Weight Loss Support - calorie counting issues...




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Oxia
09-03-2011, 08:39 AM
After talking about being hungry the other day in a different post, I realized that I need to (at least for a while) count calories and see what's going in. :) I've been using FitDay, and that's been a lot of help, but I'm having a problem.

First of all, I was out at a flea market early this morning and there wasn't a lot of super healthy options for breakfast, so I bought a sandwich. It was a dark (whole wheat?) bread (baguette?) with cheese (who knows what kind), lettuce, and butter? and mustard. Very Swiss, not something I'd find in Oklahoma. lol. Anyway, after I got home, I ended up pretty much guessing on the calories (and amounts) as helped by FitDay.

When you calorie count, how do you deal with situations like this? I was really hungry and didn't want to wait for a couple of hours to eat something more easily recordable... do you just plan ahead better?

Also-- I cook a lot. This week I'm trying to use recipes with a calorie count, but today I just threw a bunch of veggies, ground chicken, and rice together, and it seems really daunting to figure out how many calories are in it, and how many are in a portion size. aaaaaah. I'm going crazy!

I want to eat healthily, eat whole foods, and avoid packaged items, but w/ calorie counting, it just seems easier to just grab stuff that's labeled (and processed food...)

Sorry this rant is so long. You've been such wonderful help last time, and I feel like I'm learning so much by reading all of your posts.

cheers!
oxia


TooManyDimples
09-03-2011, 08:53 AM
For outings it's a lot easier to plan ahead instead of dealing with the headache of trying to figure out how many calories you ate later. If you're going somewhere and you have no clue what there could be to eat, you could pack you're own lunch. I've actually done that when I've had a full day of shopping. I just eat my lunch in the car between stores. Or if you know what food options there are going to be you can look for an online menu and lots of places have nutritional information available now.

With cooking, I use a lot of the same staples so for instance with chicken, I buy a large package and when I get home I cut it up and measure it and I freeze each serving in it's own individual bag. I don't do the same with veggies because I just throw them on the scale right before I cook them.

I section out other things too, you could do that with rice or any snacks you normally have.

For me it makes calorie counting less daunting if I plan ahead and have things semi ready in advance. Then for meals I can just grab the things I want and prepare them, instead of having to stop everytime and measure and record everything.

Oxia
09-03-2011, 08:59 AM
good ideas TooManyDimples-- I assume you just cook for yourself? I think it would be a lot easier if I just had to make my meals, but I also cook for my husband and daughter (who don't need to diet at all!) and like to make a huge pot/casserole etc. and have leftovers so I don't have to cook so often. hmm... maybe I could implement your ideas, just on a larger scale. lol

:)


blueheron777
09-03-2011, 09:16 AM
If I find that I have to unexpectedly eat out somewhere, I eyeball the healthiest choice & roughly estimate the calories. Means I can have something to eat and I incorporate it into my daily total.

Will the calorie count be as accurate as it is for something I made myself? Probably not, but for me the idea is to eat in a way that fits with my plan, rather than ignoring calories and pigging out like I used to do.

For sure planning ahead and also cooking from scratch or using prepared foods whose nutrients are listed is far better. But life doesn't always work out as we plan it, and being at least calorie-conscious is a good way to select from the available options.

Lastly, if the available options are high-calorie, you can also discard part of your portion--quickly throw salt on it or give it away.

TooManyDimples
09-03-2011, 09:16 AM
It is a lot harder when you're cooking things in big portions like that. If there are things you cook often you could figure up the calorie count for the whole thing and than you'll know what each serving is worth. I've done that a few times.

