In case you haven’t taken a (virtual) walk down the weight-loss aisle of the app store, here’s what you need to know: There are tons, and I mean tons, of free—if not inexpensive!—weight-loss apps on the market. But you’re probably wondering: Do these apps really work? The answer: It depends.
The best weight loss apps can help users make more informed choices by highlighting areas that they could work on such as drinking more water, curbing late night snacking, and simply getting more steps during the day, says Meredith Price, RD, a nutritionist in Brooklyn, NY.
By tracking stats from calories to sweat sessions, users are able to see their data and, thus, their overall progress, which for many people can be motivating and help hold them accountable—and there’s research to support this. Most recently, a 2019 paper found that people who tracked their food using MyFitnessPal lost more weight than those who didn’t use the app as diligently.
“However, the app is not going to do all of the work for you,” Price adds. “Just like with anything, hard work and dedication need to be put in.”
Ready to tap your way to better weight-loss results? Download one (or more!) of these expert-approved apps stat to start crushing your goals.
Best for: learning what nutrients to add to your diet
While your days of keeping a diary to chronicle your ~crushes~ might be very much in the past, your time spent recording what you eat and when shouldn’t be, especially if you’re looking to shed a few pounds. That’s because food journaling can not only keep you more accountable but also help you see your eating patterns and in turn, motivate you to make better food choices, says Price.
That’s exactly why she recommends Cronometer, a food logging app with an extensive database of nutritional info and A+ visuals to help you understand all the info provided. Unlike lots of other food journaling apps on the market, this one stands out for its wide focus. It doesn’t just offer insights on calories and macros (key for keto-ers!), but it also gives a breakdown of vitamins and minerals, making it good for weight loss overall as well as learning what nutrients your diet might be needing, Price says.
Best for: getting expert-approved advice
If you’re trying to lose weight and develop healthier relationships with food, working with a nutritionist is one of the most helpful things you can do. But, unfortunately, this can come at quite the cost.
Enter: MealShare, the mindful eating app that connects users directly to registered dietitians for as low as $19.99/month. Rather than manually input all your meal-related details, all you have to do is upload photos of your day’s delectables. Then an expert will provide constructive feedback on your choices to help you learn essentials, such as better portion control, for the future, Price explains. Your dietitian will also make individualized recommendations based on your goals and entries.
3. Oh She Glows
Best for: adding more greens to your diet
Brought to you from OhSheGlows.com, one of Price’s fave recipe blogs, this app is great for both plant-eating pros and newbies, as well as those looking to shed a few pounds. The unfortunate reality, according to Price, is that most Americans don’t get enough fruits and veggies in their diet. And for those trying to lose weight, this is particularly negative since these types of fiber-rich foods are known to help weight loss, Price explains.
This app makes it super easy to up your produce game thanks to its searchable archive of over 140 plant-based recipes, including 120 gluten-free options. Added bonus? The photos on the app are beautiful, which might encourage you to try something new, Price says.
Best for: portion sizing and control
You really can’t go wrong with this app, which offers a whole lot of bang for its totally free buck. That’s right: It’s one of the best free (!!) weight-loss apps out there. Sure, there’s in-depth calorie tracking (it has one of the largest databases of food around, coming in at a whopping 6 million items) but it also outshines other apps when it comes to understanding how the portions of food you eat each day stack up in comparison to one another.
Did you get enough protein? How much of the fat you consumed was saturated? Did you eat three times as many french fries as you should have? (No judgment, we’ve all been there.) The MyFitnessPal app can tell you all of that. For an even better understanding of portion control, Childress recommends heading to the MyFitnessPal blog, which has an easy-to-understand portion size guide.
Best for: accountability
Look no further than your home screen for one of the best free weight loss apps that’s also expert-approved. A go-to for Price herself, Apple’s built-in Health app is a well-rounded option for anyone looking to better understand their body (hello, period tracker!) and the many ways to improve their health, including dropping a couple of pounds.
