Updated: Aug 3
Nutrition tracking is a great strategy to use whether you're looking to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve your performance in the gym.
Like anything, learning how to accurately track your calories takes practice. Just like when you learn any skill, there are some mistakes you'll make:
1. Not weighing your food
This is the most common, and most impactful mistake one can make when nutrition tracking. When you track your food, it is incredibly important that you weigh it. If you don't measure it at all, or use inferior methods (measuring cup, eyeballing...), it will reduce the accuracy of your tracking. Measuring cups may seem similar, but a lot of foods just don't measure well into a measuring cup. While they are a better option than not measuring at all, they are worse than weighing. A cheap food scale can be purchased online or from almost any general store.
2. Not tracking beverages
Any beverage that has calories needs to be recorded. People often forget to track the drinks they have with their meals, and very often forget to track the calories in coffee (if they add sugar and dairy).
3. Not tracking snacks
Grazing, snacking when making meals, and snacking when watching TV/movies can add up to an excessive amount of calories. Make sure you track this! If you are sitting down to have some snacks with a movie or TV show, it will be best to measure your snacks out into a bowl, and eat them from the bowl. This will help with portion control, as well as ensure tracking accuracy.
4. Not tracking butter and oils
Butters and oils often get overlooked when tracking, but they can make a huge impact on your progress. If you use a ton of oils and butters in your cooking, you will need to track them, as well as when you use them as condiments (ie. putting butter on potatoes).
5. Under-reporting spreads, dressings and sauces
When you put on a salad dressing, sauce, jam, or spread, weigh it! Very, very, very few people track these correctly when they eyeball serving sizes, or use tablespoons. It is not uncommon for people to think they're having 120 calories of peanut butter, but they're having more like 300. Or thinking you only used on tablespoon of 45 calorie salad dressing, but you used 4!
6. Not checking serving sizes
When you track something, ensure you check the serving size first. Mistakes like thinking you're eating a 350 calorie deli sandwich, but that's actually the calories for 1/2 of the sandwich, is very common.
7. Tracking the wrong brands
Different companies obviously use different ingredients, and use them in different amounts. By using the wrong brand, you can be overestimating or underestimating the amount of calories you're eating.
8. Tracking things cooked, that should have been raw
Any whole food that you cook, should be weighed and tracked in the same state. For example, if you weigh beef raw, you can't then enter "cooked beef" into your food tracker. The same is true with rice, potatoes, and oatmeal. Anything where cooking is involved, weigh and track the food raw.
9. Trying to track everything at the end of the day
Do you remember exactly how many grams of oatmeal you had for breakfast today? Probably not. Tracking serving sizes at the end of the day is very unreliable. If you find it difficult to track things in the moment, take a picture of all your food through the day on your scale, and track it later. This may lead into you not knowing you're passing your calorie limit though... It is best practice to track things as you're consuming them.
Want to learn how to use nutrition tracking for weight loss? Download our free nutrition tracking ebook.
Kurtis Proksch, CSCS, CNC, PTS
Head Strength Coach