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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.

Hack your recipes

Prep Pad and Countertop are at their best when they make you more mindful of what you're eating. Just how eating more slowly can help your brain realize you're getting full and keep you from overeating, carefully adding each ingredient to Prep Pad before throwing it on your plate gives you a chance to really consider its impact on the balance of your overall diet.

Prep Pad can even help you "hack" your recipes and make them healthier. If you typically use white rice, you can see how switching to brown rice — or a protein-rich grain like quinoa or farro — affects the nurtitional makeup of your final dish. The main graph in Countertop always shows your entire meal's balance, but if it's showing too much fat or too little protein, you can consult the smaller graphs for each ingredient in the list to see what you might want to swap out for a healthier choice.

I did have a few quibbles, but they're pretty minor. The barcode scanner is finicky. I had trouble getting bar codes to scan with the iPad's front-facing camera, and even when using the more powerful back camera, it was still hit or miss. Barcodes on flexible packages like chip bags or granola bar wrappers almost never scanned, and barcodes on boxes were 50/50 at best. It was almost always quicker to just search for the ingredient in the database.

Prep Pad is meant for cooking, obviously, but once I got addicted to the meal-tracking feature, I wished it was just a little easier to log meals I didn't make myself. Since the Countertop app can give you a composite balance score for a day or even an entire week, I wanted that score to factor in the Five Guys cheeseburger I had for lunch without me having to break down that burger and weigh each ingredient. Still, that's not what it was designed for, and if my geeky obsession with total quantification ultimately leads me to make more meals at home, that's ultimately a good thing. And Prep Pad excels at leftovers — you just find the meal in your log, tap it, and choose "Add to My Meal" to let Countertop know you're having seconds. I'll just have to pack leftovers for lunch more often.

Countertop's iPad-only status is a bummer too, but only a temporary one. The Orange Chef Co., which makes Prep Pad, plans to roll out an iPhone app later this summer. And the company is also working on a "just weigh this for me" basic-scale mode, since as it is, Prep Pad is less useful than a plain-jane digital scale if you're just trying to weigh out 17 grams of coffee beans to grind up for your Aeropress.


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