I’ve previously recommended three apps for beginner vegans to make your life easier. You can read about those in this post.
But first, you should download Cronometer.
Cronometer is a nutrient tracker and it is essential for the first few weeks of your transition to a vegan diet.
Why Should You Keep a Food Diary … at Least at First
Converting to a plant-based diet can cause worry over getting all of the essential macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) and micronutrients your body needs.
If you’re cutting out dairy, meat and eggs all at once, you might be worried you aren’t getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and protein. If you’re eating a balanced plant-based diet including legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, you are probably doing just fine.
But if you’re eating nothing but hummus and green smoothies, you’re probably not getting everything your body needs through your diet.
And if you’re a junk food vegan, surviving on Beyond Meat burgers, Gardein Crabless Cakes, and Oreos, you’re likely not getting all of your body’s required nutrients either. (Even if you’re vegan for the animals, it’s still important to take care of your health so you can continue to advocate for animal welfare for many years to come.)
To be honest, omnivores could benefit from using Cronometer as well; they’ll probably be surprised they’re not consuming adequate fiber, vitamins and minerals, and far too much saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It could be the wake-up call they need that will direct them toward a vegan diet!
How to get Cronometer
You can download Cronometer on your Android for free or on iPhone for $2.99 for an ad-free version. Download them here:
After inputting a few basic details (age, height, weight, and activity level), you can start to keep a food diary and watch the vitamin, mineral and nutrient meters turn from yellow (daily recommended value not yet met) to green (daily recommended value met) to red (too much of a bad thing, like sodium and trans fat).
You can also access Cronometer online at cronometer.com. But as we’re often on our mobile phones, and because of the scanning feature I’m about to tell you about, it’s very helpful to have the app downloaded as well.
Log Your Food
The app makes it easy to add to your food diary. Just type what you’re eating and the app will go through its enormous database of food with preloaded nutritional information.
Type “apple” and you’ll get a list starting with “Apple, Fresh, With Skin … Apple, fried … Apple Crisp … Apple betty … Apple drink … Apple; chips,” and so on until you get to “Apple Jacks cereal (Kellogg’s) … Apple Pie, Bottom and Top Crust … Apple cabbage salad, with mayo dressing.” Yep, it’s a pretty extensive database!
If you’re eating a pre-packaged/branded food item and you are able to scan its bar code, the app allows you to do that as well.
In the off-chance that your food or supplement isn’t in the database, you can submit it by taking a photo of the nutrition label.
It just takes a few seconds to a couple of minutes to add your food after eating a snack or meal, depending on how many ingredients you need to record.
And then, Cronometer works its magic and the results are priceless.
Are You Giving Your Body What It Needs?
Cronometer gives you an in-depth look at all of the nutrients you’ve consumed for the day, compared to the daily recommended values for those nutrients. It actually tracks over 80 micronutrients so you can fine-tune your food intake — that’s more than any other food diary app I’ve seen anywhere.
The app doesn’t just tell you how many grams of protein you’ve consumed — it breaks it down to show you how many grams of each specific amino acid (there are 11 of them) you’ve consumed.
Cronometer also calculates your intake of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folate, A, C, D, E and K, along with minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc.
Don’t Forget to Log Your Drinks
Cronometer keeps track of alcohol, caffeine, and water content as well, so remember to log what you drink.
I recommend using the Plant Nanny app for motivation and tracking your water intake. At the end of each day, I look at the total ounces I’ve logged on Plant Nanny and add that to my Cronometer diary. My water meter usually shoots up from yellow to green.
Oh, and Supplements
Do you take vitamins and supplements? As a vegan, you should at least take a B12 supplement, as I detailed in this post.
You can track your B12, your daily multivitamin and even your protein powders and more on the app, as well.
Track Exercise, Too
As a bonus, Cronometer syncs with other devices and apps to give you a complete picture of your health. As a runner, I am grateful that Cronometer syncs with my Garmin automatically to know how many calories I’ve burned through exercise.
Cronometer will keep an estimated running total of how many calories you’ve burned throughout the day, based on your basal metabolic rate, exercise and general activity.
Whether you’re trying to lose, gain, or maintain your current weight, this can be helpful because you can take note of how many calories you’ve consumed compared to how many you’ve burned.
Perks of the Paid Version
Upgrade to the Gold Edition for $5.99 a month, $24.95 for 6 months or $34.95 for one year to get certain perks in Cronometer:
- No advertisements — there really aren’t too many ads, and if they’re videos they’re only a few seconds long. But if you really can’t stand ads, then go for it.
- Ask the Oracle feature — if you’re low on a specific nutrient, the oracle can suggest what you should eat to fulfill that need
- Sort diary into custom groups like breakfast, lunch and dinner — if you want your diary in an easier-to-read-at-a-glance format
- Share foods and recipes with friends — if you want some accountability with friends
- Printable report generator and advanced trend charting and analysis — if you’re REALLY into numbers
What I Learned From Using Cronometer
Cronometer has put my mind at ease about getting enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals through my diet.
My fiber intake is consistently more than 200% of the daily recommended value, I get plenty of protein, although most days I come up short on the specific amino acid cystine.
My sodium bar is always red by the end of the day, as I apparently consume up to 175% of the recommended daily value. Whoops!
But my vitamins are nearly always all green, and like, way green. Today I got 2001% of the recommended amount of Vitamin A, mostly due to the massive amount of sweet potato and rainbow chard I ate. (If you tap on the specific vitamin in your analysis on the app, it’ll show you a breakdown of which foods gave you that nutrient. This also works on the web version if you hover over the colored bar.)
I decided against upgrading to Cronometer’s Gold Edition because I really don’t mind the ads, I don’t care about sorting my list of foods, I don’t care about sharing my foods with friends, and the analysis is thorough enough for me. I was tempted to upgrade just to see the Ask the Oracle feature in action, but then I realized I could just Google “vegan foods high in selenium” to fulfill my deficiency for the day.
While I know I won’t stick with logging my food daily with Cronometer (another reason I didn’t upgrade to the paid version), I feel it was very helpful to log for a couple of weeks to see which nutrients I’m consistently falling short on and discovering which foods I should be eating to resolve those deficiencies.
I recommend giving it a try for two weeks and really paying attention to the analysis to adjust your diet accordingly. You might want to stick with it longer if you find that your diet is inconsistent, or if you need accountability while trying to lose or maintain weight.
This is also a great app for when you just don’t feel right but can’t put your finger on the cause.
I see a lot of posts in vegan Facebook groups from people who say, “I’m so tired lately. What could I be missing?” Well, there’s an easy way to figure that out! Log your food and drinks for a couple of days and you might find that you’re not consuming enough magnesium, potassium, B vitamins or iron. Cronometer takes out the guesswork.
What’s one app that has helped you the most in your plant-based journey? Let me know in the comments!