Are You Making These Common Food Logging Mistakes?
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Food logging is a simple yet great tool to better understand the foods you are consuming.
It also gives you the power to much more easily manipulate your body weight while still eating the foods you enjoy.
When you get the hang of food logging (especially when you have a handy app on your phone) it’s very simple and quick to do.
There is however some common mistakes that people make when first starting to food log so I laid them out here to help you avoid them.
Not considering or estimating portion sizes
When scanning items into an app such as MyFitnessPal it is crucial to know the portion size of your food.
For example, let’s say you scan a large size individual carton of chocolate milk and the portion size reads “1/2 Cup”, but a large individual carton of chocolate milk is actually about double the amount of that serving size.
This can be an additional 200 calories or more not accounted for. This may not seem like much but when you’re trying to be in a consistent deficit of calories this adds up very quickly and will halt your weight loss goals.
Packaged items typically list somewhere on the packaging what the total weight or volume of food is in the entire package.
Remember to check the total package weight or volume versus the serving size when logging.
There are also a few things to watch out for when preparing your own food.
Ask yourself - what does 1 cup of rice look like? Or what does 4oz of chicken breast look like? How big was the burger patty that you ate?
There are tools you can use to estimate portion sizes (such as the palm of your hand being approx. 3oz of meat) which can be effective when starting to food log, but to be the most accurate you will need to weigh and measure out your food.
I recommend pre-measured scoops and a digital food scale. It can be especially hard to estimate calorie dense foods such as peanut butter.
Both 20 grams and 30 grams of peanut butter can look identical when your estimating, but those additional 10 grams would be about 60 additional calories unaccounted for.
Bonus Tip: If a food label shows both volume and weight (e.g. ½ Cup (40 grams) always go with the weight as it will be more accurate.
Forgetting to log supplements
Many supplements also contain calories, so remember to log them as well.
Whey protein generally has 120 calories per scoop
Fish Oil can have around 90 calories in 2 Tsp
If you’re ever unsure if a supplement has calories check the nutrition guide on the packaging.
“Hidden Calories” Not recording all ingredients e.g. sauces, oils, condiments and etc.
In your morning cup of coffee did you add cream or sugar? How much dressing did you have in your salad? Was there any cheese or croutons?
When you cooked your dinner did you add oil to the pan before cooking? These are all commonly forgotten items when food logging.
They may seem small but add up very quickly. Let’s take a look at the following:
the 2 tablespoons of olive oil used to cook your dinner (240 calories),
the 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise in your homemade chicken salad (200 calories),
the 3 cubes of feta cheese on your salad (140 calories),
the 3 tablespoons of cream in your coffee (80 calories), and
The 2 pieces of butter with your toast (70 calories).
As you can see these “hidden calories” can make a very noticeable difference.
Not recording beverages and/or alcohol consumption
Remember everything that you eat or drink counts.
Beverages like pop or juice add up to a lot of calories quickly and the down side is they don’t leave you feeling full afterwards.
Alcohol can make an even bigger impact because it contains 7 calories per gram, which is only second to fat at 9 calories per gram.
So keep that in mind the when you have a couple of shots the next time you go out with friends (which can be anywhere from 50 to 100 calories each).
This doesn’t mean you need to completely avoid these things, but just make sure they’re accounted for.
Leaving out snacks, or “small bites”
I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves passing by the snack cabinet and thought “let me just have a couple of chips, it doesn’t count”, or “I’ll have a small bite of that chocolate bar, I don’t need to log it”.
Again these are things that may seem small at the time, but add up fast. It is important to be honest with yourself. If you want a little snack that’s fine, just make sure you log it.
Procrastinating and forgetting what you ate
Many people think they can remember every item they ate throughout the day and log it in at the end of the night, but in most cases they either forget a couple of items, or forget what the portion size was.
There are 2 ways to avoid this – either log your food before eating it, or meal plan your food ahead of time (like the day before) and pre-pack it in containers and that way you can just grab it and go.
I know that there are times this might be difficult.
You might be eating out with friends and you don’t want log your food in at the restaurant – I completely understand.
The best thing to do in that situation is to either check the menu ahead of time and pre-plan your choice, or take a quick picture of the food and log it at a later time.
Not being specific enough with your foods when logging into an app
Be specific as you can when logging your food.
Try to include the brand name of items, how the food was prepared, if the food was measured cooked or uncooked.
Even the Canadian version of items can be different than the American (e.g. KFC Canada vs KFC USA).
Usually scanning the item will solve this, but sometimes this can also be wrong, or not an option, so be sure to double check. Remember that using an app like MyFitnessPal relies heavily on its users adding in items in their database.
This means at times what pops up on the app can be incorrect. MyFitnessPal does put a green check next time items that they verify so those are often a good choice if available, otherwise just use your best judgment.
Taking cheats too far
Let’s first state what a cheat meal is: a meal that you don’t log or fit into you calorie/macronutrient goals.
You can have an “unhealthy meal” and fit it in your meal plan, but sometimes you may want to go out and eat and not worry about logging food – this would be a cheat meal.
There is nothing wrong with having a cheat meal every so often, but remember “cheat meal” not “cheat day”.
Unless you go absolutely insane, one meal a week is not going to sabotage your weight goals, but a cheat day easily can wipe out an entire week of staying on plan.
So don’t be scared to have a cheat meal about once a week or so, but avoid having a whole day of binge eating.
Tracking your food intake is an effective way to understand what you’re putting in your body.
It’s also a good way to measure your eating habits and give you feedback on how your eating habits are either helping or hurting you in reaching your fitness goals.
You shouldn’t be obsessive with your food, like tracking down every grain of rice you eat, but you want to be as accurate as needed in order to achieve your goals.
Look at food logging as tool in your arsenal in gaining healthy eating habits and enjoying the food you eat!
If you have any questions shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m happy to help.
Looking for a custom fitness plan? CLICK HERE.
If you want to build your best body without any of the guesswork I’d love to help you out.
Thanks for reading and until next time.