Q: Is there a computer program where you can type in what you eat and it will tabulate the amounts of vitamins and minerals?
– Sylvie from Saint-John, New Brunswick, Canada

A: Yes. There are lots of good nutritional analysis computer programs available and several reasons why they could simplify your life and improve your health. Not all the programs are created equal, so keep the following features in mind when shopping for software. How user friendly is the product? If you hate manuals and the frustration of deciphering “computer-eze” language, then your best bets are the programs with on-screen instructions. How large is the food database? This feature is often reflective of the price; however, you will have difficulty analyzing your diet if your favorite foods aren’t listed in the options. How much are you willing to spend?

The Cadillac versions cost more than $500 and do everything short of cooking your meals; however, these may be overkill for the average nutrition enthusiast. In contrast, economy models sell for as little as $20 and offer limited information in a nutshell. In between these two price extremes are a variety of programs that offer some of this and a little of that. Recommending specific software programs is difficult, since new programs appear almost daily, while current programs may be outdated or unavailable by tomorrow. In general, a few of the best are: The Diet Balancer (Nutridata Software Corporation, P.O. Box 769, 223 Meyers Corners Road, Wappingers Falls, NY 12590 (914-298-1308 or 800-922-2988) Also available as “Diet Analyst” through Parsons Technology, Inc., One Parsons Drive, P.O. Box 100, Hiawatha, IA 52233-0100 (800-223-6925) Nutrition Pro! (ESHA Research, P.O. Box 13028, Salem, OR 97309-1028 (503-585-6242 or FAX 503-585-5543) C Food Processor (ESHA Research, P.O. Box 13028, Salem, OR 97309-1028 (503-585-6242 or FAX 503-585-5543). Excellent program, but a bit pricey. The Lifestyle Planner (LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates, P.O. Box 974, Lake Oswego, OR. Order through website: www.rondagates.com). Excellent program, reasonable price (approx. $59.) -Elizabeth Somer