Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Chow down and limber up with CalorieKing

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Heather Wardell

Remember your New Year's resolutions way back when? Was one of them a plan to lose weight? If it was, and you haven't done anything about it, the CalorieKing Nutrition and Exercise Manager software might be able to help you make it happen.

CalorieKing is available in Windows and Palm versions. These are separate versions; on the Palm, the software is called Diet Diary. They do synchronize reasonably well, although custom foods and exercises are not fully synchronized. The Palm version works well on its own, as does the Windows version; it is not the case that you absolutely need both for functionality.


"Everything I checked was accurate, including the pre-packaged meals that are part of my current weight loss strategy."

When you first install the software, it asks you to create a profile. You tell the program your height, age, current weight, and activity level, and it sets a calorie level for you, which you can change if you'd like. This process is very straightforward and well explained.

Tracking food and exercise

Once the profile is complete, it's time to start entering food and exercise. As Figure A below shows, the software's main screen provides a lot of information in a well-designed format.

FIGURE A

The food database is available on the right-hand side of the screen. (click for larger image)

I did find the order of the food items on the right-hand side to be less than intuitive, and some of the groupings of items didn't work for me. Including 'fruit' as the third item in the 'nuts and seeds' group, for example, means that I have to hunt for fruit every time because I don't expect it to be where it is. Once I got used to the groupings, though, it was fairly easy to find items.

To add a food, you find it in the list (or use the very effective search feature) and then drag it to the appropriate meal. The size of the portion can be edited either before or after adding the food to the meal. The screen automatically updates your remaining calorie budget, as well as your intake of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber.

On the Palm, the process of adding foods is very similar. Figure B shows a part of the food list.

FIGURE B

Adding a food item on the Palm is easy. (click for larger image)

The pull-down menu that reads 'Milk' can be used to move back up the food list, which is useful if you've accidentally clicked the wrong item. Once you find the item you want, you click it, make sure its serving size is correct, then press Add.

Adding exercise works in the same way: find the exercise (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in the list, set how many minutes you spent in the activity, and add it. I find the software's assessment of how many calories I burn while running to be nearly identical to the results my heart rate monitor gives.