AJ asked a fantastic question: “Hey Lisa, I’m committing to returning to calorie counting after the holidays (I know that’s kind of a cop out about the holidays, but I’m focusing on some mental health concerns in the meantime, one battle at a time!)…my question is about how you count calories. When I’ve done it in the past, I always tended to eat more packaged foods because I knew the calorie count. But those are frequently less nutritious than whole foods I cook myself. How do you count calories for home cooking?”
I’ve talked about my process before here. Let me go into detail some more.
- First, figure out how many calories you should be eating a day. There are many ways to figure this out. For me I used the MyFitnessPal. I entered my age, height, weight and goal weight and it calculated for me that I should be eating a base of 1570 calories a day. There are a million websites out there where you can calculate your goal.
- You can hand write your calories in a journal. This is how I did it for 2 years. I looked up everything on the internet and wrote it by hand. Or you can use something like THIS. Now I use the app.
- I only counted my calories. Trying to keep track of carbs, sugar, protein, fat on top of calories was TOO overwhelming! I stuck with just counting my calories. It was simple and something easy for me to grasp and keep track of.
- Learn how to read a food label. Be very careful about PORTIONS!! Labels can be tricky. You might think you ate 1 serving when in reality you ate 3. How to make sure? Read on…
- I started using this website to calculate calories per ingredients. It’s helped a lot with my counting goals.
- Buy a food scale. Mine was $5. It’s cheap and it works. Measuring food gives you more accurate counts. For example: a serving of pretzels might be 18 pretzels. But reading the label correctly you’ll see that 18 pretzels should be 20 grams (for example). Food labels are rarely accurate. Measure Measure Measure!
For example, if you like milk as much as I do you can gulp down a pint glass full of milk (especially if there are cookies involved). A serving of milk is 1 cup (8 ounces) and the kind of milk below is 150 calories a serving.
Servings sizes are hard to master. For example, 1 serving of cheese is about 1 ounce. This is 2 ounces measured out (or about 220 calories):
It’s easy to suddenly be eating two or three servings of something and not even know it. I fall victim to this many, many times. I think I am doing really well counting my calories, watching my servings, and then I realize I’m doubling up on servings again.
A lot of people scoff at the idea of calorie counting. They think it’s hard work, that it will consume their life, or that they are denying themselves food. Not true!
Calorie counting doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It doesn’t you are starving yourself or denying yourself of anything. What it means is you’re being AWARE of what you eat.
I still count calories. Some days I’m lazier than other days. Some days I’m stricter with my calories. Every day is a new opportunity to get healthy, be aware, and make necessary changes in diet. It really does get easier and it becomes second nature.
QUESTION: Are you a calorie counter? Are you planning on starting in 2011?