The Easiest Way to Track Carbs on a Keto Diet

In this day and age, technology is at an all-time high and constantly improving our lives. An example of this is calorie tracking apps that provide us with an easy way to count our daily calorie and macronutrient intakes.

These calorie counting tools are a fantastic way to see almost exactly what you are putting into your body on a daily basis. But, at first, counting your calories, carbs, fats, and proteins can be a huge hassle, especially when you’re transitioning into a ketogenic diet.

This is why I put together this article to make it easier for you to track your carbs and calories on the keto diet. By following the suggestions below, you will be able to reap the many benefits to knowing exactly what is going in your body and how much of each macronutrient you need to eat to reach your goals. Now, you want the secret sauce, don’t you?

If you ask the Keto Community “how do you track your carbs on keto?” You’ll be flooded with a chorus of MFPs (MyFitnessPal) and Cronometers. Although there are other apps that are useful for carb and calorie tracking, the most popular tend to be these two.

In this article, we will be taking a look at how to use each one to track carbs on the ketogenic diet. But first, what is the difference between MyFitnessPal and Cronometer?


Pros and Cons of MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular calorie tracking apps, and it’s free (unless you want extra features that are helpful for keto dieters). The app prioritizes social networking and progress sharing with friends, which sets it apart from other apps.

With a massive food database, you can find almost any food you desire on MyFitnessPal. However, the main reason for their massive database is that anyone who uses the app can submit anything they want. This makes it difficult to know which food item in the database you should choose.

The free MyFitnessPal app also doesn’t know how to track net carbs, only total carbohydrates and fiber. This makes it a bit more tedious for keto dieters to use because they have to make their own net carb calculations.

Here’s a quick list of the pros and cons of MyFitnessPal:

Pros:

  • Social sharing
  • Weight loss/gain progress graph
  • Huge food database
  • Great for tracking packaged foods with barcodes
  • Option to add recipes directly from your favorite keto recipe websites

Cons:

  • Inaccurate food database
  • Can’t track net carbs on the free app
  • Can only use macronutrient percentages (not specific gram targets)
  • Advertisements throughout the app

Pros and Cons of Cronometer

By comparison, there’s Cron-O-Meter (hereafter referred to as Cronometer), which is a $2.99 app. The biggest differences between Cronometer and MyFitnessPal are the food database and social media aspects of the apps.

Cronometer’s food database is curated — it only has validated, correct entries with a lot more detailed information (like micronutrients and amino acids). The app also lacks a social sharing side to it unless you buy the gold subscription.

However, there is one thing that sets Cronometer apart MyFitnessPal for ketoers — a ketogenic diet mode that tracks net carbs (more on this later).

Here’s a quick list of the pros and cons of Cronometer:

Pros:

  • Ketogenic diet mode with net carb tracker=
  • More precise and accurate food database
  • Can change macronutrient and micronutrient goals by grams and percentages
  • No ads

Cons:

  • Limited food database
  • Costs $2.99
  • No weight loss/gain progress graph

Is Cronometer or MyFitnessPal Better?

Both apps will give you everything you need to track calories and carbs on keto. The fact that MyFitnessPal doesn’t track net carbs and tends to be less accurate gives Cronometer a slight edge.

Does its increased accuracy and ketogenic diet mode make Cronometer worth the extra $2.99? That’s up to you to decide.

However, there is one thing that we can decide for you. Whether you choose MyFitnessPal or Cronometer (or any other calorie tracking app), make sure you use it. By tracking your carbs every day, you can almost guarantee great results.


Why Track Your Carbs?

You might be asking me, “What’s the point of using a calorie counter?” Well, there are numerous reasons to, including:

  • Portion Control: As you increasingly read nutrition labels, you’ll realize that serving sizes are tiny. Manufacturers do that on purpose to get their counts low, and to get more people to buy. This app can help you follow proper portion control, resulting in proper diet control.
  • Ninja Carbs: Some labels show that their products have 0 carbs, but you’d be surprised at how many things actually have carbs in them. Remember, 1g of carbs can really add up over a day’s worth of eating! Splenda used to be one of my favorite things to use because it had no carbs in it, but it actually has quite a few carbs if you are using it a lot.
  • Delusional Beliefs: Oh come on, we all do it. You might drink a glass of milk and call it a cup – most of the time we don’t measure our foods out and that can be a big problem.
  • These are the main reasons why some keto dieters don’t get the results they are expecting. Luckily, as
  • long as you use a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer, you won’t have to worry about any
  • of these issues getting in your way.

