The Daily Plate

My dad had a fairly large store of stock sayings. I won’t go into all of them (at least not today) but more than a few have stuck in my head over the years. The one I’m thinking of right now is, “Always use the right tool for the right job.”

I’m pretty sure Tim the Tool Man Taylor here would agree. Trying to drive a screw into a block of wood just isn’t going to work as well if you try to use a ball of twine for the job. No one would ever think of building a house using squirrels. (Hmmm… I guess I should take that back since I just thought of it. And now I wonder: would the squirrels be doing the building? Or would you just use them like hammers? Hmmm…)

Anyway, back to reality. One of my favorite tools right now is The Daily Plate. I haven’t been on any official diet plan lately other than good old-fashioned calorie counting. And nothing helps you count calories like a good journaling tool.

I should go on the record that I hate counting calories. I’ve always viewed it as a complicated, painful, and pointless exercise which did little more than get me teed off. (That, of course, would simply drive me to Cheez-Its. So “counter-productive” would be an understatement here.)

However, last July when I realized I needed to do something, I started using The Daily Plate to track foods. What sold me on it was the first time I typed in Sandwich Pal and it was in their database. The heavens opened and beams of light shone down on me, accompanied by that angelic, “Ahhhhh!” sound. I knew I was home.

Because, let’s face it, the worst part about counting calories is all the number crunching. If I have a loafa bread for breakfast, a containera milk for lunch, and a sticka butter for dinner, then I don’t want to have to hunt down all the fat, carbs, and calories I just ate. Other tools I used never had very specific items in their database. I would always fall back on the generic equivalents, and never feel like I was truly zeroing in on my true consumption.

The Daily Plate’s most powerful feature is its huge, huge database. And that, as you might have already guessed, is also its biggest problem. For example, let’s say you had some pizza for lunch. So you go to the TDP database, search for “pizza” and are presented with this:

See all those numbers? Those are result pages. That represents two hundred and fifty pages of results. If this were Google, you’d be looking at something like this:

And why is it like that? Look carefully at the top line. It says, “Can’t find what you’re looking for? Add a new food to our database.” The Daily Plate’s greatest strength is that anyone can add a food item to their database. And that’s what makes it such a pain to work with sometimes. Anyone can add a food item to their database.

Fortunately it has a pretty good search engine. Even more fortunately, it remembers what you’ve entered and has two great interfaces for letting you quickly re-enter the foods you eat regularly.

Minor flaws aside, it’s worked wonders for me the last six months (excluding that seven pounds in six days gain last week!) It lets me know when I’m under eating and when I’ve gone overboard. It helps me track trends and spot problem areas. Sometimes it even prevents me from eating something I know I shouldn’t. (Before TDP, I might think, “Oh what the heck” and pop it right in my mouth. Now I stop and think, “Oh never mind. I don’t want to bother with the data entry.”)

How about you? Have any of you ever used The Daily Plate? Do you use another tool? Have you ever tried tracking foods before at all? Let me know what your experiences are.

For me, all I know is that I’ve never been able to do this before, and TDP helped make it happen. It was definitely the right tool for the job.

26 Responses to “The Daily Plate”

Laura Brandon said
January 8, 2009 at 12:11 am

i use sparkpeople, which sounds like it’s probably pretty similar. never tried tdp but i know a lot of people like it. is that the one that tells you what you can do to burn the calories in the item you just tracked?

A said
January 8, 2009 at 4:39 am


Saame here with the ‘stop and think’ before eating because of the data entry that I’d have to do. I use sparkpeople to track the calories.

Brandi said
January 8, 2009 at 6:27 am

I have done it before, I don’t do a whole lot of it now. I used to use this website:

Its the national nutrient database. They have A LOT of food in there, but no brands really so it doesn’t get REALLY specific. But it helps when you are cooking your own meals.

Mara said
January 8, 2009 at 6:46 am

I love TDP! Sparkpeople is way too big of a pain for me to use it, but TDP is simple enough!

