If you have started your fitness journey, then you probably understand how big of a role nutrition plays. Caloric consumption is important to monitor; the most efficient way to monitor intake is but keep a food journal (online app or handwritten). I see many people making an effort to track their food, but there are several mistakes people make when tracking that can halt progress. Research shows the average person under-reports their calorie intake by up to 50%. That is a huge discrepancy.
The number one mistake I see is not weighing your food. If you aren’t weighing your food, you do not know how much to log. If you are not entering the correct portions, your food journal and actual calories consumed are going to be very different. And most people, especially beginners, are not very good at guessing their portion sizes. Do yourself a favor and take two minutes to weigh your food.
This brings me to the second most common error… weighing incorrectly. You want to be sure to weigh all solid foods on a food scale and only use measure cups for liquids. When you weigh out your food, it should be weighed dry/raw/as packaged. For example, if you are cooking pasta or rice, weigh before cooking while they are dry. Once you cook them, the calories remain the same but it will weigh more due to added water. Also meats, vegetables, etc. should be weighed raw. Meats will lose water as they cook so if you weigh afterwards, you will be unknowingly consuming excess calories. Now, if you have packaged foods like pre-cooked chicken, then you weigh as it comes. The nutrition labels for foods are for as packaged.
Another common issue, whether intentional or not, is not tracking everything you eat. Snacks and nibbles here and there add up. You should be tracking everything you consume. This includes drinks, condiments, oils, etc. Oftentimes people get frustrated because according to their food journal, they are meeting their calorie goals; however, your body tracks everything, even if you don’t. Eating a few Hershey Nuggets of your bosses desk (50 calories each!), taking several bites of food while cooking, eating a spoonful of peanut butter (100-200 calories, yikes!)…. throughout the day, you could easily be adding hundreds of calories. So track every bite.
Something else that can cause errors in your food log is incorrect entries if you are using an app. Users can add foods; this means there is more room for entries to be wrong. I recommend scanning the barcode directly from your package into your app and verifying entries match the nutrition label.
Track your food. Weigh everything and log it all. Verify entries are correct. By logging correctly, it is easier to decide if adjustments are necessary. Accuracy can make your fitness journey much smoother and keep your progress moving!
Arielle is a certified fitness trainer, certified sports nutritionist, fitness enthusiast, and bikini competitor who has been involved in fitness since 2011. She also is studying for her Doctorate of Health Science in Nutrition and Exercise Science.