I stumbled across Calorie Counter by FatSecret in the app store and was shocked that it had as many reviews and downloads as it did because I had never heard of it.
The nutrition coach in me wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I decided to try this app for a month.
After using FatSecret, I can confidently say that there are things about the app that really impressed me (to the point that I would recommend it to some of my clients), but there are also things they should really improve on if they want to capture more of the diet app market.
FatSecret: Key Takeaways
- FatSecret goes above and beyond your typical calorie tracking app by allowing you to create your own meal plans or follow a meal plan designed by a dietitian.
- The app’s food database may or may not be accurate as they do not indicate whether foods are verified or not. This is definitely a knock against the app.
- Regardless, FatSecret may be one of the best free nutrition apps on the market compared with other apps I’ve tested based on how many features are not behind a paywall.
Overall Rating: 3.7/5
FatSecret Video Review
What Is FatSecret?
FatSecret is a calorie and macro tracking app that helps its users to lose, maintain or gain weight by allowing them to become more aware of the quantity and quality of the foods they’re eating.
With that said, the app is primarily used as a weight loss app and markets to those who want to shed pounds. This is evident in both the product’s design and features, as well as the online community that supports the app.
Their homepage clearly reads:
“Start losing weight the healthy way with easy-to-use apps, online tools, and support.”– FatSecret Website
Although I’m not the biggest fan of the app’s name (it’s truly cringeworthy), as a nutrition coach there are things that I genuinely like about how the app works.
How Does FatSecret Work?
FatSecret works by collecting information about the user in its sign-up process and then suggests calorie and macronutrient targets (protein, carb, and fat) to follow.
The app encourages users to log their food intake using its food database to stay on track with these targets.
What’s unique about FatSecret’s food logging is that it can estimate the calorie and macro content of your meal through a picture. So you can log your meal just by snapping a picture (however, as you’ll read later, food logging with this method is hit or miss).
In theory, if this feature was glitch-free, I would love it because I know that the biggest barrier for my clients to log their food intake is the time it takes. If taking a picture of your meal is faster than manually entering each food, then you’ll be more consistent with tracking your meals.
FatSecret provides you with many tools to be successful on your journey (which I’ll discuss later) but one thing it DOES NOT do is make adjustments to your calorie and macronutrient intake beyond the initial recommendations.
So if your goal is to lose weight but your progress has stalled after 2 months and you’re no longer losing weight, FatSecret will not adjust your calorie targets for you so that you continue progressing.
You will have to manually adjust your intake yourself (if you know how), or hire a coach to help you make those adjustments.
You definitely don’t want to arbitrarily adjust your targets, as it may stall your progress even more or lead to negative health outcomes (i.e. if you drop your calories too much too fast).
Note: If you prefer an app that makes calorie and macro adjustments for you, then you should try MacroFactor or Avatar Nutrition (click to read my reviews of these apps).
FatSecret goes above and beyond your typical calorie tracking app by allowing you to create your own meal plans or follow a meal plan designed by a dietitian. It has some of the best free features for a diet app.
What I Liked About FatSecret
1. The Option To Share Your Data With A Health Professional
I love that FatSecret gives you the option to share your data with a health professional. You have the option to pair up with your dietitian, trainer, doctor, or other health professionals so that they can keep track of your progress.
You can collaborate with your professional by simply inviting them to join your team through the app. The health professional will get an email asking them to join your team and simply needs to accept.
This service is free of charge, which is incredible. You as the user don’t need to upgrade to premium and your health professional can also join for free.
As a coach, I love that I can stay connected with my clients more easily by getting daily or weekly reports automatically emailed to me because this allows me to keep better tabs on my clients.
One of the first signs that a client is starting to lose motivation is when they stop logging their food, but as a coach, you won’t know this is the case until it’s too late.
With FatSecret’s automatic updates, you can see when your client may be struggling and becoming less consistent, so you can reach out to them sooner to motivate them to keep going.
2. It Has Accurate Calorie Targets
Another great attribute of FatSecret is that its calorie targets are very accurate for people looking to take a more sustainable approach to weight loss.
Many other apps’ calorie calculations are very aggressive (i.e. the BetterMe App). This makes it difficult to stick to and ultimately leads to users gaining back the weight they initially lost.
