Research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. And research also shows that dieters who track what they eat are more successful in losing weight.
Ok, so maybe you’re a dieter and maybe you’re just someone concerned with nutrition. Either way, one of the most helpful things you can do to ensure your success is to write down what you eat. Everything. Every last little bit. Often, it’s the calories we don’t count that sabotage our plans.
Once you have a clear understanding of what and how much you are eating, you have the knowledge you need to start tweaking your diet. You’ll also gain an understanding of your maintenance calories, that is, the number of calories you need to stay at the very weight you are right now. Fro there, make changes as needed. Want to lose weight? Easily calculate how many calories less you need to eat (or how many more you need to burn through exercise). Want to hit a certain macro-nutrient balance (40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fats, for instance)? Tracking will help you know you’re on target.
The tools below can help you in your quest for nutrition knowledge. Note that it’s up to you to faithfully track everything you eat — yes, the cream in your coffee, too — as well as to measure or weigh portions. You don’t have to do this last part forever, but at least until you really and truly understand what 4 ounces of chicken breast looks like, or how much rice a 1/2 cup is.
Paper and pencil. Old-fashioned types might prefer this method. I don’t recommend it approach as it will involve a lot looking up of each item’s calories and macro-nutrients.
Online tool. The advantages here are that you can access your information anywhere you have access to a computer. There are several sites available. My favorite is Fitday. Create a free account and you are on your way. You can select from hundreds of pre-entered foods or you can add your own custom foods. This latter option is a huge time-saver, especially when you eat the same custom foods often. For instance, I make a protein shake each morning that I created a custom entry for. This saves me a lot of time since I don’t have to separately add protein powder, banana, cocoa powder, etc.
PC tool. I’ve also got Fitday PC, which offers greater customization and options than the free account. You can track exercise, mood, custom nutrients (helpful if you are trying to make sure you get enough of X or not too much of Y), and more. There’s a robust reporting interface, too.
iPhone/Android App. Is it important to you to track things on the go? If so, there are lot of apps available in this category. Fitday has one for the iPhone (free). Other low- or no-cost options include Absolute Fitness, which has one of the more robust set of features I’ve seen.
As you have probably surmised by now, I don’t use a phone app to track my own nutrition. I use my phone for phone calls and the occasional text. Just call me a Luddite…