Here is a detailed review of Cronometer, the best program for understanding the nutritional quality of your diet.
Diet Tracking Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Does this sound familiar? You decide now is the time to lose weight. You have heard people talk about how important it is to track your calories so you download a new app and start recording everything you eat.
After a few days you forget to enter a meal. Or worse, you feel like tracking isn’t worth your time. Seriously, who doesn’t hate tracking their calorie intake?
Then you think about giving up or trying another approach.
This is where I can help. Allow me to introduce you to Cronometer. In this article I will review how to use the Cronometer nutrition tracking program.
I’ll help you set up an account and sync the desktop version of the program with the app. Then I will give you a special tip to help make sure you get the most accurate assessment of your diet.
By the time you’re done reading I will have you convinced that this program is worth a few minutes of your time each day.
What Makes Cronometer the Best?
Cronometer is the best because you can count more than calories.
When you enter your information properly you get a detailed and accurate macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats) AND micronutrient (vitamin C, magnesium) breakdown of everything you eat.
If you are a nutrition nerd like me I promise this extra detail will get you hooked on Cronometer. Fittingly, a self proclaimed nutrition nerd created Cronometer.
The best part of all? Unlike some of the other nutrition tracking programs you get this great information for free.
Let’s start our review of Cronometer by learning how to set up a free account.
How to Set Up a Cronometer Account
Step 1: Go to the Cronometer Homepage
Head over to the Cronometer website and click on the “sign up for free” button. It’s easier to set up your account on a desktop computer. Later we’ll cover downloading and setting up the app.
Step 2: Enter Your Information
Enter your email address, password, and body type information and click on “create account.”
Step 3: Verify Your Email Address
Verify your email address then log into your new account. Once you complete this step you should be on the main landing page that will look like this:
Now you have created a free account.
Step 4: Download the App
One of my favorite features of Cronometer is how it works seamlessly between the web version and the app. Head over to the app store and search for Cronometer.
How Much Is the Cronometer App?
The Cronometer app has a one time fee of $2.99.
Once you download the app log in using the same user name and password you created above. Now everything will automatically sync between the app and desktop program.
I find this feature helpful when I’m at work. During the day I can quickly log in from my computer and enter my foods. Then I can finish up at night on the app when I get home and everything carries over.
Using the Cronometer Diary
Now that we have our account set up, let’s review how to get accurate information into your Cronometer food diary.
Review of the Cronometer Desktop Diary
From the landing page on the website, click on the “Add Food” button at the top of the page to begin adding what you ate today.
On the next page you will see a search bar. Type in a food that you want to look up. For example, I typed in “blueberries” and this is what the results screen looks like:
This next step is THE critical step to ensure you get the most accurate information.
Following this next step will allow you to track if you are meeting your targets for many important vitamins and minerals.
On the right hand side of the screen you will see the “source” description.
Choose the Correct Source
You need to choose a food sourced from the NCCDB or the USDA not any other source.
Foods with a source listed as NCCDB come from a database created and maintained by the University of Minnesota. Those listed with USDA as the source come from a database maintained by the USDA.
What is most important is that both the NCCDB and USDA data sets contain nutritional data for over 70 different nutrients.
If you use other sources you will still get the calories and macronutrient information. But you will find the micronutrients are incomplete.
With every food choice do your best to select foods from either the NCCDB or the USDA.
Once you have found a food that closely matches what you are looking for and is from the proper source, select your serving size and click add at the bottom of the page.
After clicking “Add” you will be back on the main page and should see blueberries (or the food you selected) listed in your food diary for your chosen date. You have now successfully entered a food into your Cronometer food diary!
Review of the Cronometer App Diary
The Cronometer app contains these same great features. The one difference worth mentioning is the “scan barcode” feature. Similar to other calorie counting apps you can scan barcodes for any packaged food.
I have found mixed results when it comes to scanned foods being available with a NCCDB or USDA source. It’s worth checking and choosing this option if possible.
What I do if I cannot find my exact food is search for something nutritionally similar. For example I drink a small cup of Trader Joe’s strawberry kefir every morning. This is not available with the detailed nutritional information I want.
However there is a generic option available and sourced from the NCCDB. The calories and protein are about the same. Perfect! Now when I record this in my diary I get the great detail I’m looking for.
Review of Other Cronometer Features
Once you have entered everything you have been eating for a particular day and made a few smart substitutions when making your food choices it is now super easy to assess your diet quality!
Once nice feature is you can also enter any supplements you take as well. I take vitamin D daily. I simply search for a supplement and enter the dosage I take each morning.
Taking a few extra minutes to select the correct source helps ensure you choose items with the most detailed nutrient information available.
This allows you to review your vitamin and mineral intake and get a good assessment of your diet quality.
Here are some other features of Cronometer you may find useful.
My only complaint with Cronometer is that there is no way to break up your foods by meal like you can in other applications. This option is offered under their Cronometer Gold service which costs $6.99 per month or a very discounted $39.99 annually.
Cronometer Gold gives you expanded meal groups and allows you to enter the time you consumed your meals and snacks.
Viewing Nutrient Detail
Hovering your mouse over any particular nutrient on the home page will show you the different food sources that make up the total amount of that nutrient. For example, here is what happened when I highlighted Vitamin E:
Creating Custom Recipes
This is one of my favorite time saving features. I do this for anything I eat on a regular basis. For example I created a recipe for my morning coffee.
Let me walk you through how to do it.
Start by clicking on the “foods” tab on the home page. Then click on custom recipes.
You can also add custom foods if you find something that isn’t in the program but you eat on a regular basis. The downside is that you will not get all the detailed nutrient information if you add a food yourself.
Ask the Oracle is a cool feature that allows you to search for food sources of a particular nutrient if you are not meeting your needs over a period of time. This is only available under the Gold service.
Ok, back to adding a recipe. Once in the custom recipe tab click on “add recipe”.
Then, a screen will pop up that looks like this. Here is a recipe I created for lemon garlic broccoli. You simply add in the name of the recipes, then click on the green “+” sign next to ingredients to add your ingredients and serving size.
Here is how I added one cup of broccoli to this recipe.
If you expand the serving size tab, you can alter the number of servings too. For example if this recipe made two servings, you can change the number to how many servings your recipe contains.
This saves me SO much time. Especially because I tend to eat a lot of leftovers for lunch.
Once you have saved a recipe it will appear when you search for a food in your daily diary. Type in the name of your recipe and easily add it to your diary for the day.
This is fun if you enter information several days in a row you can assess your intake data over a period of time. The Gold option unlocks even more features in here. It’s nice because you can see if you are meeting your needs over time, not just on a particular day.
Under “add biometric” on the home page you can track a number of data points. This is where you can enter blood sugar levels, heart rate and even ketone levels.
Syncing With Fitness Trackers
Final area of Cronometer to quickly review today. On the home page, if you click on the settings tab, then select devices you are able to sync a FitBit, Apple Watch or other wearable to track and input your fitness data!
Final Cronometer Review: Start Using It Today!
It is understandable that tracking everything you eat is not the most exciting thing in the world. But it can really be a useful exercise, especially if you want a more thorough understanding of the nutritional quality of the different foods you eat on a day to day basis.
What sets Cronometer apart is this.
Choose foods with a source of NCCDB or USDA to get a full and in depth understanding of both your macronutrient and micronutrient intake.
I promise you will get hooked trying to figure out what foods you can eat to help meet all of your micronutrient needs.
Let me know in the comments if you have any extra tips or tricks you use!