Trust me, I know tracking your food can be difficult if you’ve never done it before.
There are ways to make things easier though. You do have to keep in mind that if this is new to you, there is going to be an adjustment period. It’s just the way it goes. But, I am going to try and make that adjustment period a little bit easier for you.
Before I get into it, I want to talk a little bit about the value of tracking. Many people look at it as “restrictive eating” but really, it’s only as restrictive as you make it. Obviously, different goals require different levels of “restriction.” But, if you think about it.. it can actually create freedom.
I have been tracking for probably about 5 years now and I’ve learned a lot from it. Not only has it taught me to fuel my body properly, but it’s taught me a lot about food. Things like what’s in each food, what works for me, and what doesn’t. I honestly love tracking. Tracking isn’t a “diet” for me because its something I can look at and see myself doing long-term… it’s sustainable and it enables me to have freedom.
Speaking of freedom, I find so much truth in what my mentor Cody Mcbroom quotes, “Dietary structure IS dietary freedom.”
Most of us strive to create structure in our lives when it comes to finances, our job, school.. you get the point. But, then have a hard time seeing the importance of structuring what we put at the end of our fork.
We have ways of structuring our finances and monitor our expenses so that we don’t end up completely broke and that doesn’t seem restrictive does it? So why isn’t nutrition the same? The one thing that is essential for our health and wellness and many of us seem to put it on the back burner.
If we have financial goals and we develop a plan using different tools. Nutrition is no different. If you have aesthetic/performance/health goals… it’s important you’re aware of your food intake.
It’s also a great way to learn how much you’re eating and what macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) are in each food. It teaches how to build more balanced meals. It helps you learn how to make healthier food choices. Because, if one day you decide you don’t want to track anymore, you have those tools in your back pocket to help you eat more intuitively.
Ok, Let’s get to the good stuff. I’m going to go over some common mistakes when tracking and how to fix them.
Common Mistakes When Tracking:
- Using measuring tools (cups, spoons) rather than weighing – For real, go grab a measuring spoon (tbsp) and fill it with peanut butter… now, empty it, put the spoon on the scale and add the number of grams it says on the nutrition label and compare the volume of peanut butter. Most likely it’s going to be a lot less than when you just took a scoop and estimated. This is why weighing your food on a scale is important for progress.
- Using Generic Entries – This is especially important when we are eating out and don’t know exact macros for our meals. Instead of putting in “1 taco” or “1 burger” we want to break it down to tortilla, cheese, meat, salsa.. and the same for a burger.. bun, cheese, patty, etc. When you’re eating out you can always ask the server how much meat they are using, they will usually have a general idea.
- Not Double-Checking an Entry – Some times when we scan something it will appear different in your tracking app than it shows on the nutritional label. Always, always double-check and compare it. Sometimes you will find entries with calories but no macros. This can throw things off. It’s important to be aware of so you can make changes if necessary.
- Forgetting to Log – Taking handfuls of peanuts? Eating some of the food while you cook? This adds up quickly. Eating a meal without inputting into your tracking app first is an easy way to forget to input it all together. This isn’t a hard one to fix. Just input everything you are going to eat into your tracker BEFORE you eat it. This is also important for not going over your macros. All of a sudden you eat something then decide to put it in your tracker and you’re like “oh shit, I’m over 20g of fat now.” It’s not something you can fix at that point. Input first and this problem is solved.
- Not-Preplanning Your Day – This is the easiest way to make tracking hard. You’ll end up scrambling throughout the day. Another easy fix. Input your next day’s food in your tracking app before you go to bed.
- Underestimating – When eating out or if you’re at a get-together where there’s food, there will most likely be hidden oils and sauces in the food we don’t know about. Like I mentioned above, I always add an extra TBSP of oil just to make sure. It’s always better to overestimate than underestimate so we aren’t going over too far over our macros or over at all.
Nutritional labels on basically everything is for raw or uncooked data. So, if you scan the meat and it comes up as 4oz, that’s what it weighs in its raw form
Typically meat loses about 25% of its volume when we cook it. That’s when a little calculation is involved.
Weigh your meat cooked and multiply it by 1.3.
So if we weigh out 4oz x 1.3 that now becomes 5.2 oz.
When inputting into your tracking add it as 5.2oz. Protein gainzzzz.
With My Fitness Pal, you can create meals or foods so that you can easily add them to your day. I do this with breakfast because I eat the same thing every morning.
Tracking When Eating Out
This is one that I had a bit of a hard time with at first and one that I know people struggle with sometimes. So, here are some tips:
- Always look up the menu before arriving so you have an idea and can choose the healthiest option. Planning is everything.
- Choose a simple meal so it’s easier to estimate and add into your tracker.
- Some of the time the restaurant will have their meals and macros in My Fitness Pal. This is a bonus. Always check!
- If you know you are going out that night, eat lighter throughout the day so there is more room for carbs and fats later in the day.
- You can always ask your server about portions. Ask how many ozs the meat is for example. They will usually have an answer for you.
- If it starts to stress you out, JUST focus on hitting your protein and calorie goal and allow carbs and fats to fall as they may.
Remember that at the end of the day, in order to learn we need to make mistakes. “Messing up” here and there isn’t going to make or break your progress. Learn from it and move forward!