Finally: The End of Food Journals? The iPhone FoodScanner Arrives

148 Comments

But who keeps a food journal? Exactly.

Unless you have extreme note-taking OCD like me, it’s too much of a pain in the ass to write down what you eat and track it all. I use the online food database here to keep my facts straight, but data entry sucks no matter how you slice it.

Here are first-look highlights of the FoodScanner, which launched a few hours ago and is now available

1. DailyBurn’s FoodScanner is the first and only application that uses the iPhone’s camera to scan the UPC codes of foods and link them with full nutritional information (calories, macronutrients, etc.).

2. With a built-in database of more than 200,000 foods, it is the easiest way to accurately log what you eat during the day and keep an up-to-date calorie and nutrient count. All information is automatically synced with DailyBurn’s sophisticated workout and nutrition-tracking web application.

3. You don’t have to use the new 3GS with auto-focus. It works accurately on all iPhones using the most accurate scanning technology for iPhone – Occipital’s Red Laser.

4. You can also track natural foods (not processed) by searching by name or brand.

Full disclosure: I am an advisor to DailyBurn, but I chose to work with them specifically because I selfishly wanted to have the tools I need to geek out in less time. Here is another favorite new feature: breakdown of meals by protein/carbohydrate/fat composition (http://dailyburn.com/foods once logged in).

Keep in mind that FoodScanner is not a tool for teaching people to eat bar-coded foods. In fact, it can be quite the opposite: an awareness-building tool that makes you less likely to eat crap. Though the manual natural food tracking still requires some automating in the future, the technology is moving in the right direction.

iPhone screenshots can be seen in Gizmodo’s review.

Posted on: September 24, 2009.

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148 comments on “Finally: The End of Food Journals? The iPhone FoodScanner Arrives

    • I have tried the Lose It app and the Daily Burn app and prefer the Daily Burn app. The only thing that Lose It has over Daily Burn is the ability to input your own recipes (though I am not that tech savvy – am I missing it somewhere?). Will Daily Burn be adding this feature at all?

      Like

  1. I think systems are the next frontier in human development. Most of us act on autopilot or from some guilt/greed component, but a systematic approach can far out pace those industrial age techniques. This food journal app is just another example of what I’d call “strategic living.”

    The barrier right now is that the “systems” are usually designed by technicians with ocd and are simply too unusable. I think though that will end soon enough as memory, battery life, and cpu horsepower go exponential.
    Thanks Tim!
    Eric

    Like

  2. This is the cream of the crop… and I don’t fault you for having such selfish motives working with DailyBurn.

    I’m really wanting an iPhone right now. This is completely unrelated to food…

    How does the iPhone integrate with the world traveler’s life? If you go to Seoul, can you use your iPhone there without changing plans and paying ridiculously high fees?

    Like

  3. Sorry but I can’t see the use for this. I still think the healthiest way to eat is to not eat anything processed so we make all our food at home and then I have no help from this. Today I made a fruit and vegetable juice for breakfast in my juicer, risotto with chicken for lunch, fried apple pieces with cinnamon for afternoon snack and now a huge loaf of bread is in the oven. Thinking about making some granola bars soon. All hard to track.

    Like

  4. Wow,

    Scanned through DailyBurn, looks great and I like the flow of it so I signed up to try it out.

    Didn’t see a drop down menu for tracking nutritional supplements from the online database. Would be awesome if the UPC codes from the Vitamin Shoppe were transferred into the system.

    Keep up the great work. Thanks for the awesome results.

    Like

  5. very cool idea. I guess localized versions (international) of this is too much to hope for? Or is the database user-built, so that you could scan something once, enter the food it is and then everyone else in your area can just scan?

    Like

  6. @Shane

    I don’t know if I’d like to rely on a community-built nutrition Wikipedia personally. I don’t think they’ll have french goat cheese in the DB for quite a while :p

    Like

  7. Sounds pretty interesting, but for my own purposes, I’ll probably stick to notes or just keeping it in my head. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I ate something at home that came in a package…mostly just fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Like

  8. Are you guys serious? This is a complete freakin’ joke. The people that SHOULD be tracking their calories SHOULDN’T be eating the kinds of foods that are scannable. This is an app for fat, lazy, ignorant people.

