Measuring for Your Diet
Measuring for Your Diet
So let’s go back to the process of measuring and understanding what we eat. In order to start, we have to set a foundation. In order to find out the nutritional information for food, there are a few good websites you can go to, in addition to apps you can download onto your phone to get the information on the go. Nutrition.gov has good information on the nutritive values of food. Apps like Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, or Fooducate are good for tracking calories. It is imperative to read and understand nutrition labels on food.
Reading Nutrition Labels
Let’s start with nutrition labels. There are the labels that come on the packing of most food you buy at the store. They list the nutritional facts of the food you are about to eat. The first thing a food label tells you is what is an average serving size and how many calories a serving size has. This is the first-place people go wrong with their diet. Either they pay attention to the serving size or measure it incorrectly. Remember a ‘handful’ is not a serving size.
The second part of the label is the breakdown of fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and proteins. There are also sub-categories for fat that tell us the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Carbohydrates also have a subcategory of dietary fiber and total sugars.
The last section on the label lists the vitamins and minerals, as well as the ingredients.
So now that we know what’s on the label, we can measure what we eat to ensure we are meeting our nutritional goals. The applications you can download onto your phone have two different ways to look up the food you are eating. The first and easiest is to scan the barcode. This automatically populates the nutritional information into the app, so all you have to do is adjust for serving size. The second is to look the food up by typing it in the search. This will even look up restaurant meals, but you still have to input the amount you are eating.
How do you know the amount to enter? Well you measure of course. If you are eating something that comes from a single serve container (i.e. a cup of yogurt), the serving size is 1 and the amount doesn’t need to be adjusted. Otherwise, you need to measure things out with a scale and with measuring cups. You can purchase these from any supermarket and should plan on making this a regular part of your day. If you are preparing a recipe that you cook often, the applications allow you to create recipes, so that you only have to enter the recipe the next time you eat that particular food.
Fooducate in particular has a particularly useful feature of comparing foods. When you are shopping at the store, you can scan the barcode on a particular food item, and it will give you an idea of the nutritional value of that food, and some healthier alternatives. This becomes important when it comes to meal planning….
Plan for the day
One of the primary things all successfully healthy people to is meal plan. Meal planning is the
Idea that we prepare for what we are going to eat each and every day. This helps to know ahead of time what we are eating how to stay on track with our nutrition prescription.
The first thing you need to do when meal planning is generating a list of foods and recipes you like to eat. You should make sure your list includes a variety of each food type, so you don’t get burnt out of a food you like by eating it all the time. I would look to have 4-5 different fruits, vegetables, and protein sources in order to create this variety.
Once you have a fairly good list, you can begin planning for the week. You should look to plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. Once you have created a menu for the week, you can generate a shopping list. This can also be made easier by using an app on your phone, such as Paprika (although there are many others as well), to plan out the menu, and then have it automatically generate a shopping list.
Once at the store, use Fooducate to ensure the foods you are choosing are healthy options, and replace any food that land on the list, but may have healthier alternatives. Having a prepared list will also help you avoid spontaneous purchase of food, which often times gets us in trouble.
Now that you are back at home, begin following your menu for the week. I advocate preparing everything (except maybe dinner) the night before and storing it for on the go the next day. With your scale ready and your phone with the app of your choice ready to go, we can begin preparing our meals and snacks for the day. I use small Tupperware containers to store my food. Place it on the scale, zero it out and add your food until you have the serving size you have accounted for on your meal plan. Repeat this step for each of the foods on your meal plan and keep them altogether in a section of your refrigerator, or if going to work, store in an insulated food bag or box to keep cool during the day.
When you travel
Travelling can pose a challenge to staying on track with your diet. Time zones, airports, different hotels, and unusual schedules can play havoc with a routine unless you plan ahead. Although I don’t travel much, I am going to share with you a simple strategy to stay on track with eating healthy on the road.
First, before you leave, meal plan for the upcoming trip. If you know you are going to have to get up early or even operate on a different schedule than when you are at home, plan your meals accordingly. Remember, just because it’s different doesn’t mean it should be an excuse. Try to think of things that are dried (less problems storing and refrigerating), easily measurable (with a small measuring spoon or in single serve containers) and don’t need preparation beyond their purchase. Take some back up foods like protein bars and shakes with you.
Once my meal plan is done, I pack small food containers, a shaker bottle, and a leak-proof cooler bag in my suitcase. With stackable containers, this can be done without occupying much space in your bag. I also pack one or two small measuring utensils, so I can make sure I stay measuring correctly.
I will plan ahead by making sure my hotel has a refrigerator before I make my reservation. This almost goes without saying in this day and age, but it’s always good to double check. Next, I will look at a map of the surrounding area and find a grocery store close to the hotel, so that when I land I can get an Uber or walk to the store. I will also get on the stores website ahead of time to make sure they have what I need, including a deli. Keep in mind the space in your refrigerator, and don’t buy beyond what you can fit in there. By the way, I also find this saves a ton of money on food expenses when traveling.
The last thing I do when I travel is back off on my daily calories a little, so that when eating out at night, I have some calories banked. When ordering from a restaurant, I will try to keep it a little healthier, and also look up the food I am eating in my calorie tracking app to get an idea of how many calories I am getting. Although not perfect, it helps you stay on track.
Lastly, if your travel is vacation, enjoy. The reason to stay good on a regular basis is so you can enjoy life’s better moments. I don’t track my calories on vacation and boy do I enjoy my food!
By Dr.. Ross Osborn