You’ve probably heard that food tracking is one of the best ways to lose weight or get your health on track. And it’s definitely true. Most nutritionists, dietitians and health coaches will also recommend it as one of the most effective strategies to reach your personal health goals.
However, when it comes to food tracking, there are some common mistakes people make that can really slow down progress. Before you get started, you should be mindful of the following:
Not Knowing What You’re Tracking.
When you decide to get motivated and track food intake, it’s a good idea to begin with clear goals in order to define what to track and, more importantly, why. That way you can get true value out of your food tracking efforts.
For example, are you tracking for health purposes such as weight loss, blood pressure or blood sugar control? Or, are you tracking for motivational and self-accountability purposes?
It’s NOT All About Calories.
One of the main things people track is calories. And while calories are important, there is usually something far more important – the quality of the food you eat!
Research has shown that not all calories are equal. For example, if you eat 1400 calories from junk food and 1400 calories from vegetables, chicken, nuts, and fruit, which do you think will yield the best results? Hint: It’s not the junk food!
Food tracking will help you think about not just calories, but the quality of them.
Use Measuring Tools.
If you want better accuracy, use measuring tools – cups, spoons, a digital scale – to measure quantities correctly.
Our eyes and ‘taking a guess’ aren’t really the most accurate ways to go about measuring. Sure, often times it will be enough. But if you have a health condition, it can sometimes be useful to track more detailed measurements.
Track ALL Foods You Eat.
Who are you trying to fool by leaving out that small piece of cake you had at today’s work lunch?
Cheating on your food tracking isn’t going to help, so make sure you track ALL the foods you eat throughout the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, nibbles, dessert, supper, etc. Track every little detail for best results.
Don’t Forget Beverages.
What you drink has just as much impact on your results as what you eat.
For example, a single can of Coca Cola contains 39 g sugar and 140 calories. Even 1 cup of orange juice has 21 g sugar and 112 calories.
Beverages add up fast, so don’t exclude them!
Aim For Consistency.
It’s hard to get any real results if you track one day but not the next.
The key to any success is consistency, and the same goes for food tracking. The more consistently you do it, the easier it becomes—and the better results you’ll get.
Aim For Small Step Changes.
One of the main reasons people fail to make any long-term changes with their diet and health is that they try to make too many changes too fast.
The great thing about food tracking is you become aware of your bad habits pretty fast. And you begin to see patterns in your behavior that you can work on changing.
For example, maybe you never realized you eat cake every single day at your staff meetings. In your mind you thought it was only every other day, but your food tracking has revealed otherwise.
So you decide to tackle this one thing. The next day, instead of eating cake, you take a small bag of nuts to nibble on during the meeting. You keep doing that every day, and before you know it you’ve got one new healthy habit in check and can move on to the next change.
These small changes are noticeable, trackable, and achievable by keeping a food log.