Meal Snap app: Camera-powered calorie counting

You can already use the iPhone's camera to scan bar codes, identify landmarks, and price-shop goods. Now it computes the calories on your plate as well.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Tell your cheese to say "cheese!" Meal Snap takes photos of your food, then tells you how many calories it contains.
Tell your cheese to say "cheese!" Meal Snap takes photos of your food, then tells you how many calories it contains. DailyBurn

Want to lose weight? Forget fad diets: eat fewer calories. Ah, but easier said than done, right? Counting calories is not only a hassle, it's downright difficult for certain types of meals.

Enter DailyBurn's Meal Snap ($2.99), an ingeniously clever--if not entirely perfect--app that takes a photo of the food on your plate, then delivers an estimated calorie count.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? And it is, though there are limits to the app's accuracy. In my quick and informal tests, Meal Snap easily identified a small pile of strawberries, and correctly estimated the calories at 38-57. But it took a couple minutes for it to process and present the info.

Next, I gathered an egg, an orange, a banana, and a small container of yogurt. This time I entered the food names in the caption field--an optional step--and Meal Snap returned its total calorie count in a matter of seconds. But the range was a bit broad: 269-404.

The only thing it really had trouble with was a decidedly amorphous serving of lentils, which it incorrectly identified as peas and gravy.

The app lets you categorize your snapshots as specific meals and/or snacks, and keeps a running tally of your daily total. Thus, it's not at all a bad way to count calories, though obviously it won't be 100 percent accurate.

If you'd rather start your count before the food hits your plate, check out DailyBurn's FoodScanner app, which scans package bar codes.

With a little more speed and accuracy, Meal Snap could join the pantheon of truly jaw-dropping apps (which includes the likes of Google Translate, Shazam, and Word Lens). As it stands, it's a handy (and still pretty jaw-dropping) tool for keeping your calories in check.