How To Configure MyFitnessPal

Signing up for MyFitnessPal is simple. You can use Facebook or your email, and it will ask you for your goals, height, weight, activity level, etc. Feel free to change to units to whatever you prefer to use from here on out.

Keep in mind that you can adjust your calorie goals later if you wish. I find that using the keto calculator provides me with a more accurate estimate of how much I need to eat. After I use the calculator to find my daily needs, I plug it into MyFitnessPal.


Setting Your Macronutrient Ratios and Calorie Goals with MyFitnessPal

There are two ways (that I know of) to change your daily macronutrient and calorie goals using MyFitnessPal. Let’s stick with the easiest, more intuitive way:

Tap on “More”, then tap “Goals”.

Here you can adjust your weight,  activity levels, and weight loss/gain goals. Most importantly, this is where you can change your calorie and macronutrient goals. Tap “Calorie & Macronutrient Goals”.

From here, you can tap on one of the macronutrients (carbs, fats, or protein) to change your carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake goals.

Use your finger to adjust the percentages until they look something like this:

Note: the app will not let you save your new macronutrient goals if they don’t add up to 100%.

If you want to be more precise by using the Keto Calculator, then play around with the macronutrient percentages until you get as close as you can to what the calculator suggests. Unfortunately, the free version of MyFitnessPal does not let you change your macronutrient goals by using grams.

Sometimes the calorie estimates are off as well. If this is the case, then you can tap on the calories row and change your daily calorie goal to match what the keto calculator says.

If you are not using the calculator, you can play around with your daily calorie allowance depending on how much weight you want to lose per week. This is up to you, but we recommend no more than a 30% calorie deficit.

Once you’ve double checked your daily nutrition goals, you can click the arrow on the top left of the screen to go back to the Goals screen.

If you would like to set additional nutrient goals and/or fitness goals, then scroll down and tap on the relevant option to adjust it. (Unfortunately, there is no option for “net carbs”, so you will have to calculate that on your own — there will be more on how to do that later in this article.)

Now that you have set your goals, you are ready to track your food consumption.


How To Track Meals Using MyFitnessPal

Click the back button until you are in the “More” menu. See the big “+” at the bottom? This is one of the many methods you can use to enter what you just ate.

Tap the “+” and choose the red “food” button. Select whatever meal you are about to add in.

Now, you’ll be at a screen where you have many options. You can search for the food by tapping the search bar, you can tap the location logo next to the search bar to find a restaurant that you ate at, or you can click the barcode icon to scan the barcode of the food package.  Most of the time, however, you will be using the search option.

For example, let’s plug in the eggs that I had for breakfast. To do this, we must search for the food item (or scan the barcode of the egg carton by tapping the barcode icon).

Look at all the options you get when you search “eggs”. Which one should you choose?

A useful tip to use when you are overwhelmed by options is to choose the item that matches the description of what you ate and has a green check mark next to it. According to MyFitnessPal, the green check mark means that the food has complete nutrition information and accurately reflects the nutrition information from the product packaging.

For this reason, I stick to using the foods that have a green check next to them and/or scan the barcode from the food packaging. This allows me to be as accurate with my calorie tracking as possible.

Anyway, let’s get back to tracking breakfast. Let’s tap on “eggs” with the green check mark next to it.

Here you can change the serving size and number of servings to accurately reflect what you ate just by tapping the appropriate row. Since I had 4 large eggs, I am going to leave the serving size as is and change the number of servings to 4.

This tells MyFitnessPal that I ate 4 large eggs, and it will accurately reflect this when I click the white check mark at the top right of the screen.


How To Find Net Carbs For Each Food Entry on MyFitnessPal

Before we leave this screen, let’s see what other information it has. By scrolling down, we can access all the nutrition info available on that food item. We can also use this information to calculate the net carbs of that item to make sure it fits into our daily net carb limit.

To do this, subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of carbs. For example, the four eggs I ate had 1.4 total grams of carbs and 0 grams of fiber. The net carbs = 1.4 – 0 = 1.4 grams.

This is such a small amount for four eggs! This is why eggs are a staple of the keto diet.


How To Find Your Daily Net Carb Intake Using MyFitnessPal

After a full day of keto-friendly eating and calorie tracking, you have all the info you need to calculate your net carb intake.

First, make sure you are in your food dairy by tapping the “Diary” icon to the left of the “+” sign.  Tap on the banner at the top that has your daily calories remaining.

You’ll be taken to a screen that provides you with your daily nutrient breakdown. Here you will find all the relevant information that you need to ensure you are following the ketogenic diet correctly.

