Food Tracking 101
Tracking or logging every food and beverage you put in your mouth sounds painful and time consuming. What if I told you that it’s one of the most effective weight loss tools? Not only does your dietitian make you do it, but it actually helps you in a big way.
Most of us eat more than we think. We don’t usually mean to, but our eyes see smaller portions than reality. Expanding portion sizes in restaurants over the last 30 years isn’t helping, either. Weight loss success has a lot of factors involved, but calories (and quality of calories) are a big one. In other words, it’s hard to lose weight if you don’t know what you’re putting in your body.
I prefer using the tracking apps, such as Baritastic and MyFitnessPal. They’re easy to use and have large databases that include most foods we eat. Writing down your food intake on a journal is OK too, as long as you’re keeping track of calories and other macronutrients you may be focusing on (carbs, protein).
The more you use the tracker, the easier it gets. The apps remember your favorite foods, and you can even input recipes that you make frequently. Even if you don’t track every single day, three or four days per week will give you insight on your typical intake. Here are some tips to help you succeed with tracking:
- Log the food before you eat it. That may change your mind if you see it isn’t a healthy choice.
- Measure your food to ensure accurate portions. There’s a big difference between ½ cup of rice and 1 cup. Food scales and measuring cups are inexpensive and very helpful.
- When the app gives several options for the same food, choose the one with the calories in the middle range.
- Look at your app throughout the day. See how you’re doing with protein and calories. This helps with consistency and balance.
- Have an accountability partner – someone who makes sure you’re tracking regularly. You can “friend” other people in the app.
- Expect to see variation. You won’t eat the same things every day, so don’t expect to perfectly hit the calorie number every day.
- Track even when you know it’s ugly. This is very important. It may not be as bad as you think, but if it is, move forward with healthy choices the next meal.
- Use tracking to help you stay balanced and sane. If you know you’re going out to dinner tonight, keep your calories lower during the day to compensate. That way you still get to enjoy a meal out.