tomato plate

Call, text, tweet, and... count calories? Meal Snap, a new app for the iPhone (sorry Android!) allows calorie-conscious people to ditch their calculator and reach for their smart phone cameras instead.

Bend and [Meal] Snap - What It Is

So how does Meal Snap work? The app takes a photo of any (and we mean any) food or drink about to be devoured, uploads it into a mysterious database where food is identified, and (voila!) spits out how many calories are in the meal. It also acts as a photo food diary by recording food history and personal food ratings. Although not required, users can also enter a caption for their photo to help the database better identify the food, track when and where the meals were eaten, and then share it via Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare with friends. Pretty cool, huh?

DailyBurn CEO Andy Smith claims the app works by “magic" (and not some secret, lightning fast, calorie-savvy mutant employee), so the Greatist Team decided to take Meal Snap on a test drive. After snapping some pictures of bananas, apples, and other goodies, Meal Snap promptly processed them and gave a relatively accurate calorie estimate for each.

Out of excitement and awe, we took some more pictures of foods with multiple components (think salads, burritos, sandwiches, etc...), but for those the app came up short. It also said our pencil sharpener was "not a food" and contained 0 calories, which was surprisingly accurate. If only we had known that before eating four of them.

However, on top of misidentifying many foods and taking a surprisingly long time to process, Meal Snap gave a very wide range of calories that the food can fall within. We found that range to be as wide as 400 calories- wowza! It also seemed to have trouble differentiating between serving sizes, so it might say a small serving of a food has the same amount of calories as multiple servings of the same food, an obviously important distinction.

Don’t Make a Snap Decision! - What It Means to You

Calorie counting, along with physical activity, has been shown to be an effective way to manage weight Combined strategies in the management of obesity. Dixon, JB., Dixon, ME. Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE), Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006; 15 Suppl:63-9., so perhaps Meal Snap (or something similar) could help. Meal Snap theoretically lets people easily track the calories they're about to scarf down, but don’t rely on it as the solution to staying on a healthy diet. Though we found it to be an inaccurate calorie tracker, Meal Snap is definitely fun to use and, while we wouldn't call it magic, pretty impressive nonetheless. We'd give MealSnap a rating of 2/5:

Download/Buy MailSnap for the iPhone from iTunes for $2.99 here.