You know that exercise is essential to losing weight—as well as leading an overall healthy life—but starting from square one or even just amping up your routine is easier said than done. But this can all be made a little bit easier thanks to the app’s pedometer feature, which tracks your daily steps and, in turn, offers a less-intimidating way to get you moving more. “If you’re someone that’s just starting out with a new routine and want to start with the goal of hitting 10K steps per day (or more!) and don’t want to invest in something that you wear, I think this app is perfect,” Price says.
The Health app also includes tons of other weight-loss friendly features that allow you to easily enter your food intake and other forms of physical activity. Plus, it keeps your data so you can look back on the past weeks, months, and even years, which can help motivate you to continue to achieve your goals, Price explains.
Best for: staying hydrated
Whether your like yours with a little lemon (which, btw, won’t necessarily help weight loss) or stacked high with ice cubes, keeping up with water is key. And this is especially true when trying to shed a few pounds, as water “aids in digestion and can help fill us up too,” Price says.
But if some days seem to fly by without you throwing back enough H2O, this app’s got your back by allowing you to set sipping reminders throughout the day. “Clients who have used this app have had great success, not only with increasing their fluids, but then also seeing weight loss,” Price says. “You’ll also find that when you start drinking enough fluids, you have more energy!”
7. Mindful Eating Tracker
Best for: forming a better relationship with food
When it comes to reaching a healthy weight, adapting mindful food behaviors is paramount to success, says Whitney English, RDN, CPT. “The Mindful Eating Tracker app helps my clients get in touch with their innate hunger and fullness cues to help establish why they’re eating and to differentiate between true physical hunger and emotional or mental hunger,” she explains. That’s why this app is particularly beneficial to women are trying to establish a healthier relationship with food, she adds.
The way it works is that it takes the focus off calorie-counting and helps clients learn how to make positive decisions that will ultimately be the more beneficial to their long-term goals. The app functions similarly to how a food journal might; you’ll log your feelings, your hunger levels, but unlike a paper journal, you’ll be able to track those feelings in graph-form. Which makes it a great option for visual learners, notes English.
Best for: finding weight loss-friendly restaurants
Lots of restaurants are opening up about the nutritional value of their meals, but other eateries make it impossible to know how many calories a simple chicken sandwich is going to cost you. And even when nutrition info is publicized, you’ll still have to go inside the restaurant to get it—by that point, it’s pretty late to turn back if there’s nothing low-cal on the menu.
But the HealthyOut app takes all the guesswork out of which restaurants are serving the healthiest options. Open it up, input your zip code, and wait for the app to find customized options for nutritious meals in your area.
“You can search by specific diet restriction, like low-carb, Mediterranean, paleo, heart-healthy, gluten-sensitive, and high-protein,” explains Childress. “It also gives you healthy modifications for items found on the menu or modifications based on the diet you are following.”
9. Nom Nom Paleo
Best for: paleo newbies
If you just started the paleo diet, you’ve probably been relying on the award-winning blog and cookbook Nom Nom Paleo for delish recipes and no-brainer meal plans. It’s one of the most comprehensive paleo resources on the web, and—lucky you—it’s also available as a handy app.
“There are many choices for apps to help you out with the Paleo diet, but this is one of the best,” says Childress. “It gives you over 145 recipes, with photos, and walks you through every step of the cooking process.”
The convenience factor of this app is sky-high, too: Once you choose a recipe, it helps you make a grocery list and then emails your shopping list to you (so no “I forgot my list” excuses).
10. 30 Whole Days
Best for: giving Whole30 a go
Less a weight-loss diet than an elimination plan designed to identify problematic foods, Whole30 is meant to only last 30 days. But those 30 days can feel like an eternity, which is why you might want an app to help you get through it (it’s called a challenge for a reason).
Childress recommends the 30 Whole Days compliance checker app, which not only includes a handy challenge countdown but also a large database of foods so you can make sure your choices fit into the Whole30 plan. You can scan product barcodes to see if a food is approved, and search by whole foods, ingredients, or packaging features (like UPC and brand name). Whole30 might be rigorous, but this app makes it just a little bit easier.
Best for: keeping up with keto
KetoDiet and KetoDiet Basic are two apps that promise to help people calculate their macros, and/or plan and track their keto diets effectively. They also provide subscribers with expert advice from the KetoDiet Blog, which includes input from two registered dietitians.
