This plate will tell you how many calories are in your meal - but is that really helpful?

We have necklaces that tell us when to stop eating, belts that tighten when you’ve eaten too much food, and apps that tell you to step away from the fridge.

Just when you thought there were enough portion-controlling devices in existence, we now have a plate that counts the calories in your food.

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Fitly, the company behind SmartPlate, describe it as “the first intelligent plate that instantly tracks and analyzes everything you eat”; meaning you “never enter anything manually again!”.

The plate weighs your food, pulls calorie and nutrient counts from the USDA, and adds them to a tracker.

Hidden in its sides are three digital cameras that photograph the food, as well as sensors to determine how much the food weighs. These pictures and weight are relayed to a mobile device, which sends the information to an android app. The app also has a scanner that lets users scan in barcodes.

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The actual SmartPlate will be ready for release in 2016, and has 34 days left on Kickstarter, with 377 backers and $41, 179 of the $100, 000 goal raised.

The "intelligent plate" proposes to count every calorie that is placed on it, as explained in this video:

Great, right? Well, apart from the downsides of having to the clean the plate after every meal (it isn't dishwasher safe), and not being able to microwave the dish, there are health implications associated with a calorie-centric diet.

Kellee Waters, Food Addiction and Obesity Psychologist, Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic, says that focusing on calories isn't beneficial.

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"It is an ingenious device, and I think that it has its place in the world of health and weight loss for some people. But I don’t like is that it only does calories and values. If it did portion sizes I think this would be a better inclusion, [and] if it could also provide healthier alternative, e.g. if people were eating white bread, it could suggest wholemeal." Waters says.


Another issue with calorie-counting is that it doesn't accurately measure the energy people get from food. For example, it's much easier for the body to extract nutrients from cooked and processed foods than from whole or raw foods. Refined carbohydrates make people hungrier sooner than an equivalent calorie amount of whole grains, which can encourage overeating. One study has suggested calorie counting doesn't  account for the five to 30 percent of energy used up in digesting and absorbing a meal. (Post continues after gallery.)

"I believe there are far better ways, such as understanding portion sizes, combining foods for good nutritional health, mindful and/or intuitive eating. This helps people to identify their own fullness and hunger levels, plus foods that make them feel more energised versus foods that don’t make them feel so good or lethargic." Waters says.

"As I come from a background of dieting, eating disorders and disordered eating, I see calories are used in the following ways; restriction and deprivation, guilt, shame, weakness, failure (if you go over your calorie count), punishment ('If I have eaten over my calories, then I need to work harder in the gym or exercise for longer to burn it off; or restrict calorie intake the next day'), disordered thinking and eating, and obsessive behaviour. "

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Waters suggests rather than spending calories intake, people should be spending time on their health, and understanding their nutrition and nutritional needs (for instance, knowing what is right and not-so-right for their system, eating when they are hungry, stopping when they are full.).

The SmartPlate may be clever enough to tell you how many calories are in your food, but as far as being a means to live a healthy lifestyle, I am unconvinced. You get enough judgement from everywhere else — you don't need a plate telling you what you're eating is wrong.

What do you think of this calorie-counting device?

If you or a loved one needs assistance or support with body image or an eating disorder, contact The Butterfly Foundation National Eating Disorders Supportline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE).

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