To calculate your net carb intake for the day, take your total fiber number and subtract it from your total grams of carbohydrates.

For example, after a sample day of beginner keto eating, I consumed 33 grams of carbs and 13 grams of fiber. 33 – 13 = 20 net carbs — not bad!


How To Make Meal Tracking Easier with MyFitnessPal

After a couple of days using MyFitnessPal, you’ll notice that it is a pretty tedious task to plug in every single ingredient that you eat. If you are like me and have a couple of staple keto recipes that you always go back to, then you can make calorie tracking process easier by creating recipes.

Simply tap “Create a Recipe” after you get to one of these two screens (testing what you learned a little bit):

You can either enter the ingredients manually or add them from a website.

To insert my favorite Ruled.me recipes, for example, I enter the website on the app and search through the website to find what I am looking for.

When you tap “Import Recipe,” the app will find the ingredients and write them down for you.

Click the white arrow on the top right for the app to match the ingredients. If you find any ingredient that is inaccurate, then you can choose an alternative. Plus, you can add or delete any ingredient by choosing the options at the bottom of the screen.

Once everything looks good, click the right white arrow.

At the next screen, you have to scroll down all the way to see all the options. Here you can make sure the name, servings, and calorie breakdowns are accurate before you save it.

Once it is saved, you can log it at any time you’d like. All you have to do is click on the “Recipes” tab (found under the barcode logo on the food item adding page), click on the keto-friendly recipe, and log the number of servings that you ate.


How To Configure Cronometer

If you’d rather pay for an app that tracks your net carbs, micronutrients, and is much more customizable and accurate, then I’d recommend using Cronometer.

Here’s how to set it up:

First, you must purchase, download the app, and set up an account.

Once you end up at this screen, you are ready to set your macronutrient and calorie goals.


How to Set Your Macronutrient Ratios and Calorie Goals with Cronometer

Tap on the “Profile” button and scroll down.

Here you will find your “Body Details” (which you can edit at any time) and your macronutrients and nutrient targets.

First, let’s set our macronutrient targets. You can do this in one of two ways:

1. Use the keto calculator to find out your daily calorie, fat, protein, and carb requirements, and plug them in by tapping on “Macronutrient Targets”.

2. Tap on the “Diet Profile (Fixed Targets)” row and change it to “low carb ketogenic.”

Either way, you will get about the same macronutrient goals. What sets them apart is that the “low carb ketogenic” setting allows you to set your daily protein intake and net carbs directly and fill in the rest of your daily caloric intake goals with fat.

You can also select the custom option to set your specific goals or try out other options if they make more sense for you.

Not sure what these options are? Let’s look at what the people at Cronometer say about “Low Carb Ketogenic” mode.


A Quick Overview of Low Carb Ketogenic Mode on Cronometer

According to Cronometer’s website, here is what the different presets for low carb ketogenic mode do:

  • Rigorous is recommended for people doing a ketogenic diet for therapeutic reasons (cancer, epilepsy, etc…) where limits on carbs and protein need to be very tight. This is also a good setting for people who are very sensitive to carbohydrates and cannot easily maintain nutritional ketosis without very strict limits.
  • Moderate should be a good range for most people practicing a ketogenic diet for weight loss or health benefits.
  • Relaxed can be used by people who are very athletic and/or have determined through self-monitoring that they can maintain ketosis at higher levels of carbs and protein.
  • Custom lets you edit any of the values as you and your healthcare team sees fit.

For those who want more in-depth info about how they calculate protein intake and net carb limits, here is how the people at Cronometer describe it:

Your maximum protein is set based on a multiplier for each kilogram of lean body mass. For strict ketogenic diets, this is typically 0.8 grams of protein per kg, and the Moderate setting has it at 1 gram per kg. Pregnant and lactating women will have an additional 25 grams of protein added — but please note that this should only be done with the approval and close supervision by a medical professional.

Their protein target is set based on your lean body mass, but feel free to use the keto calculator to find your protein needs and plug it into Cronometer.

When it comes to setting your carb limit, here is what Cronometer does:

Your maximum carbohydrates are set again based on the strictness setting, and an additional 1 grams of carbohydrates are added for every 50 kcal of exercise, as those that are highly athletic can typically handle more carbohydrates without hampering ketosis. This can be toggled on or off with the Athletic Bonus checkbox.

Whether you choose “Default (Fixed Targets)” mode or “Low Carb Ketogenic” mode, make sure you click the save button at the top right of the screen. Your settings will not be automatically saved.

After you adjust these macronutrient targets, you will go back to the settings menu where you can set your goals for other nutrients by tapping “Nutrient Targets” as well.

