I’m sure you’ve heard about food journals. Most food journals focus on counting calories and losing weight. Guess what? These don’t work!
But more recent food journaling approaches have tangible long-term benefits, particularly for reducing binge eating and making you more aware of what’s going on in your body.
I’m an Eating Coach so I want to explore food journal app options for people who:
- Struggle with overeating, bingeing and emotional eating
- Want to practice Intuitive Eating
- Don’t want to get caught in the diet treadmill
Is There A Food Journaling App That Doesn’t Have A Calorie Counter?
Most food journal apps focus on calories.
Take a look at the most popular food apps out there. MyFitnessPal and the like.
These apps all promote weight loss.
- Explicit: MyFitnessPal asks you about your weight loss goals. Everything centers around their default calorie counter. Plus, their default diet plan is a 1200 calorie diet. That’s crazy!
- Implicit: The MacroNutrients app emphasizes balancing out your food groups, or ‘macros’. They even say to ‘avoid restrictive dieting’. The intention behind MacroNutrients is still to lose weight, be lean, and slim down.
Here’s a related blog post “Why You Should Remove Your MyFitnessPal App – Top 5 Reasons”.
But there’s good news! After downloading many apps, I did find several which avoid the calorie counter weight loss obsession!
These free food journaling apps have a few things they emphasize:
- Mental health like thoughts or body image
- Basic food tracking without calories
- Eating habits
- History of your past food intake
So without further ado, here are my top 4 food journal apps that don’t focus on weight loss and will help your mind stay free!
If you want to enjoy tracking your food and moods without calorie counting then give these a try!
1 – Rise Up: Eating Disorder Help
The intention behind this free app is to help people with Eating Disorders recover.
Eating disorders are very complex. You have to deal with anxiety, negative thoughts, body image and stress. And of course still try to eat a balanced diet with enough nutrition too!
Rise Up provides a ton of features that make this app more than a food journal.
One feature is mood tracking. This is where you track your moods throughout the day. You can also track how you responded to your moods.
For example, you can journal if you feel ‘mad’ and how you responded to being ‘mad’. Did you binge? Restrict? Or self-care?
The app also has a food tracking section. In this section you can record:
- What time
- What you ate
- Any eating disorder behaviors
Finally, the app has a great section with tons of therapy exercises. This was my favorite part!
I had a blast looking through the different exercises. Each exercise is a written paragraph which you can scan.
Here are examples of the therapy exercises in Rise Up:
- 911 Distress
- Body Image
There are even quotes that you can use to inspire yourself, too!
I’d recommend this app to anyone who has an Eating Disorder.
You can get Rise Up here:
2 – Ate Food Diary
The tagline for the free Ate Food Diary app is “It’s visual, mindful, and non-judgmental. Instead of calories, Ate helps you focus on how meals make you feel.”
The premise of the Ate Food Diary app is simple. You track your eating habits using images, not calories.
Instead of calories, you’re instead focusing on the appearance of your meal.
Visual recordings enable you to enjoy recording your food. But at the same time you don’t know how many calories you ate so you won’t go as crazy counting everything!
The Ate Food Diary also has an ‘experiment’ feature which I love!
You can select from a list of experiments to try out with your next meal. Each experiment has a few simple instructions.
Here are some food experiments you can select:
- Eating from smaller plates
- Eating with non-dominant hand
- Using smaller utensils
- Eating more veggies
- Putting food on a plate
- Putting phone down while eating
- Taking first bite with eyes closed
- Eating bite sized
- Taking 2 deep breaths before meals
- Eating from a bowl
There are dozens more nutrition experiments I didn’t even list!
Between experiments and visual tracking, this app tackles health from new angles.
If you’re a visual learner and would like to experiment around with your diet, then give this app a go!
You can download the Ate Food Diary app here:
3 – See How You Eat
The free See How You Eat app is another great food journal app.
This app focuses on seeing your daily meals in photos.
All on one screen, you can see your pictures for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert.
And that’s pretty much it!
Like the Eating Enlightenment app (down below), this app focuses on one thing and does that thing very well.
Seeing how you eat!
You track what you see when you eat and what you ate. That’s it.
Food apps can be complicated with all sorts of tracking and in depth tools.
But this app is simple. It’s very clean and easy to understand.
I also like this app because of its emphasis on eating at regular times.
I overcame bingeing myself because I had to learn to eat this way!
Yes, I had to eat at regular times while living in a Zen Monastery where the community ate at certain times each day.
If you’re struggling with bingeing, it’s very important you start eating this way!
This app can help you with regular eating because you actually see what you eat and when. Plus, there is even a food database where you can get recipes!
You can download the See How You Eat app here:
4 – Eating Enlightenment Journal
The free Eating Enlightenment Journal helps you track your emotions around food.
The app is simple and basic. The design is basic because the premise behind the app is very simple.
If you track and write out your thoughts and feelings before you eat, then you reduce overeating.
The point of this journal is to write feelings and thoughts before you eat. That’s it.
There are two key features which make the Eating Enlightenment Journal unique:
- Emphasis on journaling before you eat.
- Journal entries for thoughts, emotions and food.
The emphasis on journaling before you eat is unique. Other apps focus on what you eat, but they do not record when you eat.
The Eating Enlightenment Journal encapsulates its emphasis with one 7-word guideline:
Journal with awareness right before you eat.
You take out your phone, unlock the app with the pin code, and then fill out the journal prompt.
The prompt has three parts:
- Food / Nutrition
You just write down any thoughts or emotions you are experiencing. You can also jot down a few notes about what you’re going to eat.
I’d recommend this app to anyone who struggles with bingeing or emotional eating.
You can download the Eating Enlightenment app here:
What Is The Best Food Journal App?
The best app?
Well, what’s best for one person is not best for another person.
Depends what you’re looking for, silly!
All these free apps are great. They have pretty similar features.
Each has some sort of tracking feature for both food and mental health.
Each app also has a specific focus:
- Rise Up: best for official eating disorders
- Ate Food: best for experimenting to explore food psychology
- See What You Ate: best for visual learners
- Eating Enlightenment: best for emotional eaters
What Is The Easiest Food Tracking App?
The easiest food tracking app is Eating Enlightenment.
The ease of Eating Enlightenment is also its biggest downfall!
The Eating Enlightenment food journal app is super simple!
But it has no extra tools (except past history), tabs, or tracking.
It’s food, thoughts and emotions all in one tab.
Of course, please keep in mind that I designed the Eating Enlightenment app myself so I am biased towards it 🙂
How Do You Do A Food Journal?
Tons of anxiety and perfectionism can be wrapped up in keeping a food journal!
Here are some tips:
- Go easy on yourself
- Learning not to strive for perfection
- Don’t journal too much
- It’s ok to not keep a perfect record
For example, I often use the Eating Enlightenment app. While the guideline is ‘journal before you eat’, many times people will only journal before a binge.
Now, for the best long-term results, I recommend trying to journal every time before you eat.
But if that’s too much, then I hope that you at least journal before each binge, rather than burn yourself out and miss writing about the binge!
I hope this makes sense. Be easy on yourself.
These free journaling apps are intended to help you mentally, so don’t obsess over weight loss goals.
Lean into the psychological growth you can experience and go for it!
Once you’ve given these apps a go, let me know in the comments below …
Which one of these apps is your favorite?