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3 ways to track your food

Tracking your food can be a beneficial approach for those who want to increase strength, gain muscle, improve recovery, gain/lose weight, or change body composition. Disclaimer: food logging is not for everyone and I do not recommend it for everyone. If nutrition/food logging is triggering for you, I would skip this email.

 

Some of my clients find that tracking their food is helpful for reaching their goals. It brings awareness to their current habits -- what's going well, what could be improved, and what patterns we are noticing. I will be the first to say, tracking food is not a ~fun lil activity~. It takes time and effort. But, for the right person, it can play a large role in achieving goals.


Trainer holding a donut and apple

Here are 3 ways to track your food:

 

1. Food tracking app

Tracking in an app is the most common way people and my clients log their food. Food tracking apps make it easy to set a calorie goal, macronutrient goal, and other nutrient goals that you come up with with your coach. I do not recommend using the apps suggested calorie goal -- to be honest, it's usually too low.

 

Most apps make it easy to find pre-loaded foods so all you have to do is select your serving size. You can also add your own recipes so if you make them again in the future, it's already saved and ready to go without having to enter all 9 ingredients individually.

 

When tracking with an app, I suggest weighing your food, not eyeballing or guesstimating. This, again, takes time and effort. But if you're going to track in an app, it's likely best to get the most accurate representation, right?

 

A study was done in 2002 that took 10 dietitians and 10 non-dietitians and had them record their food based on estimates (not weighing their food). Dietitians underreported their intake by up to 223 calories/day and non-dietitians underreported their intake by up to 429 calories/day.

 

429 calories/day is a significant discrepancy!

 

If you saw on my IG story a few weeks ago, I began tracking my food again for the first time in years. I wanted to make sure I was eating enough to fuel for my activities/life. The first day, I used a measuring cup for my oatmeal, as I do every day even without tracking, and logged it as the size of the measuring cup. The next day, I did the same thing except I weighed out my oatmeal to the gram. The difference in my estimated calories vs actual calories was 86 cals. Again, that's a significant difference in just one item.

 

TLDR; If you're going to track in an app, weigh your food for the most accurate representation.

 

On the other hand, it can be challenging to track your food accurately for meals out. In these occasions, estimating is all you can do. OR, lean on nutritional habits you've discussed with your coach / use one of the following methods for meals out.

 

2. Hand portions

Tracking your food based on hand portions is another form of logging that I use with a handful of clients (pun intended). I use this with clients who don't necessarily want to track their food in an app, but would like to change portion sizes and overall nutrition habits. This option is great because you take your hand with you everywhere, so you can still keep your health in mind even when on the go.

 

How to measure:

Protein: 1 palm = 1 serving

Vegetables: 1 fist = 1 serving

Carbohydrates: 1 cupped hand = 1 serving

Fats: 1 thumb = 1 serving

 

With this method, I recommend keeping a log either written down or in a notes app of:

- Time the food and/or drink was consumed

- What the food and/or drink was

- How much food and/or drink was consumed

- Feelings behind the food (hunger, just wanted it, craving, comfort, etc.)

- Level of satiety on a scale from 1-10 (1 being not full at all, 10 being very full)

- Level of enjoyment on a scale from 1-10 (1 being it didn’t taste good at all, 10 being it was absolutely delicious)

- Identify any distractions during your meal/snack

 

3. Photo logging

Snapping a pic of your food is another quick and accessible way to gain awareness of your meals.

 

Similarly to the hand portion method, I recommend keeping a log either written down or in a notes app of:

- Time the food and/or drink was consumed

- What the food and/or drink was

- How much food and/or drink was consumed

- Feelings behind the food (hunger, just wanted it, craving, comfort, etc.)

- Level of satiety on a scale from 1-10 (1 being not full at all, 10 being very full)

- Level of enjoyment on a scale from 1-10 (1 being it didn’t taste good at all, 10 being it was absolutely delicious)

- Identify any distractions during your meal/snack

 

If you decide tracking is right for you, understand that this is meant as a way to gather data. This doesn't mean you need to track for the rest of your life. In fact, I highly suggest that you don't do that. But tracking for a specific goal or to check in with your routine can bring awareness to patterns and habits that could impact your health.

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Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.

 

I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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