Apps to help with your diet

(CONSUMER REPORTS) - Starting a diet is relatively easy. The hard part is sticking to it. A new Consumer Reports survey shows that technology is helping some dieters stay on target.

Sarah LaFleur says she's really changed her eating habits, and it's paid off. She's lost 65 pounds in the last three years. The key to her weight loss, she says, is using a free online app called "lose it" to track her calories.

"I wanted something that was easy, something that I could use on the go, something that I could do quickly," said LaFluer.

The app lets Sarah count calories anywhere on her smart phone. Sarah's not alone, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. A just-released survey of online subscribers found many people are using online tools to track their diet, including weight watchers online and free sites like myfitnesspal and sparkpeople.

"Our surveys have shown that counting calories is linked to losing weight and keeping it off," said Elissa Schuler-Adair of Consumer Reports.

Like Sarah, respondents to this latest survey relied on tried-and-true strategies to meet their weight-loss goals, like eating more fruits and veggies. Sarah said the biggest change for her was the portion size, drinking more water and cutting back on sugar.

The poll shows many people used positive thinking to keep themselves on track.

"Thinking about how much progress you've made so far was one of the better techniques for sticking with your diet," said Schuler-Adair.

Of course, exercise helps too. When Sarah noticed her weight starting to plateau, she grabbed her running shoes. Now, she is running half-marathons and is determined to lose more weight.

Weight Watchers and Weight Watchers online were the most popular commercial diet plans in Consumer Reports' poll, but you don't necessarily need a plan. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed followed their own diet and exercise regimen.

(Copyright © 2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All Rights Reserved.)