If you watch the video above, you get the impression that the Lose It app can give you a calorie count of the food on your plate just by snapping a photo. When I first saw this I thought it was too good to be true. And then I remembered something I wrote about Google's Im2calories technology. It was still in testing mode and had no release date. "Maybe," I thought, "the Lose It app is using that technology now."

Nope.

I gave the Snap It feature on the Lose It app a test run, and it is far from being able to count the calories in your food simply by analyzing a photo. There are many more steps to find the calories in your food than simply snapping and counting.

In order to get the correct amount of calories for the food in your photo, you also need to measure and weigh it.

lose-it-snap-it-featureAs you can see from the photo at the left, once you snap a photo of the food you're eating — in this case some Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream — the app has you pick what the food is. So, I clicked on ice cream and expected the app to tell me how many calories were in my small bowl of ice cream, wondering how it was going to know. How would it know if it was full-fat or low-fat ice cream? How would it know there was peanut butter in there? How would it know what size scoop I had in the bowl? You can see by the next photo it didn't know any of that.


Snap-it-choicesAfter clicking on ice cream, this is the next screen I saw. I had to type in the name of the ice cream in order to find the specific brand and flavor. Then I needed to know if I had a serving, which would mean either measuring or weighing the food. So I'm not sure what good taking the photo does. I could skip that step and just go straight to typing in the name of the food.

It would have been fabulous if this app really could calculate calories just from a photo, but it doesn't. It just seems to add an extra step. The app may still be helpful in getting the amount of food you eat under control, but for now, counting calories still involves measuring or weighing.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.