives when available. Special versions of the app are also provided for diabetics and those with food allergies.

After you’ve been deep into a diet and it seems like you’ve been eating nothing but leaves and bark, every now and then some of us just have to break free and hit the drive-thru. Fast Food Calorie Counter ($1, iOS and Android) maintains a nutrition database for a good number of well known fast food joints so, when you decide to reward yourself with the occasional guilty culinary pleasure, you can accurately calculate the cost to your waistline.

The App Store and Google Play store are chock full of additional diet and exercise apps too. So, armed with that iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Android device that Santa stuffed into your stocking, you have no more excuses for letting those unwanted holiday guests stay on your waistline any longer than necessary.

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