|Christine Pellegrini, Post-Doctoral Research Associate|
Things you will notice once you begin recording your food intake:
- What foods are high in calories and fat?
- Are the extra calories coming from a specific food?
- Are there any foods that you commonly overeat?
- Where (eating in or out) are you eating the most calories?
- What meal or time of day is the most problematic?
- Are your weekdays any different from weekends?
Where Can I Track My Calories?
Today, there are many different ways you can track your calories and dietary intake. While one method is not any better then another, the goal is to find the one that best suits you. Here are just a few of the available options:
- Paper and Pencil - Try using an old notebook or piece of paper to record the foods you're eating each day. Be sure to include the food you're eating, how much of it you ate, and how many calories were in that food and portion size.
- Websites - In general, many websites are free; however, some may have a registration fee or monthly cost, so be careful before you sign up. Here are three free websites: LiveStrong MyPlate (http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/), FitDay (http://fitday.com/), and Spark People (http://www.SparkPeople.com).
- Phone Apps - If you have a phone capable of downloading applications, there are many free apps that you can use to record your dietary intake. Free apps include Lose it! (iPhone), Calorie Counter by FatSecret (Android), and Diet & Food Tracker by SparkPeople.com (Android).
A Few Things to Remember
As you begin to record your food intake every day, there are a few things you need to remember, no matter which method you are using:
- Don't forget to record EVERYTHING you are eating, including those beverages, mayonnaises, cooking oils, and butters. All of those extra calories add up fast, so be sure to include them.
- Accurately estimating your portion size is very challenging and makes calorie counting even more difficult! Try measuring or weighing your foods as often as you can so you can calculate the correct number of calories you are actually eating.
- Try recording the foods you eat immediately after your meal or snack. If you wait till the end of the day, you may not remember everything you had, plus the portion sizes of each food. This will result in an inaccurate estimation of how many calories you are actually eating.
Counting your calories is a learning process. There will be many times you will eat foods that are higher in calories than you thought. When this happens, you have to focus on not getting discouraged. No one is perfect! The purpose of tracking your food intake is to learn where those extra calories are coming from, so the next time you encounter the same food, you will have the ability to make a better choice. Changing takes time!
Boutelle, K. N., & Kirschenbaum, D. S. (May 1998). Further support for consistent self-monitoring as a vital component of successful weight control. Obesity Research, 6(3), 219-224.
For more information, questions on weight management, or to provide feedback, please contact Christine Pellegrini at firstname.lastname@example.org.