How to Track Calories More Accurately
Calorie tracking apps like My Fitness Pal can be absolute game changers for some when looking to understand nutrition better and lose body fat. It’s not essential for everyone to do it but it’s a very useful tool in the right situations. However, a common problem people come across is when they are logging their food in fitness pal, sticking to or staying under their calorie target and not losing weight. Now I’m sure most people here know you need to be in a calorie deficit (burn more calories in a day than you consume) for a sustained period to lose body fat so why do some people not see progress despite seemingly sticking to their calorie target. Let's tackle some of the most common errors seen using calorie trackers that can lead to this false conclusion.
Part 1 Under Reporting
It is important that if you are going to the trouble to log your food in My Fitness Pal that you are as accurate as possible. Most of the time under reporting is not done on purpose but is an honest mistake. Here are a few tips to make sure you never under report on My Fitness Pal again.
•Accurately weigh and measure your food. Avoid using “servings” and “cups” as portions and instead use a food scale and stick to grams and millilitres. This is probably the biggest offender, the differences in calories can be huge!
• Log things straight away. You are best to log something in advance of eating it or right after you eat it to avoid the likelihood of forgetting completely or partially what you ate earlier in the day. I’ve seen people forget to report whole snacks and meals this way.
•Include everything that contains calories! Common things under/unreported are cooking sprays and oils, sauces, teas & coffees, “healthy foods”. These foods all still contain calories and can make a a significant proportion of you daily calories.
That should do it for under reporting. If you have tried My Fitness Pal in the past to no avail the on why not try again and keep an eye out for these under reporting mistakes.
Part 2 – Logging Food Correctly
Now that you will all be aware of how to avoid under reporting your calories, the next step is to make sure that all the food you are tracking is being logged as correctly and accurately as possible.
Depending on what choice you select after scanning or searching on My Fitness Pal (MFP) or the value that you use to measure your food with you could be overconsuming calories by the hundreds without knowing, all the while getting frustrated at why you are “under your calories” but not making any progress. Here are a few tips on how to log your food as accurately as possible.
1. Use the Barcode and Check It’s Correct.
Where possible scan an item of food’s barcode and then check to see if the numbers on MFP line up with what it says on the packaging. These days most things are on MFP but every now and then you can scan something and it will give you completely different nutritional value to the food packaging.
2. Check the Portion Size.
After you have scanned an item also check that the portion size you are inputting matches what you put on your plate. Say a meal is 180g for the whole thing, often when you scan the barcode it might give you that foods nutrition value per 100g as a default. In this scenario you would be missing out on 45% of the food’s calories. Keep an eye for this and adjust to the correct value.
3. Use the Same Values.
For foods that don’t have a barcode (fruits and vegetables amongst others) make sure to use the same value each time you log them. If you simply search “banana” you will see a lot of different values to select. The best things to do here is to take the most common value you see or a middle of the road value. Going forward select the same value again so are being consistent in your reporting.
4. Use Reliable Measurements.
Where possible always stick to using more specific measurements such as grams and millilitres as opposed to more subjective measurements such as cups and servings. Use your food scales to weigh out your food, if you pour a load of rice in a pan and select “1 cup” there is no telling really how much food you have just served yourself. However, if you weight out 60g of rice and scan the packet to get the correct nutrition for 60g then the chances are your meal will be a lot more accurate.
5. Learn as You Go & Use Common Sense
Once you have applied all those points and are quite confident that the food on your plate is pretty much the calories you are recording it as, look at your plate and remember what that meal or snack looks like for those calories. This means that when you find yourself logging in a new food or eating something that can’t be scanned, you will be much more likely to pick a reasonable and accurate nutritional value for that food.
Part 3 – Tips and Tricks
Hey guys, to finish up posting about improving your tracking My Fitness Pal I am just going to list a few extra tips and tricks that can make using the app a lot easier.
Save Your Recipes – If have certain recipes you cook often then remember you can add recipes into my fitness pal. This makes logging the meal every time much faster and more convenient.
Quick Add Calories – If you come across a food or meal that you can’t scan or search for then remember that you can manually quick add calories. Sometime leaving a blank space can lead to increased food intake for the day, avoid this by selecting a reasonable calorie amount to input for what you are consuming. Use an educated guess and, if anything, play it safe and overestimate the calories in the meal rather than underestimate.
Input Food in Advance – Tracking food can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you are busy throughout the day. Input your food ahead of time, either the night before or in the morning when you have time to make it easier to stay on track. Having your food logged in advanced can also help with better adherence as the day goes on due to having a plan in place instead of winging it.
Pre Plan Meals, Have Freedom with Snacks – If you want to have a bit of flexibility along side your structure then try logging your meals in advance but leave your snacks open for you to choose what you like. You could also do this with a meal to give you some flexibility and variety.
Look at Your Food – One of the best and most underrated things you can do when using My Fitness Pal is to educate yourself on better understanding the different calorie amounts that in different foods. The longer you use MFP the better you should get at estimating and eyeballing an accurate number of calories in any given food. Look at your plate and look at the nutrition information of that meal and use that information to make more educated nutrition choices down the line.
Take a Day Off – This one is not really a tip but it is a good things to do every now and then and is linked to the above tip. Every so often go a day or 2 without logging your food just to see that you can continue to eat well and stick to your plan without relying too heavily on MFP. If you have been tracking for a little bit then you will probably find you know what a typical days food will be so try not logging for the day to see how you do.
This Article was written by Scott Newcombe