Meal planning is one of the best ways to kickstart and stay on top of your weight loss goals.
In a world focused on to-do lists and productivity, finding the time and energy to plan healthy meals tailored to your tastes and nutritional needs can be a daunting task.
Fortunately, a multitude of apps can make meal planning — and maybe weight loss — a lot more attainable. Gone are the days of fishing for recipes from a cookbook while you scribble a grocery list on a post-it note!
Here are 11 of the best meal planning apps available today.
Mealime offers user-friendly, customizable meal plans that you can tailor to your diet while excluding specific foods you don’t like.
It’s available on both iOS and Android platforms and the basic version is free.
After you’ve entered your preferences, you’re presented with a variety of recipe choices, complete with full-color photos, simple instructions and an organized grocery list. An additional bonus is that the recipes all take under 45 minutes to prepare.
However, one of the major drawbacks is that you’re limited to the recipes available on the app as there is no way to import your own.
What’s more, you cannot save previously used meal plans, customize calorie preferences or view nutrition information unless you upgrade to the pro version, which will set you back $5.99/month or $49.99/year.
Paprika is marketed primarily as a recipe manager, but it also includes menu planning features. It’s available on both Android and iOS platforms for a one-time fee of $5.99.
With Paprika, you’re in charge of saving and entering recipes to build meal plans. It does not have its own preset recipes and menus. Therefore, it’s probably best for people who can structure a meal plan with minimal support.
This app provides customized grocery lists and allows you to save recipes directly from the web. Additionally, Paprika detects when more than one recipe needs the same ingredient and consolidates the relevant grocery lists for you.
The app will keep your screen turned on while you’re working from a recipe. It can also detect timer directions within a recipe so that you can set cooking timers directly from the app.
One drawback to this app is that it won’t detect if you’ve entered a recipe from the same URL more than once. If you accidentally enter the same recipe, you’ll end up with duplicates.
Additionally, Paprika doesn’t always include nutrition information. It will only draw nutrition data from the original recipe webpage or information you enter manually.
If you know what types of food meet your calorie goals, this deficiency may not be problematic. However, if you need the extra support, a different app may be more appropriate.
PlateJoy creates customized meal plans for you and your household according to your dietary preferences and weight loss goals. It’s available on both Android and iOS platforms.
PlateJoy is a user-friendly app with beautiful, full-color photos and a high level of customization. Full nutrition information is available for each recipe, and you can sync it with your Fitbit or Jawbone to better track your health goals.
It creates customized grocery lists and helps prevent food waste by allowing you to log the food already in your fridge or pantry. That way, you don’t repurchase items you already have.
Another feature lets you send your grocery list to Instacart for grocery delivery depending on where you live.
The biggest drawbacks to Platejoy are that you cannot enter your own recipes and that it’s somewhat costly compared to other meal planning apps. It’ll set you back $69 for six months or $99 for a 12-month subscription.
Plan to Eat lets you organize all of your favorite recipes and create meal plans in one easy-to-use app. It’s available on both iOS and Android platforms.
You can enter recipes manually or input a URL from any recipe online. Full nutrition information is provided for each recipe, and you can edit or add notes as you please.
Adding recipes to the weekly calendar-style planner will automatically create an organized grocery list.
A unique feature of this app is that you can share your recipes or meal plans with friends and family, making it easier to stay on top of your health goals as a team.
Because it doesn’t come with a preset recipe database, this app is definitely a better choice for those who have a good recipe collection already or who enjoy searching the web for new recipes.
Though Plan to Eat requires a $4.95/month or $39/year fee, you can try it out for free for 30 days.
Yummly is both an app and a website, in which you can browse and save recipes tailored to your personal tastes from all over the web.
It’s available on both iOS and Android platforms and free of charge.
Yummly can filter recipes based on dietary preferences, allergies and skill level. You can even filter for recipes that have videos, which is handy for those looking to develop their cooking skills or learn new techniques.
Full nutrition information is available for each recipe.
When you save recipes, you can organize them into separate meal categories, such as breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You can also enter and save your own recipes manually.
One of the major drawbacks of Yummly is its overall usability. While it’s visually appealing, it's complicated and more difficult to use compared to similar apps. If you’re not technologically savvy, it may not be the best choice.
Additionally, Yummly doesn’t have a calendar-style meal plan, which may or may not be an issue depending on the features you desire in a meal planning app.
Make My Plate offers both free and paid customizable meal plans. It’s available on iOS and Android.
The free version offers 1,200-, 1,500- or 1,800-calorie meal plans and comes with templates for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You can also filter based on allergies and food preferences.
After you select your meals for the week, an organized grocery list is automatically created.
