By Stefan Ianev
Talking about accurately tracking your food might not be as glamorous and exciting as some other hot topics such as keto, intermittent fasting, and reverse dieting, but it is usually the boring basics that make the most difference.
For example, it doesn’t matter what diet you are following, if you don’t accurately track your food intake and you don’t ensure that you are consistently in a caloric deficit, you won’t lose weight.
Some diets such as keto claim that you don’t need to track your caloric intake as long as you abstain from eating certain foods. Those diets are relying on the false presumption that by excluding those food groups you will automatically be in a deficit.
However, that is not always the case. For example, we’ve had people on keto discover that they were consuming close to 4,000 calories per day once they started tracking their calories because they thought they had a licence to eat as much cheese and nuts as they want.
And that is just one example. There are many reasons why people may be underestimating their caloric intake because they are not tracking their food intake properly.
In this article, we share our top 5 tips for accurately tracking your food.
1. Have a set meal plan
Having a set meal plan and eating at consistent times each day makes it a lot easier to track your food intake consistently. When your meal plan is “flexible”, and you are trying to track everything you eat as you go along, it is very easy to miss things when you get busy or caught up, or sometimes you simply forget or can’t be bothered.
Furthermore, when you are constantly faced with decisions about what you are going to eat and you haven’t prepped in advance, it can quickly lead to decision fatigue, and you start to make poor choices.
2. Watch out for hidden calories
Hidden calories can come in many shapes and forms, including sweetened beverages such as energy drinks, caffeinated beverages such as lattes and mochas, and alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine.
Many people don’t pay much attention to these beverages or forget to track them, but the calories can quickly add up. You might think a few extra calories here and there won’t make a difference, but a mocha or even bullet-proof coffee (which is marketed as a healthy beverage) contains close to 400 calories. That is enough to pretty much wipe out your entire daily deficit.
3. Prep your meals in advance
Preparing your meals in advance greatly increases the odds of adhering to your meal plan and accurately tracking your food intake. If you leave it until the last minute to prep your meals, such as when you are too tired later in the evening, or when rushing around in the morning, you will often end up having to wing it by quickly packing what’s available or eating out.
It is much harder to track properly when eating out or when rushing out in the morning and packing whatever is available without measuring it properly.
4. Consider a meal prep service
Engaging a meal prep service is an effective and time efficient option for accurately tracking your food intake. In fact, studies have shown that prepared meals increase dietary compliance .
These days there is no shortage of meal prep services, and they are usually quite well priced, and they also taste quite good. Just the amount of time you will save in shopping, cooking and cleaning can easily make the investment worth it.
5. When eating out prep in advance
Tracking your food when eating out may be more difficult but it’s not impossible. For example, you can plan ahead by picking out the restaurant in advance and checking out their menu online.
If they do not provide the caloric content of their meals, you can search for similar dishes, so you can plan out in advance roughly how many calories you will be consuming, so that you can adjust the rest of your day accordingly.
- Lee. J. Diet Programs and Compliance: Do Prepared Meal Programs Increase adherence? Nutrition Bytes. 2001.