If you want to lose weight, calorie deficit is king. If you are not in a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight. It doesn’t matter what special diet you are following. You can gain weight on any diet if you eat too many calories, even if you are following the rules. Did you know that an extra 100 calories a day can lead to a 10 lb weight gain over the course of a year? In other words, every calorie counts!
Unfortunately, it’s extremely common to underreport calories when tracking them. Even if you are trying your best, chances are, you are probably still underestimating your calorie intake.
I’ve rounded up my biggest tips when tracking calories in MyFitnessPal, so you don’t underreport.
1. Weigh your food.
For the best accuracy weigh your ingredients, rather than measuring in spoons/cups. Let’s take this 1/2 cup of oatmeal as an example. According to the package, half a cup is 43g and 160 calories. However when I weighed the 1/2 cup, its actually 51g and 190 calories (30 calories more). If you repeatedly make this mistake throughout the day, these calories can add up quickly.
What’s even worse than not weighing is choosing options with a vague unit of measure such as ‘plate’, ‘portion’ or ‘serving size’. With the growing size of American portions, it’s extremely unpredictable how large these serving sizes can be.
2. Weigh raw and use raw measurement. Weigh cooked and use cooked measurement.
As an example, when meat cooks, it can lose up to 25% of its weight. So if you weigh cooked, but use a raw measurement you potentially underestimated the calories by 25%.
If you weigh a raw steak, make sure to use the nutritional info for the raw steak.
3. Don’t assume measurements with a green check are accurate.
All this means is that the nutritional profile is complete with the macro and micro-nutrients. One of the benefits of MyFitnessPal is the large database that any user can make entries. This is also one of the biggest drawbacks, resulting in inaccuracies.
4. Scan the bar codes in MyFitnessPal to find the same exact food.
This is a huge time saver! However, you still need to do #5.
5. Verify accuracy with a label.
One of the easiest ways to guarantee accuracy is sticking with pre-packaged foods with clear labels. Even still, you need to double check the entry with the label. Sometimes a food may have been modified by the manufacturer and the old nutritional profile will be in MyFitnessPal.
6. Know what a serving size is if you are using a pre-entered recipe.
One of the biggest conveniences of MyFitnessPal is the pre-entered recipes. However, many of the entries do not specify what a serving size is. Make sure to go back to the original recipe and figure out what the serving size is and tie that back to how much you eat. While you’re at it, make sure the calorie entry is accurate and that you are following the same ingredient measurements.
7. Capture every little nibble, extras (e.g. dressing, mayo, ketchup, sauces, oil) and drinks.
Every little bite and non-zero calorie drinks have calories. Either skip those nibbles and drinks or measure them! For example, this lick of peanut butter is 8 grams and 45 calories. Consuming this lick and a little bit of oil can add up to an extra 100 calories a day and 10 pound weight gain over the course of a year.
This lick of peanut butter is 8 grams and has 45 calories.
8. Track your food BEFORE you eat it.
Too many times, people log their food AFTER they eat. There are two things wrong here:
1. Some food might have a lot more calories than you think! Before you know it, you just ate that 1,000 calorie burger and it’s too late!
2. Chances are, you will not remember everything you ate and exact measurements after you ate it.
Find out how many calories are in that burger before you consume 1000 calories and it’s too late!
9. Tie calories to the restaurant nutritional information on their website/menu.
Restaurants with at least 20 establishments are required to provide nutritional information. If the information is not provided directly by the restaurant and you find it on MyFitnessPal, there is a high chance it is inaccurate.
If you are at a restaurant which does not provide nutritional information, keep in mind that restaurants are notorious for using tons of oil/butter and large portion sizes. These calories can add up quickly. Choose the option in MyFitnessPal with the most calories to be conservative. Just try not to make a habit of it because you still might be underreporting. Once a week should be fine, but not everyday!
I hope you find this helpful. It does take a few days to get used to tracking calories if you’ve never done it. There will be times you will get frustrated, especially if you are a perfectionist. Don’t let this discourage you. The rewards are worth it. Even the process of tracking food will make you more conscious of what you are eating. You got this!