Dietary software is a valuable tool to a variety of nutrition-conscious consumers, from the individual who wants to track calories and make better food choices, to the professional dietitian who needs to track multiple clients’ needs and deficiencies. This software can even be helpful to a health club manager who counsels clients on fitness and health. Choosing dietary software should take into account a variety of factors, such as desired features, dietary goals and needs, budget, portability, and time. Some dietary software packages are available for free while other professional-grade packages can run in the thousands of dollars.
Among the most popular uses for personal dietary software is tracking calories consumed against calories used through activity to analyze progress toward weight goals. Research has shown people who keep food logs tend to lose more weight than those who do not. Packages may include weight graphs, nutritional analysis, exercise and activity logs, and even a journal for tracking emotional eating patterns or other factors that may affect diet. There may be nutritional goal tracking if an individual is trying to increase dietary consumption of a vitamin or mineral, such as calcium. Personal dietary software can also help individuals with food allergies and intolerances and those controlling medical conditions through diet, such as diabetic patients.
Many dietary software packages offer free trials and demo versions that can be evaluated before buying. If the interface is not easy to use, it is not likely that the user will stick with the software long enough to see results. It can be helpful to try a few types of software before making a decision to decide which features are most important.
Typical personal diet software has a database of common foods to choose from. Since this is frequently the most used feature, it can be helpful to make sure that the food database is accurate, contains the types of foods the individual usually eats, and that entry is quick and easy. Many software packages provide detailed information, such as nutritional content of food, analysis of caloric needs, and number of calories used through activities. Phone and personal digital assistant applications are becoming more widely available and can be useful to someone who may need to access dietary software when computer access is not possible. This can be an advantage when keeping track of meals so that details are not omitted and food logs are accurate.