    Fruits and vegetables don’t come with barcodes.

    Like

    • Hi Brad and All,

      Thanks for the comments! I agree with the above, but one step at a time. Consider:

      1) scanning items before you eat them makes you less likely to eat crap — awareness
      2) it’s still possible to see the nutritional value of non-scannable items.

      This isn’t a tool for making people eat bar-coded foods; it’s a tool for helping people become aware of what they’re eating.

      Tim

      Like

  9. Are there any plans for DailyBurn to develop apps for WebOS? It would make DailyBurn 5xmore useful to me and I’d gladly fork over $$ for workout tracking and food-scanning apps.

    Like

  10. You know I thought I was getting by well with my customised Treo. Customised in the way that it has an iphone layout/skin.

    But it really looks like the Iphone cannot be imitated with it’s plethora of advancements.

    Time to make the jump to the Iphone!

    Like

  11. Great idea — but it definitely to work on extensions, APIs or what have you to turn the service into a platform, as some of us are more concerned about child labor, green-status or bargains rather then calories.

    Alas, like many US- based apps, it could have been developped to work with the global EAN system, but seems they have focused so far on the UPC subset (I know: E- stands for European and U- for Universal, but it’s the other way around: EAN is now the word-wide standard and UPC the US&Canada subset)— Anyway, Tom, if you know them, show them the ratio of iPhones outside of the US, and tell them how non-Americans seem to care more about calories, that should convince them to extend the service.

    Like

  12. Hello everyone,

    This is Andy (DailyBurn).

    A couple of things:

    – We certainly don’t advocate eating of processed foods all of the time. That is why we allow tracking of foods by name too.

    – We do support EAN and plan to launch in Canada, UK, etc. in 2-3 weeks.

    Thanks for all the positive comments. I am actually using this app and the awareness that it gives is pretty amazing (but hey, I am biased).

    – Andy

    Like

  13. I can see a huge popularity on that application. I’m blessed with high metabolism rate, and I rarely care about my health, so i probably won’t be needing it. However, for those who care about their health, this is almost a must have.

    Like

  14. A few days ago I was thinking about an app or device that would do just this. Also, that you could use at restaurants to make you aware of the nutritional values that you’re eating while out.

    Like

  15. DailyBurn is neat but it still solves FEW of the problems with tracking.

    Example – Give a way to enter workouts and training programs that isn’t painful and time consuming. How about a CSV or Excel format importer? As I’m entering a workout, there isn’t even a way to superset exercises.

    I dunno maybe I ask too much of sites like this being an advanced user. I guess for the person who is just getting started and needs to lose weight maybe this makes sense.

    Like

  16. My first thought was “can I add my own food and vitamin info to daily burn” and the answer was “yes!”

    I used to use a program called Fitday a long time ago and so far this is what this reminds me of but a better version with iphone portability. I really liked Fitday except for having to come back to the computer each time I wanted to enter something.

    I went ahead bought the DailyBurn app more for being able to track food and exercise away from the computer than the scanning features.

    Tangent: Just got about 25 lbs of local delicious grass fed beef tempting me from the freezer! Had some of the ground last night and it was THE best I’ve ever had (variety of cuts – got a sampler from a local farm.)

    Like

  17. Very timely! A month ago, I started taking iPhone photos of everything I eat/drink, whether made from scratch, fresh from the farmer’s market, at a gourmet restaurant, or processed. Not to count calories but to post to a Evernote to see if I had any habits creeping in. I’m a visual person, and this meal-picture experiment has made me more aware of what satisfies me in a healthy way. I just downloaded the FoodScanner app.

    Like

  18. Now, if the app could identify natural foods by photographing them (either some fancy image recognition or a mechanical turk type approach), then we’d be talking! You could even identify a whole meal like that! The turks might get expensive though.

    Like

  19. Sounds like a pretty effective tool, but I’m the type of eater who doesn’t go so far as to count calories or grams of saturated fat…i just stick with what I know to be reasonably healthy. My biggest issue is eating out, which I do a lot, but its generally impossible to tell what the nutrition content of a meal at a restaurant is. Does dailyburn have a plan to integrate restaurant meals into its database? Are there any other tools for this?