Here you can fine-tune your goals for nutrients like water, vitamins, minerals, and specific amino acids, fats, and carbs, as well as your daily calorie goals.

Now that you have all of your daily goals set and ready for a successful ketogenic diet, let’s learn how to track food consumption on Cronometer.


How To Track Meals Using Cronometer

Just like in MyFitness Pal, when you want to make an addition to your food diary, you have to tap on the “+” sign.

The food adding screen looks very similar to MyFitnessPal and functions similarly too. You have a search bar to type in the food you ate and a barcode scanning option as well.

To add the four eggs that I add with breakfast to my food log, I type in eggs and select “eggs, cooked.” Since I ate four large eggs, I am going to tap the “medium” button and change it to large and type in 4 instead of 1.

As you can see, the great thing about using cronometer for keto is that it gives me the net carbs for each item without me having to calculate it.

Once you’ve entered the right food, servings size, and amount, click “Save” to add. This will add the food item to your food diary for the day, which you can see by tapping “my diary” on the bottom left of the screen.

By swiping right on the banner that is below the date, you will be able to get more information like your total energy intake, protein, net carbs, and fat.

If you are looking for more details (like your vitamin, mineral, and fiber intake), then simply tap on the middle of that banner and scroll down to get all the info you need.


Making Meal Tracking Easier With Cronometer

Although you can’t import recipes directly from ruled.me with Cronometer, you can still create your own recipes and add your foods to your app’s database for future use.

To add a new recipe or food, tap the “My Food” icon.

After that, tap “+ New Food” if you want to enter a food item that isn’t in the database or “+ New Recipe” if you want to add a recipe that consists of multiple ingredients.

To create a new recipe, simply click “add ingredients” and add them until it matches what you find in your recipe. After you are done adding the ingredients, change the servings and recipe name to your preference.

Adding a new food seems like a trivial option at first, but when you consider the fact that Cronometer has a more limited (albeit more accurate) food database than MyFitnessPal,  it makes sense for Cronometer to have this feature.

If you have a food item that you can’t find in Cronometer’s database, then use the information from that food’s nutrition facts label to create a “new food.”


My Personal Side by Side Review of Cronometer vs. MyFitnessPal

If we compare the results of tracking the same meals side by side, we can see that MyFitnessPal and Cronometer are within 100 calories and 4 grams of net carbs of each other. The most significant discrepancy between the two apps was in the calories of the meat. Chicken and beef were both highly variable between the two apps. For example, 12 oz. of 85% lean ground beef on MyFitnessPal has 720 calories, while 12 oz. of 85% lean ground beef on Cronometer has 792.7. A small difference that may become significant if you eat a lot of meat every day.

It was also difficult to find the same type of chicken (shredded chicken breast) in Cronometer that I used in MyFitnessPal. When it put it all together, the differences between the macronutrient breakdowns of the beef and the chicken is what is to blame for an almost 100 calorie difference between the apps.

With that being said, a less than 100 calorie and 5 net carb difference isn’t much. So, when it comes to macronutrient accuracy, you are probably safe with MyFitnessPal and Cronometer.

From my perspective, the fact that Cronometer prioritizes accuracy and has many keto diet specific settings gives it a slight edge. However, if you like the extra functionality of MyFitnessPal (adding recipes straight from websites like Ruled.me), its vast food database, and the social aspect of the app, then I’d suggest trying MyFitnessPal out.


Final Thoughts

No matter what calorie counting app you choose, I hope you now know how to utilize these calorie tracking tools to make the most out of your efforts on a keto diet.

It’s extremely beneficial to keep a log of what you are eating, especially in the first 2 months that you start. In fact, a 2011 meta-analysis of 22 studies on self-monitoring found that  “all [15] of the 15 studies that focused on dietary self-monitoring found significant associations between self-monitoring and weight loss.” In other words, tracking your calories is a great way to boost your results.

Personally, I’ve been logging my food for years now, and it has helped me reach my goals more quickly and easily. Tracking my food intake also helps me understand what I need more of in my diet so that I can be as healthy as possible.

And since I eat almost the same thing every day, logging what I eat has become super simple because the apps now have my favorite recipes and most frequent foods ready to be selected without me having to search for them every time.

Both Cronometer and MyFitnessPal have their pros and cons, but one is not — beyond a reasonable doubt — better than the other. Both apps will give you the functionality that you need to track your calories successfully and get the most out of your ketogenic diet. The calorie tracking app that you choose is up to you and your personal preference.

If you have any trouble with either app, please let me know, and I’ll be sure to help you out!