The diet apps, created by Martina Slajerova, author of multiple books including The KetoDiet Cookbook and Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals, also offers up a bunch of recipes (300, to be exact) and nutritional info for 1.65 million popular foods, products, and restaurant meals to help you track your keto meals right on your phone.
Best for: running for weight loss
With a slogan like, “running on the treadmill doesn’t have to suck,” Studio’s an obvious choice for runners. Its platform delivers audio-based group running classes with kickass instructors and playlists. So all you have to do is plug in and get moving.
“The best part of the app is that women can compete in real-time on the leaderboard against runners from across the world with the opportunity to earn prizes through an in-app reward system called Fitcoin,” Lisa Niren, CPT and head trainer of CITYROW in New York City, explains. That’s a total win, considering that a recent Stanford study found that apps that inspire friendly competition can motivate you to exercise more. (Don’t worry, the app isn’t only for the elite runners, and is a great download for walkers and couch-to-5kers, too, she explains.)
Plus, it boasts a nine-week weight-loss running plan that’ll help keep you accountable. Try the app out for two weeks for free.
13. Lose It!
Best for: tracking calories
Everybody needs a different amount of calories to maintain their weight depending on several factors (like age, sex, and level of physical activity).
The average woman needs anywhere from 1,600 to 2,400 calories every day, according to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines. To lose weight, you have to trim that number of calories down; cutting out 250 to 500 calories each day may result in modest weight loss.
Bored yet? It’s okay—calorie-counting can be a real drag. I mean, who wants to do math after (or before) meals? That’s where an app that tracks calories for you really comes in handy. Input what you ate (or plan to eat) and let the app do all the calculations for you. For an app that lets you set a goal, track daily food and exercise, and connect to other fitness apps for comprehensive metrics, registered and licensed dietitian Allison Childress, PhD, recommends Lose It!.
“The premium version offers community support from other users, and another cool feature is that you can take a picture of your food and the app will bring up the nutritional information for it,” she says. Scanning bar codes is convenient, but uploading a pic of what you’re eating? That’s a piece of cake (sometimes literally!).
14. Sleep Cycle
Best for: managing your sleep
If those pounds won’t budge, your sleep schedule and cycle could be to blame. That’s because, when it comes to weight loss, it’s about more than just calories in and calories out, says trainer Grayson Wickham, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault. It’s also about hormones, stress, and sleep.
Enter, Sleep Cycle. The app tracks your movement and sleep patterns to give you tips on how to improve your sleep quality, Wickham says. Plus, it uses that data to slowly wake you up when you’re in your lightest sleep phase, which is the most natural time to wake up.
Best for: staying engaged with your workouts
If the bags at your favorite kickboxing class have all been claimed and your favorite indoor cycling class is all booked, no sweat. Just download Aaptiv for on-demand audio classes.
Here’s how it works: The voice of a trainer will guide you through a fitness studio-style session with music that’s tailored to a wide variety of workouts. Whatever fitness vibes you’re feeling, Aaptiv has something for you, says certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Jaime Mcfaden, CPT.
“I recommend Aaptiv to my clients because it lets them do their workouts wherever, whenever, and however they want,” Mcfaden says. “So if they want a long run outside one day, there are workouts like that, and if the next day they want a 10-minute strength class, Aaptiv has that, too,” It’s this combination of workouts that makes it such a powerful tool for members, since getting a well-rounded routine is key to achieving weight loss results, she adds.
Get started with a 30-day free trial.
16. Interval Timer
Best for: sweating with HIIT
By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to burn calories and shed weight. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require a little bit of clock-watching. Which, as anyone who’s ever spent 20 minutes eyeing the seconds knows, can really take the fun out fitness.
“I recommend Interval Timer because it allows you to program the timer to match your workout so you don’t have to worry about counting the seconds on the clock. Instead, all you have to do it plug in your earbuds and stop every time the phone buzzes,” Alena Luciani, CSCS, founder of Training2xl, explains. So, for example, if you’re doing a Tabata sequence of 20 seconds on with 10 seconds rest for four minutes, you can program that in and the app will buzz when you’re meant to switch from your high to low interval and back again.
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