Counting Calories

Check out the CDC’s website for a good overview of caloric balance.


Most people know that the foods the eat– both in type and in quantity– have an incredible impact on their well-being, even more so than exercise.  It’s common to hear athletes and coaches say, “You can’t outtrain a bad diet.”  That’s a sad but true reality.

Keeping records of what you eat can work to motivate you in the same way that keeping an exercise log lets you realize how much effort you’re putting in to your workouts.  Similarly, planning your meals helps keep you on track just like calendaring your workouts holds you more accountable.   But where do you start when you want to get a better understanding of what you’re eating?

Fortunately, the world of app technology has made keeping a food log pretty darn easy.  Apps like Spark People and My Fitness Pal allow you to track both food intake and calorie expenditure (exercise!) in one simple interface.  These work really well for a lot of people, particularly if your eating is simple and straightforward.

But if you’re the kind of person who does a lot of cooking one-dish-meals, it’s a bit more challenging to guesstimate the number of calories on your plate.  That’s where I feel like the app Calorie Counter has a real advantage.  It allows you to enter your recipe into it’s website, and it will determine the calories-per-serving size for you.  This saves the headache of having to enter individual ingredients time and time again.  Furthermore, you can scan barcodes of packaged food items, from which it determines the nutritional profile.

There’s one area where I think all of the calorie counting apps could be improved: I’d love to see a row of faces with different emotions on them so that I could click on how I felt both before and after eating particular foods.  Because so many of our food decisions are emotionally-driven, having the record of a certain craving being not-as-fulfilling-as-hoped could help me make a better choice the next time.

I always encourage my clients to track what they eat.  It doesn’t have to be an every day chore, but giving yourself the challenge of reflecting on your nutritional intake can make you more aware of how you eat (and why!).  This is important information for you along your wellness journey.

Hope I haven’t put a damper on your Memorial Day picnic plans.  Remember that there’s always room for a splurge in any eating plan.  It just makes keeping track of the big picture– over a week, for example– all the more important!  Knowing that you come out in a balanced position at the end of the week is far more important than what happens on any one day.

Do you use an app or online calorie counter?  How has it helped you reach your fitness goals?




2 responses to “Counting Calories

  1. Great post, I use my fitness pal and you couldn’t be more correct. It worked wonders for me. Now I budget my calories daily like I would budget my money. Its a great way to live and really puts it into perspective how much food people unnecessarily consume.

    • Thanks, Rob! Budgeting is a really hard habit to establish, but whether you’re talking about finances or food, sticking to a budget really works.

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