How to: Track your food
Sometimes it can be very challenging to add new healthy habits to our routines. Tracking what you eat will help you understand how many calories and nutrients you get in your diet, which can be very beneficial to your health. That’s why we think you should give it a try.
In fact, studies have shown, dieters who track their food on a daily basis lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Food tracking is one of the most important things when it comes to reaching your fitness and health goals.
Maintaining a food journal can additionally help you realise where you have to improve your diet and maybe swap certain foods for a much healthier alternative. However, writing down what and how much you eat is less about losing weight and more about knowing what kind of foods you’re eating, how it affects your body in the long run and maybe even expose certain food sensitivities.
When I started to track my food it was an eye opening experience. Often times you don’t even realise how many calories a small portion can have.
So here are a few tips and tricks to start tracking your eating habits and gain control of them.
Control your calories
It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned: How calorie-dense the foods I eat really are. You start to realise that one tablespoon of olive oil has 110 calories! And suddenly you just ate over 1000 calories for one meal and you’re not even close to being satiated.
Start using measuring tools
Using measuring cups and a kitchen scale can help you understand food quantities. You will also learn more about portion control and what types of food you can eat in larger portions and which you should rather eat in smaller portions.
Be in a caloric surplus or deficit
Keeping a food journal will not only tell you your total calories of the day, but you can start figuring out if you are eating more calories than you need (or less). Eating more calories than you burn causes weight gain and eating less causes weight loss. It’s as simple as that (mostly).
Watch out for nutritional information
Most of the digital trackers are doing this automatically, but if you decided to start a physical journal, you have to remember this. Make sure you’re getting enough of the mandatory nutrients, like carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Compare foods and see which ones contain more vital vitamins or minerals than others.
This is one of the most common mistakes and I’ve done that too: not tracking everything I eat.
Food tracking is meant to estimate how many calories you have eaten. There are small volume foods that you won’t even associate with “food”, which can be really calorie-dense.
These foods can be olive oil (again, 1 tablespoon has 110 calories), salat dressings, dips and sauces, spreads and toppings, milk (in coffees and such) and especially sugary drinks. If you’re not tracking really everything, you will sabotage your own weight management.
Compare your days
Most people eat differently at work, school or on the weekend. Look for patterns that may influence your eating behaviour.
If you eat out more on certain days, for example when you have to work late, then you should consider meal preparation on the weekends. Start planning ahead for days where you just don’t want to or can’t cook.
Track physical activity too
Record both the kind of exercises you do and for how long you do them. It’s even more important if you want to gain muscle, because you have to increase your caloric intake as well. On top of that, you will begin to see how exercise will affect your hunger.
However, don’t eat burned calories back if you’re trying to lose weight! Just because you took a 30m run, doesn’t mean you can eat one more donut.
Plan your meals in advance
Structure your food intake by writing down a plan for the week. It should be much easier for you to stick to your diet when you know what you should be eating.
Once you tracked your food for a while, you’ll have a much better understanding of portion sizes and calories. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to estimate calories and even macros in meals you didn’t cook (eating out, thanksgiving, etc.), which is both very important to stay lean and to have a healthy relationship with nutrition.