Helen said
January 8, 2009 at 7:36 am

Another Sparkpeople person here. I love it because I can customize it with the food ‘I’ eat if I can’t find what I’m looking for. Plus they have a recipe function that will calculate the nutrients. Love it.

Meg said
January 8, 2009 at 7:48 am

I love DailyPlate! I couldn’t believe how easy searching for the randomest foods was!

Jennifer said
January 8, 2009 at 7:50 am

I’ve used fit day, and spark people, but never seem to stick to it, I think I will check out TDP today!

MaryB said
January 8, 2009 at 7:53 am

Although I signed up for it months ago, I have never used it other than to read the e-mails they send me. I will start using it today! I count points, and keep track of them in a notebook/in my head/on the back of my hand but I think The Daily Plate will be a great tool for me!
Thanks for reminding me and shame on you for thinking of using cute little squirrels for hammer!
A nature loving squirrel-feeder

MarkL said
January 8, 2009 at 8:09 am

I love the Daily Plate. I have been using it for more than a year and a half and it’s helped me lose 100 pounds so far. I tell people all the time to try it just so they can know what they are actually eating in a day.

Emily said
January 8, 2009 at 8:13 am

I just joined The Daily Plate after reading this entry. I like the setup and the extensive databases of food and exercise, but I’m not sure i trust the calorie calculations– can I *really* eat that many calories and lose 2 lbs/week? And does a 10-minute walk really burn that many calories? I dunno, it seems a little too generous. Have you found those aspects to be accurate?

Nicole said
January 8, 2009 at 8:39 am

Or you could build a house OUT of squirrels… think good insulation. You’d have to figure out a way to get them to hold still for many years. The home would inevitably be haunted by the ghosts of squirrel insulation. Probably a bad idea…

Charlie said
January 8, 2009 at 8:46 am

Jennifer: I started using FitDay back in 2001. It never got any better. And getting logged out every fifteen minutes was quite annoying. I mean, I’m writing down Cheez-Its, not conducting huge financial transactions.

Emily: It provides guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Weight loss is far too complex and there are so many individual variations that it can’t possibly work for everybody. I wouldn’t follow it blindly, but calibrate yourself to it. If it says you can eat 2000 calories a day and lose weight, then eat 2000 calories a day for two weeks and see what happens!

Nicole(s): Yes, bad idea. I saw Poltergeist.

Jessica said
January 8, 2009 at 9:00 am

I have tried sparkpeople and other “type it in and we tell you how many calories you just consumed” but then I think, “Hm… was that 125 g or 1 L of Widget I just ate. I hate calorie counting too. Mostly because I hate measuring 🙂

(And she wonders why she’s got a little extra padding. Ok, maybe she doesn’t wonder… she knows.)

Deborah said
January 8, 2009 at 9:10 am

I’ve tried several and found that I like the best. There is a fee of $9 per month but it has all the things that are really helpful. It even has a “fridge” to store your most often used foods in it so you don’t have to go searching over and over again (sigh, makes me think of you everyday). It tells me how many calories I have left to reach the goal I’ve set for myself and adds to that when I put in my exercise. It lets you customize your exercise or you can choose from a butt load of thiers and modify them to your calorie burn if you have a way to calculate that on your own. It has wonderful beedback, letting you know how much fats, protiens, sodium, vitamins, etc. you had for the day. And when you close out the day it tells you when you will be to your goal weight if you did just like you did on that day. It has really goaded me into working hard since I started in right after Christmas. And because of the added function of adding my exercise calories into it, it makes me want to exercise even if I don’t feel like it.

I would never be 60+ pounds lighter without some type of tracking tool.

Tammy said
January 8, 2009 at 9:11 am

I have also been using TDP.

I tried Spark People last year and didn’t like it nearly as well.

Quix said
January 8, 2009 at 9:24 am

I’m a sparkpeople person, have been for 16 months now. I find that an approximation is good enough for me – just having the knowledge that I have to write down what I eat makes me eat better. I also like that it’s part calorie and exercise counting, it’s also a social network site so you end up meeting some cool people. There are challenges and teams you can join…at first I thought it was hokey but I really think it’s part of the reason I actually lost the weight this time.

