I get a lot of questions from people about how to go about starting a nutrition plan to lose weight, to get in shape, or to get stronger. It can be a daunting task to figure out what, when, and how much to eat. My first recommendation is that people track their food and beverage intake for a week. I suggest they track every bite of steak, forkful of spaghetti, handful of M&M’s and glass of wine they consume, along with the time at which they consumed the food. At the end of the week, often people are surprised by the results. They discover they eat too much food, eat too little, eat more carbs, or drink more than they thought they did. They realize there’s a discrepancy between what they THOUGHT they ate and what they ACTUALLY ate. Simply looking at a food log can be an eye opener and can also provide motivation to make some nutritional changes.
The first time I was asked to track my food for a week, I found it to be a chore. I realized I ate a lot of things throughout the day, but in small quantities. Tracking things like “2 M&M’s, 1 Snickers mini, 2 chocolate chip cookies, 1 sugar cookie, 5 Nilla Wafers” was tedious, not to mention sort of embarrassing. For someone who worked out every day, I sure ate a lot of unhealthy, processed foods! This was an eye opener for me. The food log provided tangible proof that my diet needed to change if I was going to build some muscle.
Here are a few methods of logging your meals:
● Use a good old fashioned notebook and pen to write down what you eat every day.
● Create a spreadsheet. You can get fancy and complicated with formulas, tables, and charts or you can keep it simple with several columns for foods and macros.
● Sign up for an online or mobile app. There are several apps that provide a pre-loaded comprehensive search for popular meals and restaurants, options for adding custom meals and recipes, and the ability to scan barcodes and upload food information right from your phone. Some apps even include a social media network of “friends” who can help you stay accountable and motivated.
Find the best method that works for you and will fit your lifestyle. If you’re on the go all the time, perhaps a mobile app would suit you. If you’re at a computer for most of the day (or really like to use the fancy features of Excel), maybe a spreadsheet would work best for you. If all that new fangled technology isn’t your speed, pick up a pretty little notebook and pen for your food log.
Once you have a clear picture of what you’re ACTUALLY eating vs. what you THINK you’re eating, it’s easy to make targeted changes to help you reach your goal. Grab your notebook, spreadsheet, or app and let’s start tracking food!