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Mobile Apps

Finally! A good reason to take pictures of your food

Food-tracking app Lose It! lets users snap photos to log their meals and overcome dieting drudgery.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Tracking what you eat can be a tedious practice. Food-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! have made it slightly more enjoyable by allowing users to scan food bar codes using their smartphones, but it's still a slow process.

A new feature from Lose It! may change this and actually make food tracking more enjoyable. The feature, called Snap It, lets you take a picture to log your food, rather than having to scan a bar code. Lose It! describes it as the first-ever food-photo tracking and analysis feature on the market.

Here's how it works. You open the Lose It! app and navigate to the Log tab. Then tap the camera icon next to the meal or snack you'd like to log and either snap a photo or choose one from your library. The app will analyze the image and offer up suggestion as to what it may be. Once you select the correct suggestion, you will then be able to choose the specific food from Lose It's food database of more than 7 million items.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I've been testing the feature, which launches today as a beta on Android and iOS, for the past week. While there have been occasional hiccups, overall it has worked as advertised, and it's definitely easier than scanning bar codes.

The app had no problem recognizing my spaghetti, Domino's pizza or homemade quinoa fried rice, although it wasn't able to recognize my breakfast of two eggs and toast. The quinoa fried rice was recognized as both fried rice and quinoa. Since you can only choose one option, I selected fried rice and then had to manually change it to "quinoa fried rice."

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Sarah Tew/CNET

You also must take pictures of the actual food and not the packaging. For example, taking a picture of a bag of pretzels will offer up random results (steak, fried chicken, french toast, etc.). While you could spill some pretzels out and take the photo, you are better off using the traditional bar code scanner in this situation.

Overall, the Snap It feature helps simplify food tracking. It's not perfect and some the nutritional information was slightly off (these are all estimates after-all), but it makes keeping tracking of what you eat easier than ever before.

The updated Lose It! app is available now for free in the App Store and Google Play.