Tom Rooney said
January 8, 2009 at 9:49 am

I’d think it may be appropriate to build a TREE house with squirrels, just not a conventional stick build. My father must have attended the same school as yours did Charlie. His was always measure twice, cut once. Just never seemed to work when I was younger and sharing a sandwich with my 2 brothers. Cut once?

Biz said
January 8, 2009 at 10:04 am

I love my The only thing, like you mentioned, that I didn’t like about thedailyplate, is that you’d search for “taco soup” and the first hit would be someone’s recipe and it would say like “1000 calories, 56 grams of fat, etc.”

It’s free, but I did upgrade to $7.95 a month to get monthly reports, etc. It’s done WONDERS for my carb counting for my insulin.

All I have to do is weigh my food to get an accurate account.

But again, whatever works for you, use it!

Pubsgal said
January 8, 2009 at 11:34 am

I noodled around with TDP, but I found the same problem with too many entries when I was trying to calorie count my salad.

Although I work in high tech, I’m kind of a luddite about some things. I made myself a customized weekly health log, print a sheet out each week, and do all my tracking offline. I sometimes use online resources or the small Calorie King pocket-sized book to look up nutritional data when I don’t know it offhand.

Jo said
January 8, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I use It does both food and workouts like TDP. However, it hasn’t been around as long and thus the DB of foods and workouts are not as large. I even have it on my iPhone for remote updates. I’ll have to look at TDP more.

Vicki said
January 8, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Another SparkPeople user here!!

Jerry/Mom said
January 9, 2009 at 10:27 am

I hate counting calories, even though when I do, it makes a difference and I do drop pounds. Also, I think that keeping track of what I eat also encourages me to exercise more faithfully. So I loaded all my info into TDP yesterday, and lost two pounds overnight! (results not typical) Seriously, I’m going to do it for a month. Hmmm – maybe not so much during the four days in Vegas in a couple of weeks.

Tuscanystone said
January 10, 2009 at 3:28 am

Like you, I always avoided calorie counting and like you, I’ve been keeping a food journal for the last few months.

I thought it would be a pain, but the online tools are amazing and it probably only takes 5 mins per day to make those good food choices!

I use

I guess my only complaint is that the foods are American. So sometimes the names are differnet (ie we call zucchini’s courgettes!) and UK brand foods aren’t on there. Not a problem seeing as I dont eat much of them really so I just set up new foods when they aren’t in there. Amazing how you eat the same stuff over and over again so its pretty painless after you’ve created your regular foods.

Tusc 😀

Amy said
January 10, 2009 at 5:11 am

I hate counting anything. Calories. Points. Pounds added on the scale. I just want to eat less and move more and have some magic happen. Of course, sitting on my couch with my laptop for hours on end is not a good start.

Laura said
January 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I started using The Daily Plate last January (08) off and on, but then really started faithfully in the beginning of November. So it’s been almost 3 months now, and I have lost 20 pounds, and have 5-7 more pounds to go until I reach my goal weight. I tried for almost a year until I finally started losing, and tracking EVERYTHING EVERYDAY, no exceptions was the key for me. It’s too easy to say, oh this party doesn’t count or this vacation doesn’t count. But when you think like that you are only hurting yourself. It annoys me that people don’t want to take responsibility for the food they eat (portions really) and then complain that they don’t lose anything. Seriously. You have to actually WORK at it, it won’t happen on its own, and I should know. I was one of the people who expected it to happen magically. What ended up working for me was to not rule out any food, but to only take very small portions. I can have half of a small brownie, or 3 oz. of ice cream. But I don’t gorge on anything. That way I don’t feel deprived. And I have stayed around 1200-1600 calories a day for months now. Tracking really works.

Anonymous said
February 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

The Daily Plate rules!!! I never dabbled in diets or counted calories. But now I’m in my mid-30s and have recently quit smoking. This is just the perfect tool to retrain myself how to eat without going overboard. I have stuck with it for over 6 weeks and really enjoy the results!