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If you've ever used calorie counting apps like MyFitnessPal or Lose It, you know how a lot of guesswork is involved in tracking the amount of food you eat.
A new Kickstarter project from a little-known health food startup called Fitly wants to change that with its SmartPlate. As the name suggests, the plate uses weight sensors and three cameras to analyze the food you place on it, and then log that data on the companion smartphone app.
Specifically, the SmartPlate is divided up into three food areas, each with its own weight sensor and camera. The items placed in each section are scanned, then sent to the cloud and compared to a database of more than 8,000 foods.
The plate's companion app will break down your food by calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sodium. The company also claims it will connect to fitness trackers and other dieting apps.
Yet there are limits to the SmartPlate. For starters, don't even thinking about putting it in a microwave.
As we all know, metal in microwaves is just a bad idea. To combat this, the SmartPlate comes with a microwaveable cover that you can heat food in before transferring it to the plate.
The other issue is more conceptual. As The Verge notes, calorie-counting itself has sort of gone out of style; it's not very scientific, and even Weight Watchers has ended the practice.
The truth is, all foods—both good and bad—contain calories. It's not the number of calories you eat so much as the type that matters. For example, 200 calories of protein is probably better for you than 200 calories of sugar—and even then you're not considering exercise or overall dietary habits. Said another way, calories do not exist in a vacuum.
This is why athletes and fitness enthusiasts now focus on tracking macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein), which in the right proportions can help you feel full while still losing weight through exercise. And this is where the plate could be really useful, as it does track macronutrients.
Regardless, the SmartPlate is still far off from being publicly available, with a release date currently set for some time in summer 2016. It also has to complete its funding goal of $100,000. (It's currently at $17,000 with 45 days to go). Until then, we'll just have to resort to reading nutrition labels and using our same old food tracking apps.
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