Diet by texting!

New service lets you send a text to find nutritional information.

I wish I could say that Diet.com's new Nutrition on the Go service only appeals to obsessive health nuts. But if that's true, then I am one. I was pretty excited about the possibilities...until I tried it.

The concept is pretty simple: You text the name of a restaurant and the menu item you're interested in to DIET1, or 34381. In theory, the site returns the nutritional information for the food you entered, including calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. If you're doing Weight Watchers, you can add "Points" or even "pts" to your query and get the Weight Watchers rating, as well.

Nutrition on the Go is a great idea--who hasn't wondered just how bad that burrito (you know, the one the size of a newborn baby?) could possibly be. This is the kind of service that can actually head off that horrible mistake before it happens. That's why it's such a bummer that the database seems, at least right now, pretty limited. Worse, it's limited to restaurants that are patently bad for you! Nutrition To Go works like a charm if you're only looking for nutritional information for McDonald's, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, or Burger King. Now, you tell me: How often are the patrons of McDonald's, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and Burger King looking for precise nutritional data before they order? The service does have Starbucks, which is a coup, and which you should know can be really, really bad for you. Consider their press release example:

Starbuck's White Hot Chocolate - No Whip (nonfat Milk) Grande Cals: 480, Fat: 18g, Carb: 63g, Prt: 17g

Ouch. But I searched for a Chipotle burrito, and even though Chipotle is owned by McDonald's, I got nothing. I searched for "Applebees buffalo wings" and also got no results. I wasn't trying to trick the service, I can understand why it might, for example, only have information on chain restaurants, but I thought those two were pretty common.

Now, to be fair, when Nutrition on the Go works, it works, but it's best to be precise. I queried "Taco Bell taco" and got back: Taco Bell Taco Salad with Salsa and Shell (Calories 790; Fat 42g; Carb 73g; Protein 31g). When I sent "Taco Bell soft taco," I got back the complete specs for a beef soft taco (210 calories, 10 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein).

Overall, I can see loving Nutrition on the Go if the database is filled out a bit more. Currently, the site says it offers "over [sic] 36,000 foods from 1,700 restaurants in North America." If that's the case, I suggest an alphabetical or even regional list of the restaurants, just so I could scan it for the ones I go to often. That would save me both frustration and pounds. After all, I know that a Chipotle carnitas burrito isn't the best choice I could make this week, but I don't know know. Save me from myself, Diet.com!

 

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