As a nutrition coach with years of experience calculating calorie targets for myself and my clients, I know exactly how many calories I need to maintain my weight and what qualifies as an appropriate calorie deficit for weight loss.
I maintain my weight by eating 2300 calories per day, and an appropriate deficit is 50 to 500 calories below maintenance.
FatSecret recommended I eat 1900 calories per day, which would be a 400-calorie deficit and therefore an appropriate calorie deficit for those who want to lose weight and keep it off.
3. You Can Adjust Your Calories To Have High & Low-Calorie Days
The FatSecret app gives you the option to make certain days of the week higher in calories and other days of the week lower in calories.
This is beneficial so that on days when you’re more active you can have more calories and on days when you’re less active you have fewer calories.
I love this because it teaches users that as long as they’re staying on track with their weekly calorie target based on their goal, the day-to-day intake can fluctuate to suit their needs and activity level.
Note: I’ve only seen this in two other apps (MacroFactor and Avatar), but these are paid apps; so, the fact that FatSecret offers this for free is amazing.
4. The Ability To Create Your Own Meal Plan
I also really enjoyed that FatSecret allows you to create your own meal plan because those who plan ahead are more successful in the pursuit of their goals than those who try to “wing it”.
You can create a 7-day meal plan to help you plan ahead so that you’re not panicking about what you’re going to eat the day of.
I encourage my nutrition clients to plan ahead so they know how much of each food they need to eat to reach their calorie and macro targets without having to play “nutrition Tetris” at the end of the day to try to meet their targets.
When you create your own meal plan, you can add your own foods using the food database or by incorporating any of FatSecret’s recipes.
The only downside to the meal planning feature is that it is a premium feature, so you will have to upgrade to the paid version of the app to make your own meal plan (more on the app’s costs later).
Note: Of all the apps I’ve reviewed, none of them have had a meal planning feature where the user gets to create their own meal plan, so this feature is a game-changer (and I normally don’t like to use that term).
What I Didn’t Like About FatSecret
1. It’s Unclear Which Foods Have Been Verified To Be Accurate
One thing I don’t like about FatSecret is that it’s unclear which foods (if any) have come from a verified database. Foods that are verified come from a database that has been evaluated by a registered dietitian to contain accurate nutritional information.
Not knowing if foods are accurate makes me nervous because the whole point of tracking your food intake is to stick to a particular calorie target. If you’re tracking your intake but every single food entry you’re logging is incorrect, then there is no point in logging your food.
Apps that contain verified foods usually have a checkmark as an identifier. Food without a checkmark (or other identifiers) are user-created foods that may or may not be accurate because of user error.
FatSecret doesn’t have any foods with identifiers signifying that they are verified foods, so I contacted FatSecret’s support team to inquire about their food database.
FatSecret did not respond to my question, so it is unfortunately still unclear whether the app contains verified foods or if they operate solely using user-created foods.
However, while using the app for a month I did compare some food items to other tracking apps that use verified food databases, and found that FatSecret’s food entries did line up with the verified ones.
That said, there could very well be foods in FatSecret’s database that are inaccurate, so if something seems off then it probably is.
2. The Dietitian-Designed Meal Plans Aren’t Customized For Your Calorie Target
I’m also not a fan of the pre-made meal plans that FatSecret offers in its premium version because they aren’t customized to the user. You can tell that they are generalized meal plans because the meal plans available aren’t specific to your calorie target.
I don’t like that users would have to stray from their calorie target to use a meal plan because it could slow their progress or speed up weight loss beyond what is sustainable.
Most people don’t know how to adjust a meal plan to make it work for their calorie target, so unless there happens to be a meal plan that matches their daily calorie target, they’ll be over or under-eating.
The key features of FatSecret are:
Dietitian-Designed 7-Day Meal Plans
One of the premium features that FatSecret has to offer is its dietitian-designed 7-day meal plans that users can use based on their dietary preferences or simply for inspiration.
The meal plan options are:
- Balanced: ~20% fat, 20% protein, and 60% carbs
- High Protein, Low Carb: ~30% fat, 30% protein, and 40% carbs
- Intermittent Fasting: ~20% fat, 25% protein, and 55% carbs
- Keto Style: ~50% fat, 40% protein, and 10% carbs
- Mediterranean: ~30% fat, 20% protein, and 50% carbs
If you were going to try the meal plans, I would encourage you to try the balanced, high protein low carb, or Mediterranean meal plans because they are less restrictive and more sustainable.
