GE has a prototype device that directly measures the calories in your food

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If you’re into the whole quantified self movement, or you just fancy watching what you eat,GE is working on new microwave tech that could make manual calorie counting obsolete. The company’s R&D department developed a prototype that directly measures the caloric amounts for the foods that it heats. For now, the device only works with blended foods, and requires a uniform mixture to provide accurate values; however, a new gadget is in the works that that will tally stats for a full plate. This means that the essential info for a chicken breast and two vegetables can be sent to a smartphone app while you wait. The folks at GE are using fat and water content to calculate calories as low-energy microwaves pass through weighed portions. It’s too early to tell when (or if) the system will make it to consumers, but you may want to ditch those Hungry-Man dinners before your microwave has a chance to provide its own guilt trip.

Self-tracking devices like the Fitbit do a fair, if imperfect, job at measuring how much you move and then inferring how many calories you’ve burned in a day. But they don’t measure how many calories you consume. You can enter calorie estimates into an app, but doing so is a tedious and often inaccurate process. GE researchers have a prototype device that directly measures the calories in your food. So far it only works on blended foods—the prototype requires a homogenous mixture to get an accurate reading. But they’re developing a version of the device that will determine the calories in a plate of food—say, a burrito, some chips, and guacamole—and send the information to your smartphone. Matt Webster, the senior scientist in diagnostic imaging and biomedical technologies at GE Research who invented the calorie counter, says eventually the device might be incorporated into a microwave oven or some other kitchen appliance. Heat your food, and at the same time get a readout of the precise calorie count, without measuring out portions and consulting nutritional charts. Webster analyzed nutritional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which contains detailed information on thousands of foods—and determined that it’s possible to get an accurate calorie estimate using just three pieces of data—fat content, water content, and weight. The calories from all the other constituents of food—such as sugar, fiber, and protein—can be approximated by subtracting the water and fat weight from the total weight.

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