    Like

  20. I would love to have an iPhone. I don’t understand the rationale for the exclusivity with AT&T. If/when it’s available at Verizon, I’ll be getting one.

    Like

    • Found another similar application on the itunes store with a higher satisfaction rating. Food Tracker Pro.

      So in addition to what Vincent offered re a revolutionary iPhone wallet.

      Google phonewallet and see another option.

      Like

  21. I’m impressed with this application, but i find it ironic that it encourages the user to try to eat foods that have UPC codes. If you’re trying to eat better, you really should be trying to eat foods that aren’t labeled to sit on a shelf for weeks.

    Like

  22. not bad but it still makes you journal and it doesn’t help you with the initial decisions on HOW to eat healthy

    spirit of full disclosure that’s one of the tools we provide at Sensei for the iPhone, Blackberry, non-smart flip phones, etc….

    Like

  23. This is really cool. Now I’ll be tracking my food and my dreams! My goal is to gain 10 pounds of muscle by the end of the year, so I hope this helps figure out what foods have the most protein content.

    Like

  24. Great tech. But this is only useful if you eat a lot of processed food. As I eat mostly raw organic food, or buy the (most of the) raw materials to make my meals, this isn’t really that useful, you know, because tomatoes don’t have bar codes printed on them.

    Nice plug though.

    Like

  25. Why stop with the iPhone? Windows Mobile, Symbian and other OS could use this. On the other side, where is the CueCat database? That could be easily added to the mix.

    Like

  26. I also eat mostly unprocessed foods (except, of course, when I eat at a restaurant). Fruits and vegetables have a PLU, price look up code, which is a shorthand method of identification. Does this app scan and do ocr and recognize these codes? What about the product bar codes on fish, meat and poultry?

    Like

  27. I joined DailyBurn right after you mentioned it last time, and have really enjoyed the features, and how easy-to-use it is. I’ve food journaled for a couple of years to aid health and weightloss, and DB is the super-app to help you be aware of what you’re eating, and what areas you might need to focus on to reach your personal health goals. Thanks for your part in this great site!

    Like

  28. I haven’t even considered tracking my calorie intake and even buying an iphone..until now – the whole thing looks so fun and interesting, I would happily get started with this and learn more about what I’m eating. Great stuff

    Like

  29. This sounds really useful and customizable. I’ll definitely be sharing this with our readers very soon.

    This application looks very useful for those who are cooking for those with special dietary needs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, etc.

    Like

  30. While it is true that you can easily get the nutritional information just by scanning the barcode, isn’t it just easier to read the information posted on most products. Don’t get me wrong, this tool does have the major potential of becoming a very useful dietary and nutritional fount of information, but practicality must always be considered before digitizing everything. Just because you can optimize a process doesn’t always mean that you should.

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  31. Interesting but really useless if you think about it for people trying to eat healthy.

    And I went to Daily Burn and the food database is complete crap and lacks accuracy, try it and do a search it is hilarious. It’s a mess.

    Much better to use The Daily Plate at LiveStrong where all the foods have been moderated.

    Like

  32. I’ve been using Daily Burn for about a month now (great app) and got Food Scanner today (works as promised). Like Tim says, the big benefit of using something like this is the accountability that accurately logging your food brings. One trend that I’ve seen using these apps is how carb-loaded the American diet is. It is really hard to dial in the amount of protein needed for an optimal diet. Calories, Carbs and Fat are all super easy to hit but getting the right amount of quality, lean protein is tough. Thankfully there is Myoplex Lite ;)

    Like

  33. If only there were a camera on the iPod Touch. I heard industry gossip that they planned to add one on the latest version but Steve overruled the idea saying that the Touch was intended as a gaming console, not a media device. Bummer.

    By the way, who did you guys have program the app?

    Like

  34. Excited to find this website. It seems similar to The Daily Plate but I really like everything Daily Burn offers. I have joined and will be checking it out. The scanner option looks cool. And yes, it’s best to eat whole foods but it’s a process and lifestyle change so most people can’t give up processed over night so in the meantime this will be a good option to keep track of their food intake.