One of the most unique features of this app is that each meal is represented in photographic form on a virtual plate. This plate is particularly useful if you’re working on portion control or learning what portions of certain foods look like.
The major drawbacks to this app are the food selections and recipes, which are extremely basic and don’t supply as many choices as competitor apps.
If you’re new to cooking and meal planning, Make My Plate’s simplicity may actually help you get started. But if you easily tire of eating similar entrees week after week, this app may not work for you.
Pepperplate organizes recipes you know and love while simultaneously adding new recipes you want to try.
It’s available on both Android and iOS platforms and free of charge.
You start by importing recipes manually or copying recipe URLs from supported websites. You are then able to organize your recipes into customizable categories.
After you’ve added your recipes, you can incorporate personalized menus and meal plans into a calendar-style planner complete with grocery lists.
Pepperplate is ideal for the experienced cook who has a solid recipe collection and knows their nutritional needs — especially if that person is trying to lose weight.
Keep in mind that this app doesn’t have a calorie tracking component and doesn’t draw from its own database of foods. Another drawback is that you have to enter recipes and menus via the web, not directly through the app.
Prepear offers the convenience of a pre-set recipe database alongside manual or online input options.
It’s free of charge for the basic version, but you can upgrade to the pro version to unlock additional features for $9.99/month. It’s available on both iOS and Android platforms.
This app is user-friendly and allows you to filter recipes based on taste preferences, allergies and global cuisine options. Each recipe has a full nutrition breakdown. Customizable shopping lists are available upon completion of your meal plan.
The social media component of this app allows you to post photos of your culinary successes (and failures) to friends and family.
Many of the available recipes in the app’s database are kid-friendly, which is ideal if you’re planning meals for your family.
The main drawback of Prepear is the monotony of meal choices within its recipe database — if you add more than one or two filters, you end up with very few menu options. However, this downside is offset if you add your own recipes.
Eat This Much is the perfect marriage between a calorie counter and a meal planner.
It’s free to download and easy to begin using, but many of the features are locked until you upgrade to a paid version, which costs $5/month with an annual subscription. The app is available on iOS and Android.
After you sign up, you enter personal data including your height, weight and health goals. The app then calculates a macronutrient range that you are free to adjust as you desire.
It includes a database of recipes, basic foods and popular restaurant menu items, complete with full nutrition information. You have the added option of entering your own recipes and foods manually if you can’t find them in the preset index.
What’s more, you can create a full meal plan yourself or let the app generate one for you based on your previously entered meal preferences.
A unique feature of this app is its barcode scanner, which scans food items directly into your account.
The main drawbacks are related to the limitations of the free version. Unless you upgrade to the premium version, you can only create a meal plan one day at a time and can’t access automatic grocery lists.
Lose It! is really more of a calorie and macronutrient tracker than a meal planner, though the premium version includes meal planning features.
It’s available for both iOS and Android devices and free to start using. For maximum features, the premium version will set you back $3.33/month. Compared to the cost of similar apps, this is a reasonable price.
You begin by entering your personal anthropometric data and activity level to calculate a target calorie range, after which the app estimates the time it’ll take to reach your weight goal based on the calorie level you choose.
This feature may be helpful for those who are motivated by timelines.
The free version allows you to input your own recipes to create meal plans. You can also scan barcodes of foods to have them added to the database. However, if you want automatic meal planning, you have to upgrade to premium.
While this app excels at monitoring your eating behaviors and weight loss, its main focus is on tracking. One of its major downsides is the lack of automatic, customizable grocery lists to pair with your meal plan.
DietWiz is a meal-planning tool combined with a calorie tracker. It’s available on iOS and Android and free of charge if you want to use the calorie tracker alone. However, the meal planning features require a $79.99 annual fee.
The app claims to work like a personal dietitian by creating meal plans with simple recipes while also tracking calories and macronutrients to help you lose weight. In addition, it has an automatic grocery list feature to couple with your weekly meal plan.
After entering your height, weight and activity level, you’re able to personalize your meal plan according to food preferences, allergies and specific dietary patterns. You can also upload your own recipes if you don’t want to use the ones provided.
One thing to note is that this app addresses scale-based weight loss in particular, and doesn’t seem to be tailored to those who have other health goals such as weight gain or a change in body composition.
One of its major drawbacks is that it gives calorie recommendations according to your ideal weight and doesn’t allow much room for adjusting that goal. Ideal body weight may not always be the most appropriate goal for every individual.
Sticking to your diet and achieving your weight loss goal is a difficult task, but it can be made much easier with a little technological help.
There are numerous options for meal planning apps to support you in your weight loss journey — all of which have different features and options.
Choosing the one that best fits your personality and specific health goals is your best bet for success.
When all is said and done, the best meal planning app — or weight loss strategy in general — is the one you can actually stick to.