Review: CalorieKing Food Search app

Screen shots of Calorie King app

Screen shots of Calorie King app

We rely on our smart phones to answer all of our questions.  Nutrition and fitness apps are gaining popularity as an easy way to track calories, fitness, weight loss goals, or check nutrition labels.

What is CalorieKing?

CalorieKing Food Search is a free app available on both iTunes App Store and Android Marketplace that allows consumers to get quick, up-to-date, and reliable nutritional information about the foods they are consuming.

The user-friendly app makes it easier to navigate the CalorieKing.com food database of over 70,000 items.  Data is available for 260 different fast food and restaurant chains, as well as brand name food, and menu items.

This app only has the capability to look up food nutrition labels for specific food items, brands, or restaurants.  It does not save meals, create meal patterns, or input daily activity to a user profile.  CalorieKing’s sole purpose is for presenting nutrition information to consumers.

Sources of CalorieKing Information

CalorieKing is a credible source of nutritional information.  The database is kept current with scientific data from the USDA, food manufacturers, and food industry boards, and is monitored by registered dietitians to ensure accurate information for users.   As an extra precaution, CalorieKing performs calculations and analysis on food items to reflect realistic current portions sizes.  It seemed a little hard to believe that CalorieKing’s staff is actually buying and testing the nutritionals for restaurant’s menu items.  Here is the disclaimer from their website:

To maintain one of the most comprehensive, high-quality, up-to-date food databases in America, CalorieKing sources its data from scientific databases, such as the USDA, as well as food manufacturers and food industry boards and councils. CalorieKing also performs its own independent calculations and extrapolations to ensure the information in the database reflects real-world situations. For example, some food producers may provide nutritional information on a set serving size, but when tested the actual serving size consumers receive is far in excess of the amount stated by the food’s producer. By consulting CalorieKing’s Food Database, consumers can find out the nutritional information for the portion size actually consumed.

I still was a bit puzzled about this statement, so I compared nutrition information for one order of California Pizza Kitchen’s Asparagus and Spinach with Shrimp Spaghettini on the CalorieKing app to California Pizza Kitchen’s own online nutritional information.  This is a great example of how CalorieKing adjusts data for the actual portion sizes served today.  The differences were pretty shocking.  CalorieKing found greater amounts of carbohydrates, protein, calories, and saturated fat than California Pizza Kitchen claims to serve in one dish (keep in mind this would be consuming the entire dish).

Nutrition Facts California Pizza Kitchen CalorieKing
Calories 1080 1216
Fat 55 g 55 g
Saturated Fat 10 g 11 g
Sodium 1650 1371
Carbohydrates 103 g 119 g
Protein 49 g 61 g

I reached out to CalorieKing to clarify what they meant by this statement and provided them with the California Pizza Kitchen example.  This was the response I received:

Generally, we rely on data provided by the manufacturer and will usually use their portion size ….  Our online data can also be different from the restaurant’s data… Different portion sizes could be part of a new menu.  For the example of Calif Pizza Kitchen – we currently show their older data.

Some restaurant chains can have large discrepancies with their data (where cals from pro/fat/carb don’t add up – or simple transcription errors)…  Clarification is also required where volume and weight are confused by the manufacturer.

Example: 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz) of ice cream can vary in weight from say 2 oz to 4 oz depending on the aeration/density.
Yet when recently querying one manufacturer, they insisted that a 1/2 cup always weighed 4 oz.

We used to spot check the weights of some fast foods and single serve grocery products. Invariably, our weights were more than the stated weight or net weight. However, our adjustments to the nutrition data led to some confusion with users wondering whether we had made an error (when compared to the label) – so we are now less inclined to make the adjustments. For greater accuracy, readers should ideally check the weights and extrapolate the figures.

-CalorieKing Spokesperson

The response from CalorieKing is a valid consideration.  There will always be discrepancies with any nutrition related apps; 100% accuracy is not feasible.  However, CalorieKing is taking the extra step to provide the best nutritional information to the public.  Nutrition information on restaurant websites like, California Pizza Kitchen is often buried and hard to find.  Rather than hunting through California Pizza Kitchen’s website, the data on the Shrimp Spaghettini was readily available in one convenient app.  CalorieKing Food Search makes it easy to double check nutrition information before you indulge on your meal.

CalorieKing App Difficulties

  • Make sure and adjust the portion sizes to fit what you are actually consuming.
  • Restaurants that offer similar items on their kids menu as their adult menu may default to the kid’s sized portions.  Be aware of this and change the portion to the adult size quantity available.
  • Consumers can also half their portions with the available decimal point.

Who could benefit from using the CalorieKing app?

  • Calorie King Food Search app works best when you are out to eat and want to know the nutritional information on a food item you are about to order.
  • This includes:  total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar, and protein.
  • Doctors recommend CalorieKing to newly diagnosed diabetic patients who may be carbohydrate counting.

Who would not benefit from using the CalorieKing app?

  • Consumers with severe food allergies.  Although CalorieKing provides specific nutritional information, there is no ingredients list available.
  • Consumers who want an entire day outlook.  There are many nutrition and fitness apps out there where you can create a profile and keep track of the meals you ate and the workouts you do.  This is not that kind of app.  An example of an app that tracks your entire day would be MyFitnessPal. 

All in all, the free CalorieKing Food Search App is an excellent way to stay on top of nutrition information right at your fingertips, when you aren’t sure what exactly is in your dish!

Copyright: All content © 2010-2018 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.