This is a quick guide to being more accurate when tracking your food intake. These guidelines are based around MyFitnessPal, as it’s the software I use, however they can be applied to almost any tracking software.
Eat a more consistent diet
If you snack a lot, having the same snacks every day makes it much easier to track them as they will already be in your MyFitnessPal food list. This also goes for breakfast and lunch if you don’t mind the lack of variety. When you’re eating the same foods consistently it’s much easier to make being in a Calorie-deficit a habit.
For all your main meals having a rotation of favorite recipes will make life much easier. Once the recipe is in the system you don’t have to re-enter the ingredients and tracking it takes literally 10 seconds.
Plan your food
It’s much easier to track your food when you know what you’re going to eat. This is especially true when you’re eating out. Take a look at the menu ahead of time and decide what looks good and doesn’t pack a ton of Calories. You can even track ahead of time and make a commitment to a lower Calorie meal before you get to the restaurant.
Track before or as you eat
Don’t leave it to the end of the day to try and remember what you ate that day, your memory isn’t that good and you will forget stuff (like the double serving of ranch you had with lunch).
Using the recipe feature
Track your homemade meals as you make them using the ‘recipe’ feature. When you’re making dinner you typically use a few more ingredients than at breakfast or lunch and they are not always in easy to enter amounts. Keeping a kitchen scale handy as you’re putting everything in the pot makes life much easier.
How to weigh your food
The inefficient way of weighing your food is to take the serving of, let’s say, peanut butter, put it in a bowl and weigh it. Then put it with the other ingredients, and then clean the bowl you measured it in.
If that sounds like a pain in the A**, it is.
Instead, a much simpler way involves weighing the container before you take the serving out, take as much out as you need, weight the container again. Subtract the after weight from the before...and there you go.
Note, you always want to slightly underestimate how much you take out – it’s easier to take out more than it is to put some back.
The bar code feature
The bar code scanning feature in MyFitnessPal is amazing, both for ingredients in recipes (like packs of chicken) or for stuff that comes pre-wrapped (like protein bars).
Adapting when it isn't perfect
Sometimes you have to mess around with the serving size math. Not every ingredient that is in the MyFitnessPal Database has the serving size that you need. For example, you may be using a 2/3 cup Greek yoghurt and they only give you ½ cup and 1 cup.
No problem, just weigh the serving (let’s say it weighs 190g) change the serving size to 1g and change the quantity to 190. Alternatively, you can play around with fractions, in our above example, you could change the serving size to 1 cup and put the quantity as 0.66.
Sometimes you have to guess
When you can’t track foods accurately (say you’re at a restaurant that doesn’t publish its Calories or someone else cooked for you), overestimate don’t underestimate. Choose something from the MyFitnessPal database that looks close to what you’re eating, if you have multiple options, choose the one with the most Calories.
It’s human nature to underestimate the amount we eat, and it can screw up your fat loss. If you have a meal that’s 800 Calories and you guess it’s 600 Calories, that’s 200 Calories that’s not accounted for. What makes it worse is that your underestimation may lead you to eat that 200 Calories later in the day when you see them left in your Calorie Budget. So now that’s 400 Calories you have over-consumed – that's potentially enough to wipe out your planned Calorie deficit.
Instead, if we overestimated one of two things happen:
P.s. if you have a question about tracking that isn’t answered by my tips please reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org