Tracking your food intake is a great idea and no matter what your goal or experience I highly recommend everyone uses some form or calorie counter such as My fitness Pal or Cronometer for some period of time to develop an awareness and understanding of calorie and macronutrient composition of foods. Tracking can also improve results due to improved accuracy and accountability over more typical dieting strategies of “eat more”, “eat less”, “cut this”, “add that” etc.
Tracking energy intake is a skill and does require some priority and focus in order to be effective. Half assing it will not be sufficient in order for you to get your desired results. Tracking is only effective if done with precision to give you accuracy. Tracking inaccurately will take effort without the results and will leave you feeling frustrated and result in you thinking you are some freak that does not abide by the laws of energy balance, the likely hood is you either have the wrong calorie and macronutrients to suit your goals or else your tracking accuracy is not where it needs to be.
In this article I will address how you can improve your tracking accuracy to ensure you are getting the best results from your efforts.
- Weigh your Food
Yes I know. What an effort. But is it? Really? All you have to do is buy a digital food scales and place a plate on top, add your food, record the weight and there you go. How do you expect to accurately measure a serving size in gram without weighing it? Once you have done this for a period of weeks or months and have become an experienced tracker you will be very good at guesstimating which should be the end goal. However for now, it’s an opportunity to learn and get accurate. My Fitness Pal and other tracking apps will also have options such as cups and spoon sizes, grams for food and ml’s for liquids will always provide the most accuracy. Always weigh your foods raw or dry as cooking methods and times will alter weight.
- Be Specific with what your search for.
Tracking apps have huge databases of foods. When searching for a food be as specific as you can in order to get the most accurate results. If you are eating from a packet of course scan the barcode. If the barcode is incorrect or unavailable, or you are eating an unpackaged food ensure to search for brand, make, classification etc. Opt for verified foods where available. (If you are cooking a fillet steak, searching “steak” or “beef” will not be sufficient, “raw fillet steak” will give you are more accurate list of foods.
- Control your food intake
The more control you have over your food, in that, you buy it, you cook it, you weigh it, you plate it etc. the more accurate you will be. If you are getting cooked for or eating out 1-2 times per day you have no idea of weight, cooking methods, added oil, butter, cream etc to make an accurate guess of what you consumed. My recommendation would be aim to eat out no more than 1-2 times per week. Obviously this will be flexible to how optimal you want to be, but if you are frustrated with your slow progress or lack of results you may want to stop eating lunch out every day and having your partner cook every dinner for you and start to take ownership of your food intake. The longer you track accurately for the better you will get at estimating in the long term. When eating out it is best to overestimate unless of course nutritional information is provided.
- Track there and then
This one is simple. All too often it is easy to eat, say you will track it later or track your full days eating at the end of the day. This increases the likelihood of forgetting from a meal or even a full meal or snack. All of a sudden you may be 500 calories with no record of it. Track as you go.
- Don’t trust packaging
It’s great the nutritional information is so readily available to us these day, however you must still be sceptical of packaging in order to be truly accurate. A packaging my starte it contains 100g or food but this may be 10% above or below, therefore I would recommend always weighing the food and not taking the packaging for granted. Also watch out for sneaky serving sizes, you may buy a product and it will state 200 calories per serving, great, to your surprise they are saying that the single cookie contains 2 servings. Crafty Buggers! (Cough Lenny and Larry Cookies) Don’t get me started on Dominoes Garlic and Herb Dip, since when is a little dip pot 2 servings!
- Everything Counts!
Those chips that you didn’t order but your friend did and you ate half, they count. Weighing out your peanut butter and licking the spoon, that counts. The pizza you ate when you were twisted drunk, ya sorry bro, that still counts. Track everything!
- BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
This really is the most important one takes into consideration all of the above. The biggest reason people fail to see progress when they track their intake is because they under report. They either don’t log all their food or they always opt for the lowest calorie option. There is nothing more frustrating than making and effort and getting nothing in return. Tracking inaccurately and lying to yourself takes just as much effort as tracking accurately. The only person losing out is you. So maybe think twice the next time you log that big wedge of chocolate fudge cake as a 50g slider.
If you want to learn how to manage your own nutrition check out the nutrition coaching packages here.
Yours in health,