    Thanks for sharing such a great resource.

    Like

  35. I’ve been waiting for more applications to effectively fuse product bar-codes and the iphone camera. There is so much potential there for some really cool apps. It’s nice to see DailyBurn has taken a the leap in this area. Very cool application! :)

    Like

  36. To Shon and the other purists,

    You all sound like sanctimonious neo-hippies!

    You might want to venture into a store that sells non-bulk foods. Yep, even the hippie stores have bar-coded items; and guess what, they’re made from good stuff! Often even organic stuff. Even Safeway and Walmart have organic products.

    If you live in the U.S., pop into a Trader Joe’s store sometime, peruse a few labels. Bar codes on most products, for those of us with no time to spend the day in the kitchen. (You -know- Tim doesn’t!)

    Please, eat all the home-made, fair-trade granola you want, but realize that those who are willing and able to spend inordinate amounts of time and money obsessing about their food are in the minority. They are not necessarily healthier than those who don’t.

    I agree with Tim’s comment, it’s about awareness, and in the case of this scanner product, not spending the day at the library to get the information.

    It’ll be an awfully long time before we’re all driving solar-powered cars made of soybeans and rice straw, but meanwhile, I think getting more of the mainstream to be aware of, and have affordable access to (via places like TJ’s and Safeway, etc.) good food is a huge step in the right direction.

    No if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside to harvest some of my organic, worm-casting-fertilized lettuce and arugula. ;-)

    Like

  37. Forget the “food-scanner” aspect of it., It’s rare that now-a-days I’ll ever really be impressed or shocked with a new technology, but this is absolutely jaw-dropping, and the doors that it opens for other applications and technologies is absolutely astounding.

    Great catch Tim, now I’m going to get my iPhone!

    Like

  38. Tim, I liked your blogs better when you were not constantly trying to sell something other than helpful information …

    ( just two examples … your dailyburn product or your buddy Dr Eades’ books )

    I admire you and I like your advice until you start pushing products… it makes me feel like I am on a used car lot when I come here now … and you are the sales guy with the checkered suit coat. HEY HEY … I am just looking ok??

    But , hey .. it is your blog … and I am still here posting on it … hehehe.

    Well anyway … wishing you much success with your dailyburn thing …
    – Cheers.

    Like

    • Hi Another Tim,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Just for the record: I have never pushed product on this blog. I don’t post for favors to people.

      I was introduced to Dr. Eades b/c I’ve been a fan of his work for more than a decade. If the content I choose to publish is from a book, I give attribution and a link. Ditto for DailyBurn — I was introduced to them by a good friend and CEO in SF, and I got involved because I like the technology and its uses.

      I generally write about things I like on this blog. That’s the nature of the blog of Tim Ferriss. Look at Total Immersion, Vibrams, or any other suggestions I’ve made where I don’t have a real financial stake (try out Amazon affiliate if you believe otherwise).

      Hope that helps minimize any worries.

      Best,

      Tim

      Like

  39. I’ve skipped to buy the iphone for over a year now. My brother bought an iphone 3GS three weeks ago and showed me all the cool apps he had downloaded. We searched for over an hour for other cool apps. I’m now absolutely sold to the iphone and will get it in the next 2 weeks.

    Like

  40. I really wish they had something like this for Blackberry. I prefer it so much to Iphone. If we could only get a iTouch with a camera I would surely buy one just for apps like this..

    Like

  41. I have an Itouch, if they would added a camera to the next gen i would’ve upgraded. Jobs thought Itouch would be a gaming device? are you kidding me? The itouch is much more than that, it’s more like a productivity device or at least it’s how i view it. The cam would allow me to use it for another app i have – Evernote.
    Anyway, the technology is amazing, don’t know about the overall idea of the app though. Anybody who is health conscious enough to log his food would only have a very small percentage of his diet come from boxes, bags or cans.

    Like

  42. Tim,
    It would be great if you posted screenshots of each page of your iPhone so that we could see what other handy apps you use. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Like

  43. I love reading the comments almost as much as your posts. Seems that any new item/invention/fad is always met with some resistence, skepticism or flat-out rejection.