If you don’t want to use the meal plans, I think they still serve as a source of inspiration on what to eat, which I know can be valuable when you’re getting bored of eating the same things over and over.
A Large Recipe Database To Inspire Users
Another feature that I know many users will appreciate is FatSecret’s recipe database because I know from working with my clients that people are always wanting new recipe ideas to switch things up.
When you read about the premium version of the app, it claims that you get access to the entire recipe database (191 recipes) making it seem like the free version of the app only gives you access to select recipes.
However, I had access to all of the recipes even with the free version of the app. Perhaps, the pitch for more recipes with a premium account is just a marketing tactic to get you to pay for the premium version of the app.
The recipes sound really tasty, but the pictures of the recipes almost look like they’ve been taken by users, which isn’t a big deal because ultimately taste is what matters most, but some recipes don’t look as appetizing as they probably are simply because of the picture associated with them.
This stands out to me because FatSecret’s interface looks very polished otherwise, so having the recipe graphics look very cookie-cutter is a bit odd.
A Built-In Community For Support
Another feature that can be extremely beneficial when used correctly is a built-in community where you can communicate with other users who are on a similar journey.
A community is only as good as the people in it, so if the community is full of engaged individuals who are sharing their progress, tips, and struggles then the community will be incredibly valuable.
However, when a community is full of people who share irrelevant information, who aren’t supportive, and who do not engage regularly then the community isn’t so great.
The FatSecret community unfortunately appears to be the latter, as there isn’t much activity happening on a day-to-day basis. The posts that do appear are mostly just pictures of food with very few comments from other users.
I think this community has a lot of potential considering there are over 10 million people who have downloaded this app, but it’s not very helpful at this point in time.
Calorie & Macronutrient Customizations To Make Your Own Adjustments
One of the most important features from my perspective is the ability to customize your calorie and macronutrient targets because you may have certain preferences for your macronutrient targets or how aggressive you want to be with your approach.
Additionally, since the app doesn’t adjust your intake for you when you reach a plateau, you need to be able to adjust them yourself so that you can continue working towards your goal.
I used the customization feature to adjust my macronutrient goals because although I approved of the calorie recommendation, I prefer a higher protein intake and lower carb intake than what the app recommended for me.
If I wasn’t able to adjust my macronutrient targets then I wouldn’t use the app because it would be the difference between potentially losing muscle causing me to compromise my strength and physique or achieving a leaner physique while maintaining my strength.
Note: I like that FatSecret has kept this a free feature because other apps (like Lifesum) only have this as a premium feature.
Food Logging By Taking A Picture Of Your Meal
The FatSecret app also has a feature that allows you to track your food by taking a picture of your meal. You can use pictures stored in your phone’s library or take a picture using the app.
Although this feature sounds exciting, when I tested the feature with different meals (some more complicated, some very simplistic) it didn’t detect the correct foods.
To track the accurate foods and serving sizes, I would still have to search for the foods on my plate. For this reason, I don’t think there’s any benefit to picture tracking over the regular search function for logging food.
I’m hoping FatSecret continues to improve on this technology because if they can get it working accurately it could be a game changer for the industry (and I don’t like to use the word “game changer” very often).
What Other Customers Think
I was genuinely surprised about how many great features this app has, even in its free version, but I was curious about other user’s experiences with the app so I took to the app’s Google Reviews.
The app has an impressive 4.5/5 stars from 453,000 reviews as well as over 10 million downloads. I’m genuinely surprised that this app has this many reviews and downloads because I had never heard of it until FeastGood.com wanted to review it.
For reference, Noom, which is advertised absolutely everywhere, only has 287,000 reviews. So it’s very surprising to me that FatSecret has this much traction.
Common complaints among users were that the app was glitching for them in some capacity and that its food database was very limited so users were having to create foods all the time.
There were also reviewers complaining about the higher calorie recommendations that the app provides compared to other popular nutrition apps, but the truth is that many popular apps out there severely underestimate how much users should be eating.
So when FatSecret actually has accurate sustainable recommendations, it seems like they’re the ones who are “wrong”.
There were some users who appreciated that the calorie recommendations were higher and more sustainable as well. So, there are users (like me) who appreciate that the app uses a more sustainable approach to weight loss.
