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Prep Pad: Achieve a balanced diet with this smart food scale

Susie Ochs | June 4, 2014
We've yet to see a wearable device that can automatically track what you eat--and it looks like we won't for some time--so what's a quantified nerd to do? Orange Chef's Prep Pad scale and companion Countertop app make tracking your food intake easier, including not only calories but also the nutritional breakdown, so you can aim for balanced meals while keeping an eye on portion size.

Then you just place something on the Prep Pad. It'll notice, and ask "What's on Prep Pad?" You tell it your ingredient by tapping one of the icons above that prompt. You can search Prep Pad's extensive database, tap the star to find an ingredient in your own favorites list, tap the barcode to scan a packaged food's barcode with the iPad's camera, or tap the icon that looks like a bowl to tell Prep Pad that the object on it is actually a container rather than food. Doing that will "zero" the scale, so when you start adding ingredients to the container, only the ingredients themselves are weighed — it's a crucial feature you'll use all the time.

Once you tell Countertop what your ingredient is, the graph springs to life, showing you that ingredient's calorie count, and protein/fat/carb breakdown. You can add or subtract the same ingredient until you're satisfied, and then tap it in the ingredients list to lock it in. A little lock icon shows up, and then you can add another ingredient alongside it, or even remove the first ingredient from the scale — don't worry, it stays in your meal.

It's really fun to see how adding more ingredients makes the graph update. The graph always shows your entire meal at once, so it's neat to be reminded how, say, your all-veggie salads are pretty much all carbs until you add some beans or tofu for protein, and some dressing for fat. As you build your meal, Countertop displays a "balance score" out of a possible 100, which is perfectly balanced to your goal ratios of carbs, fat, and protein. Not every meal will hit that magic benchmark, but it can be illuminating to quantify how close you came each time.

Once you're happy with the meal you've built, tap the Save button. Then you can name your meal; log it as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack; and even snap a picture. That might seem silly, but I recommend taking the time: Countertop has a screen that displays all your meals in a grid, and it just looks nicer with real pictures rather than the generic empty-plate placeholder. It's a nice-looking app — you want your lunch to fit in, don't you?

Another reason for taking a pic is to share your meal. Countertop can post each meal to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) to get your friends salivating, but it can also log your meals in Evernote or send them by email. Those last two options are helpful if, say, you're using Evernote Food as a culinary diary, or you want to email updates to your nutritionist, doctor, or trainer.


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