Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tracking What We Eat

I have never paid much attention to the exact nutritional value of what
I eat or how many calories I consume each day. I just sort of eat mostly
good food and have tried over the years to curb bad eating habits at certain times.

Ben has had great success in the past couple years with tracking his food intake
and has found freedom in knowing what works for him to attain his goals.

I don't have to explain that our culture has a gazillion dollar industry in weight
loss and healthy living.

We've done some research and had some experience with a few websites that are
helpful for the person who wants to eat well, set healthy goals and monitor
his/her eating and exercise behavior.

A food scale is helpful and of course you need access to the internet, but other
than these tools,all you need is determination and grace to succeed.

Accountability to another person is helpful too.

We all need support in our efforts.

Ben is more the expert here so I asked him to compare websites that anyone can
use to track their nutrition and exercise.

We are committed as a family to healthy living and this is one way we are
making progress towards healthier eating.

Here is what Ben has to say:

A little bit of very personal history. I have been tracking what I eat on a
regular basis since November of 2008. I was first introduced to the concept
of tracking my calorie intake via website by John Hunter, a colleague at US Bank
in 2006. I opened a free account at in the spring of 2006 and
used it off and on again for about 2 years. In November of 2008 I was very
motivated to change my shape (I'm in shape… round is a shape) and I had great
success with weight loss in late November 2008 into spring of 2009 dropping
from 220 lbs to 160 lbs (60 lbs). I am currently working to get back down to
my target weight of 160 or BMI 22.3 : ) I have struggled with keeping the weight
off and am currently 185 lbs or BMI 25.8. When I get back to 22.3 BMI I'll stay
there this time.

FYI: I have read that a BMI of 22 is the healthiest.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing. ~ Abraham Lincoln

I currently weigh almost all my meals. Basically if I put it in my mouth I either
weigh it so I can track it or know what a serving size is so I can track it.
I like using grams as the unit of measure because I can track both food and liquid
in the same unit of measure.
I place my wine glass on the scale and pour 135 grams of wine. I can look up
red wine and select grams for an accurate calorie count. If I am at a restaurant
I know most pours are about 5 fl oz. Tracking in grams is easy and fun and you feel
sophisticated like a European when using the metric system.

I have used the following free websites in the last 3 years:

If you are interested in tracking your food/drink intake along with your
exercise I would suggest it is by far the most complete
website I have come across. Thanks to my brother Jake who told me about the
website a few weeks ago.

Here is a comparison of the sites that I have used.
- free
- mobile app is clumsy and hard to use
- mobile app only lets you track 99 grams of something at a time
- entering custom food isn't hard
- I entered 537 custom foods to track my food intake
- limited food database native to the website
- ads can be a little racy
- can track how your friends are doing if they give you their users name
- free
- I only used this site for building recipes
- It gives very detailed nutritional data
- not sure if they have a mobile app
- may continue to use this site if doesn't provide the
level of detail I am looking for
- mobile app cost $2.99
- good database of food
- good articles on health
- didn't like flow of entering food
- mobile app had nice graphics
- free
- mobile app does not let you track in grams
- good database of foods
- posts website and mobile app activity to twitter or facebook to keep
other in the loop on your entries
- free
- great database of foods
- can search other member's custom foods
- free mobile app
- mobile app is easy to use and flexible
- can build recipes and food groups
- loads of great information on health
- the most complete site I have used

If you are interested in tracking your caloric inputs and outputs I would
suggest it is by far the most complete website I have come

I would also highly recommend the Oxo food scale,
specifically the Oxo 1130800 Good Grips Food Scale with Pull-Out Display.
This was the highest ranked scale at in
September 2008.

I have recently started making burritos on Sunday mornings with my 5 year old
daughter. I eat them for lunch everyday. I love them! We get a little assembly
line going. It looks something like the following:

Turn on the scale
Place a plate on the scale
Zero out the weight
Heat up the tortillas
Place a tortilla on the scale
Zero out the weight
Add refried beans until the scale reads 40g
Zero out the weight
Add rice until the scale reads 110g (2/3 cup of cooked rice)
Zero out the weight
Add cheese until the scale reads 28g
Zero out the weight
Hand the tortilla to dad who rolls it up into a burrito and wraps in tinfoil
Place in freezer

Back to me:
I have been using now for about a week.

I input my food after almost every meal to watch the calorie count and levels of
nutrition over the course of the day. It has helped me to see holes in my diet and
just how many extra calories are added when I indulge in my favorite goat cheese
and crackers or extra glass of wine later in the evening. I also think the site
is very user friendly. I spent only a couple minutes tops setting up my own account
and entering my first meal. I also easily set a few goals, ones for me that I know
I will have some success with. It has never helped me to set goals so lofty that
the chance for actual success is too remote. I am less likely to stick to the
behavior to attain that goal if it remains unattainable. Smaller scale goals work
better for me. Hence, I chose to add a goal of eliminating "mindless eating" at
night. I also chose to journal a few sentences about my health three times each
week. Finally, I noted that I wanted to stretch for five minutes each day.
This may not sound like much, but for someone who lacks a firm commitment to daily
exercise, this one is doable and one that I am likely to keep in the long run.

So far, so good.

I have been able to be honest about what I consume and not too hard on myself
when I indulge in something so incredibly mouth watering scrumptious that I could
care less the amount of calories it has.

Just seeing a serving of something. Cheese, for example. Or what a serving of corn
chips looks like is helpful for better habits in serving myself and my kids portions.

Most of what I already eat is in the database or someone else has added it so I
spend little time hunting around for the food itself. Recipes of your own can be
entered and saved so you can refer to them at any time and share them with others
if you wish.

Again, so far so good. I set a few goals and have seen progress in just this short

The real test, as you probably already know is maintaining good habits and embracing
new ones.

All in the name of health.

Amen and Happy Tracking!

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