That said, what I found strange about the reviews for this app is that every single review that I read was about the app’s features and not about results.
Normally, app reviews are about whether the app helped users achieve their goal (generally weight loss), but I couldn’t find a single review that stated whether someone lost weight or didn’t lose weight using the app.
How Much Does FatSecret Cost?
FatSecret has a free version that you can use if you’re interested in the app’s basic features, or a premium version that you can pay for if you prefer their more advanced features.
The payment plans available for the premium version are:
- 1 month – $9.49 ($2.37/week)
- 3 months – $23.99 ($1.85/week)
- 12 months – $58.99 ($1.13/week)
Is The Premium Version Of FatSecret Worth It?
I don’t feel that the premium version of FatSecret is worth it because all of the important features that the app has to offer like tracking, recipes, the built-in community, and the ability to customize your calories and macros are all free.
The only feature that you would miss out on if you didn’t get the premium of FatSecret is meal planning. To get access to the pre-made meal plans or to create your own meal plan in the app, you would need the premium version of the app.
So, if you need the meal planning feature then upgrade to premium but if you don’t, then save your money and stick with the free version.
Who Should Use FatSecret?
- Those who want a more sustainable weight loss approach
- Those who want to track calories and macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein)
- Those who want the ability to meal plan and track all in one app
- Those who are working with a healthcare professional to reach their goal
Who Should NOT Use FatSecret
- Those who want a more aggressive approach and don’t know how to set their own calorie/macro targets
- Those who prefer to use a food database that is as accurate as possible
- Those who want an app that will make automatic adjustments to their calories/macros to keep them progressing
Sign Up For FatSecret
The sign-up process for FatSecret was easy enough, as it only requires you to create an account and answer questions about your age, height, weight, activity level, and overall goal (weight loss, maintenance, weight gain).
After this information is collected you can start using the app to log your foods, connect with a health professional, or upgrade to premium and make a meal plan.
I’ve tested 18+ nutrition apps (click to check out the full list). Based on my experience, here are some top 2 alternatives:
The best alternative to the FatSecret app is MacroFactor because it has the largest food database that has been verified by a registered dietitian so you can feel more confident that the food you’re tracking is accurate.
MacroFactor also adjusts your intake based on how you’re progressing so that you never reach a plateau.
Enter code FEASTGOOD when signing up to get an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). You can cancel anytime before your trial ends without being charged.
The second best alternative for the FatSecret app is the Avatar app, which is like having a built-in nutrition coach. This app incorporates weekly check-ins for accountability and to make adjustments to your intake based on your progress.
Another key feature of Avatar is the ability to talk to a nutrition coach who can offer support, guidance, and motivation along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is FatSecret Good For Weight Loss?
In theory, FatSecret should be good for weight loss because its calorie calculation are on track to promote sustainable weight loss and it provides tools like the meal planner to help set you up for success; however, none of the reviews in the app state that users were successful with their goal which I find off.
Is FatSecret Free?
FatSecret has both a free version and a premium version, with the free version having all the important features you would need to be successful with your goal besides the meal planning software.
Is FatSecret Compatible With Apple Watch?
FatSecret is compatible with an Apple Watch, as well as with the Fitbit watches, and the Google Fit and Samsung Health apps.
Is FatSecret Accurate?
FatSecret’s calorie calculations appear accurate, but it’s unclear whether their food database is accurate because they don’t specify verified foods from user-created foods.
How Do I Cancel My FatSecret Subscription?
You can cancel your FatSecret Subscription in your app store by managing your subscriptions. If you’ve paid for premium, deleting the app will not stop your payments so be sure to unsubscribe before deleting the app.
How To Contact FatSecret?
You can contact FatSecret in the app by clicking “Contact us” in the drop-down menu or by clicking here.
Other Diet App Reviews:
- RP Diet App Review
- Lose It! App Review
- MyNetDiary Review
- MyMacros+ App Review
- Fooducate App Review
- Carbon Diet Coach Review
- Cronometer App Review
- MyFitnessPal Review
- Macrostax App Review
- My Diet Coach App Review
FatSecret goes above and beyond your typical calorie tracking app by allowing you to create your own meal plans or follow a meal plan designed by a dietitian. It has some of the best free features for a diet app.
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.