    I’m pretty sure that a few years from now, we’ll all have some sort of touch screen device and wonder what all the fuss was about DailyBurn…or any of the thousands of applications we will then be using as a matter of our daily activities.

    Like

  44. Tim et Al –

    1. People on their high horses about “scannable packaged food” get off! I’m not perfect and I do like something with a bar code on it once in awhile.

    2. Tim is right about making us aware: I skipped out on McDonald’s yesterday because of this app. I looked up what I was gonna have and it made me immediately sick to see the numbers.

    3. You can track things that aren’t pre-packaged. Milk, veggies, well hell everything I have ate is in here even without bar codes. Yeah, it takes a bit longer to enter those things but if we’re worrying about trying to get healthier surely 30 seconds of one’s time is not too much!

    Love this app, love the iPhone, love the site. Can’t wait to see it evolve.

    Like

  45. Random thought: It is still alien to hear people whining about it only being on the Apple platform. My how times have changed, in 1990 Apple users would have been the ones going without!

    Like

  46. If you are talking about food, you are talking about culture. What does this say about our culture? People think this is cool? It’s tragic. If you can’t remember what you had for lunch, and you don’t know if it was good for you, well . . .

    I get a little misty when I see a barcode label . . . reminds me of those meals my Grandma scanned for me.

    Like

  47. I just saw you in the “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” movie playing a cop!

    You crazy mofo.

    I found your blog recently and 2 days later made me buy your book, read the book and just wanted to say THANKS for the amazing value for just 16 bucks.

    Life hacker indeed!

    PS: Is “Trial By Fire” ever gonna happen?

    Like

  48. Great to see that things are proceeding to this direction! This will be a good tool for younger generations, but perhaps also for those who are nursing elderly people (some of them severly under-nourished). Well done Daily Burn!
    – Reijo

    Like

  49. I have been thinking about this some more and this could be a extremely helpful product for anyone with an allergy. To be able to find out if you are allergic to a product by a simple click would be nice. Maybe in a later version?

    Like

  50. I suppose reading RFID tags on the iPhone is next.

    As the iPhone and it’s relatives become more and more ubiquitous and apps get more innovative, it will be increasingly important to enter information easily and accurately. This is an elegant solution.

    There are an increasing number of medical and health-related apps that are tuning to wireless input but will benefit from technology like this.

    hLog by 4th Main Software is a iPhone application used to track health, vital health stats, exercise regimens, sleep patterns, medicines, and more. hLog can chart and compare the effects of medicines, exercise regimens, and sleep patterns over time. This app and it’s cousins will start incorporating wireless input from BP, oxygen, heartrate, and glucose sensors.

    I imagine that FoodScanner technology will be incorporated into these apps before long as well.

    Full disclosure: I am an advisor to 4th Main Software.

    Like

  51. Incredible app, thank you so much to bringing this to my attention, Tim. I’m a bigger techno nerd than I am a fitness geek, and that’s saying a lot. A lot of a lots, actually.

    I will add this to my arsenal of “my iPhone is a better friend than my friends” reasons, and continue preaching the necessity of owning one.

    In all seriousness, I’d love to recommend this to all of my clients; it would make their food journals a lot easier to check up on.

    Thanks again, Tim, you’re awesome.

    John Romaniello
    Roman Fitness Systems

    Like

    • Hi Jez,

      It’s because you are putting your business terms in your name, which is getting flagged by people going through comments. If you just use your name per the comment rules, it should show up.

      Tim

      Like

  52. To Phillip Turner.

    Yes there is a web site and a mobile site, to help you shop and select best food items for you based on your individual health profile and goals. It is called Personal Remedies. In addition to giving you food facts and nutrient contents … it gives you a personal food list, specific suggestions on best food items for you, and answer questions like Is this food item good for me.

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  53. For an individual, especially one who may have a compulsive or addictive personality, to maintain what can be referred to as a personal awareness log can be invaluable. Becoming aware, in detail, of habits such as eating or spending is a key to control. I would think that the iPhone application discussed in this post could be helpful in this regard.

    Like