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Essential Info to Track in Your Food Log

Posted by James on Dec 13th, 2007 and filed under Getting Started. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Photo by Silenceofnight

This is the fourth article in the Get Started Eating Every Three Hours series that outlines how to start eating every three hours and the benefits of such a diet.

As I mentioned in “You Must Count Calories if You Want to Be Healthy“, keeping a food log is essential to ensuring that you are not eating too few or too many calories each day. This is especially important if you need to lose weight or train for a sport. Having a log aids in keeping your meals properly balanced and your daily calories on track. Knowing what to track in your food log can be a daunting task for the beginner. Today we’ll look at the key information you need to take from nutritional labels and put into your food log.

Start reading nutrition labels… today.

The nutritional labels on food are there for a reason. Don’t put anything into your body unless you can read and understand the label. Even if you end up eating a high calorie, nutrient deficient food, at least you know what you are eating and the consequences it will have on your daily plan.

Start reading the nutritional labels on everything, preferably before you put it into your shopping cart. Temptations are much easier to curb when you are still at the grocery store. You are far more likely to eat a “bad” food if you already paid for it. Nothing should go into your shopping cart unless you have read the nutrition label and decided if that particular food can be put into your Eat Every Three diet plan. Make reading the nutrition labels a habit.

What to track in the log.

In your log, you want to track the “sides” of the meal or main ingredients. Do not only track the combined calories of the entire meal unless you absolutely must. Keep track of the following in the log:

  • Name of the food
  • Portion size – This can be in ounces, grams, or whatever method you want.
  • Calories
  • Proteins
  • Carbs – This can include starchy, fibrous, or simple carbs. No processed carbs!
  • Fats - Ideally you will be eating food with good essential fatty acids, not saturated fat.

    The name of the food would be its own row in your spreadsheet. The other information should be column titles. Armed with this information, you can add up the information from each of the columns to get your grand totals for the meal.

    The reasons for tracking the nutrient information in addition to calories will become useful later when we get to meal planning.

    Make a spreadsheet, use a notebook, or an online log.

    Creating a simple spreadsheet to to log your food and the nutritional content is the most convenient method of tracking your calories and nutrients. If you are not savvy with spreadsheet programs such as Excel, then you can use a notebook to write the information down. Use whatever method that you will consistently utilize. The advantage with Excel is that it can provide an automated way to add columns together, that way everything in your meal will be added up for you.

    My log consists of two spreadsheets. I use one sheet to track the meals, the other is a list of the common foods and their nutritional content that I routinely buy and eat. This way, I can cut and paste a line of nutritional content from the food list to my meal plan without having to memorize or reread the labels on the food. This works well for me, but you may find another method that is convenient for you.

    There are free online food logs available from a number of places. I personally have not used them, but I know others that have. Each of them have their own food database (which may or may not match up to the food you eating) so you can easily populate your log with the relevant information. I am not sure if they all track the information listed above. Feel free to check them out and see! Try online logs such as:


    I do not use online logs because I’m too lazy to take the extra step of logging into an account. However, there is the added advantage of accessing your food log from any computer with Internet access.

    Get in the habit.

    Habits do not form overnight. I believe there are studies that show a habit takes three weeks to form. Tracking all of the food you eat will be slow and time consuming in the beginning. Before too long, keeping your food log up-to-date will be second nature. If you are serious about achieving personal health goals, keeping a food log is a must.

    Do you have a handy method or tricks for keeping a food log updated?

    23 Responses for “Essential Info to Track in Your Food Log”

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    3. Rosia Moor says:

      Really informative blog.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

    4. When I got my body fat % tested at my school’s gym, the? machine was also able to calculate how many calories I burn when I am at rest. They also did my BMI, and measured my inches all for five bucks. Best money spent, and I got soo much information just for 15 mins of my time with a professional. I’m going to do it again in 3 months.

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      Save some calories=save some money. Now that’s hitting two birds with a stone. Food log FTW!

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