I’ve talked about the importance of why tracking food intake is important. The least I can do is share some tips that make it easier. Trust me, its not as easy as it sounds, it takes some practice. Before diving in, here is a list of food tracking essentials:
- Food scale: This is the most important tool because estimation will hinder the desired results. Here is a basic scale.
- Food tracking app: I like Cronometer because it breaks down many micronutrients in addition to macronutrients. I am currently using MyFitnessPal because its the app that can sync to the fitness app that I have set up through my personal trainer. Keep in mind that when picking a food tracking app, if its not popular, it may be harder to share your diary with the people or apps you want to see it.
- Measuring tools: Measuring cups, spoons, scoops, etc. These will help with your accuracy.
- Food storage: Storage containers are great for people who like to meal/ingredient prep.
Now that we have covered the tools, lets get into the tips!
- Weigh food as you go. Tracking my food intake was a pain until I realized I was making it too much work. I would weigh my food, chop it and prepare it. Now, I weigh as I chop, and at the same time. I will chop, weigh my food, chop my next food, tare the scale and weigh it. Instead of separating the two actions, I do it all at once.
- Prepare your own food! If you are cooking for yourself, you will know exactly what is going into your food! You can control the contents. When you go to a restaurant and log the meal you ate, there may be additional ingredients not accounted for and you may think you’re eating a 600 calorie meal, when in reality, its closer to 900 calories. A high-calorie meal is not bad, but making your own food lets you be more accurate and accountable when it comes to your lifestyle goals.
- Write down the measurements of your most common dishes. I used to measure my breakfasts every day, and I was eating the same thing. This tip works if you use the same amount of ingredients every time you make it. A dish that you can cook with your eyes closed. Write down the weight of each ingredient so you can quickly type it in, or most food tracking apps will let you create meals and recipes. You will plug in your ingredients and measurements once, and you can add the whole meal with one tap! I have a weekly meal planner featuring a recipe card template that is perfect for keeping track of your favorite meals!
- Do not let “counting calories” keep you from having fun and living life! I know I just said that ordering a meal from a restaurant might not be the best idea for losing weight. You know what? One meal, or a whole day of derailing from your preferred eating style will not suddenly “undo” all of your work. You can either edit the menu item to better fit your lifestyle/macros, OR log the meal as best as you can and enjoy it! It is impossible to eat “perfect” all the time, it is our reaction to it and preceding steps that make a difference. Enjoying the meal with your family, feeding your soul, eating something you actually enjoy is more important than “oh my goodness, I ate ___, I’ll never be healthy! I’ll never see my goals! I cheated, I might as well eat like this for the rest of the day/week!” Eating healthy is important, but please put mental health first. Your journey to a healthy lifestyle should be a fun and pleasant experience!
- This step is important because you might need more calories than you think! My personal trainer had me log my calories, the first week I did not change anything. I would eat 900-1200 calories (I am 4’9″) a day. I was eating a lot, but I was getting headaches and I looked bloated. The next week, my PT instructed me to go for 1500 calories and gave me specific macros to follow. At first, I was skeptical, shouldn’t I eat less to lose weight? After eating 1500 calories a day, my headaches went away, I can fit into clothes a little better and I have more energy than before! Keeping track of food intake is all about finding a way of eating that works best for you and your health goals. It is also a good idea to see what’s going inside so you can make changes accordingly.
- Get to know your favorite (Insert macro) food! What do you mean get to know my food? I’m very familiar with it! How well do you know it? When counting macros, it takes a little more creativity to hit goals than a lifestyle that includes eating animals. Animal-inclusive diets have very distinct macro categories. Plant-based foods will have more than one macronutrient. This is important because it may be hard to hit a specific macro goal without the other two being disproportionate. Beans are typically considered a protein source, but they contain more carbs than protein. I used to think that peanuts were a protein source until I learned that they have more fat than protein. Seitan is a great source of protein, it’s very low in fat and carbs.