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Spark People is a free website for anyone who wants to lose weight. They provide a huge number of articles on a range of health and diet topics, as well as a few handy tools to help you track and monitor your progress over time. To start out, you simply include your basic details (height, weight and gender) plus your goals (ideal weight) and the system recommends your daily calorie intake and exercises to perform in order to achieve your goal.
We were impressed by the amount of information available on Spark People, particularly considering the site is free to use. It’s generally well designed, with key areas accessible easily. You can access your trackers (including nutrition, fitness, weight and other goals), a variety of articles (on nutrition, motivation, health, weight, pregnancy and more), videos and community features (message boards, challenges and blogs). All of this adds up to a comprehensive system which provides support when you need it.
Whilst there are a range of workouts you can try, and many include videos, the schedule building features weren’t quite as we’d hoped. We would like to see the workouts easily transferred into diaries, which might then allow you to track the calories burned off (especially useful if this could also incorporate the food you eat so you can see if things balance out). Still, the fact that there are free videos and workouts is great.
You can search through exercises or store your favorites. SparkPeople.com also allows you to use a workout generator, which keeps a note of how long you’ve been working out so you can see how close you are to your weekly target. You can then check reports on how you’re doing and even print them out if you want to see changes over an extended period. In addition to this, you can add daily notes so you can record tips or preferences for yourself.
Spark People produces diet plans based on your particular needs, showing you the carbs and calories in each item. It also includes fat, protein and fiber in its breakdown, although it fails to show you other nutrients for each food. This is probably okay for most people, but if you want to check you’re getting enough vitamins, sugars and minerals then it’s not ideal.
Food tracking tools are a bit basic as some items will vary and the site doesn’t appear to offer brands. So, you can’t necessarily take nutritional differences between brands into account. Quite a few of the foods it suggested for us were also quite bland and boring, which isn’t going to bode well in the long term. Still, you can change these for yourself if you find other healthy recipes. There are plenty of online recipes to choose from, so you won’t be short of choices.
SparkPeople might not offer all the bells and whistles or personal options of some of its peers, but it does a great job considering it’s all free.
There are some really helpful articles here if you can find them amongst the masses, plus some handy tools which ought to come in useful. Since the site charges nothing at all to use its features, we recommend giving it a try.
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