I cook for myself and my daughter right now. My husband is away at school (army). When he is home he tends to try to eat healthy as well. We don't have a lot of casserole/big pot type meals so that probably makes it a lot simplier to just cook things in single serve portions.

bargoo
09-03-2011, 09:19 AM
Planning ahead is the key, of course. On those situations that you are caught somewhere and have to eat out sometimes you just have to estimate. I would not do a fast food hamburger, most of those places now offer salads althought they are very high in calories. You can cook at home and make healthy meals for your husband and daughter, you can have a small portion along with salad and vegies. Look around there are recipes that you can eat as well. If you are making a casserole that is loaded with cheese and sauce try lightening it up and you can all enjoy it. Try googling for recipes that are lower calorie.

zoodoo613
09-03-2011, 10:48 AM
I'll let you in on my little secret: I estimate everything. Big calorie counting no-no, I know, but it's the only way I can do it to keep myself sane.

For food I buy out, I'll break down the ingredients as best I can, and then the amounts of each. I still record it all. I might be wrong, but it's better than not trying. And for me, it's better than eating only ordering the most basic of foods, just so I can get a good calorie count.

I totally know where you're coming from on the whole ingredients too. I also feel like calorie counting is best designed for packaged food, but I'm making it work. I cook a lot too. I again just estimate. I know what went into it. I know if I ate a half or a third, or whatever, of the total and go from there.

A few things to do to keep yourself closer. Measure what you can. If I'm making a stirfry over rice, I measure the rice. The veggies I worry less about the exact amount, because they're so low on calories, being off won't make a huge impact on the total. I'm more careful with whatever oil I used, for the opposite reason. When you're at home, measure things often, so you get used to what those amounts look like and can better estimate when you're out.

I really believe there are too many variables to worry about getting a precise count. It probably matters more when you're closer to goal, but at my stage, it's not too hard to create a calorie deficit if I pay attention. You just don't know how many calories you burn in a day, no matter how many calculators you use or devices you buy. If outputs not perfect, input doesn't need to be either, in my opinion.

Michi702
09-03-2011, 11:26 AM
I did have a few 'calorie counting' crises over the past few months. First off, I would end up trying so hard not to eat a food because there was no available accurate count for it that I ended up getting too hungry and then over ate bad stuff because I couldn't wait any longer to get something to eat. Then, I started being hyper sensitive to portion amounts so I could get every little food I ate logged in super accurately. Finally, I realized that you kind of have to go with the flow.

I bought a digital food scale to use when cooking. In the example you gave with having a chicken/rice/veggies dish, you could easily weight out (or measure in a cup) each part of the whole dish right before combining the ingredients so you have an idea of how much of each is there. Then you just look up the individual counts for each item and voila, you'll have a pretty good count ready. After a while of measuring, you'll start to get a feel for how big certain measurements are without having to actually measure them. I can fairly accurately tell how much sauce/peanut butter/hummus will equal a tablespoon for instance; I can also estimate what a half cup of veggies like broccoli or carrots will look like.

For me, the over arching theme of calorie counting is being aware of how much food you're eating and how to get the most caloric bang for your buck (so to speak). Even if you're not always 100% dead on with your counts and estimate like zoodoo does, you should be okay. Just don't let yourself be TOO generous ;)

April Snow
09-03-2011, 12:45 PM
If there are things you cook often you could figure up the calorie count for the whole thing and than you'll know what each serving is worth.


that's what I did when I was calorie counting (on a different plan now so I don't count). I would take the totals of all the ingredients going into the dish and then divide it by the number of portions and then make sure to serve myself that portion size, so I could count it but then it didn't matter as much how much of it other people ate. For something like big pot of soup, I'd usually pre-portion a few servings for myself so that I had those ready and pre-measured for future meals.


I did all of this in Fitday but inputting the ingredients - so I could put a 1 lb meat, 1 lb split peas, 5 carrots, etc. etc. and then each time I ate it, I would use that as one of my existing foods and then just set the portion size based on how many servings (MY servings, not how much someone else took) I would get out of the total if I had eaten the entire thing myself.

Hope that makes sense, it's a little confusing to try to explain but it worked really well!

Heather
09-03-2011, 12:48 PM
Have you seen this website? Enter in all the foods you used, and then say how many portions there are. Voila, calorie estimate: http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php

As for eating out, yeah, I have to estimate a lot. Sometimes in a situation like that I might buy a sandwich but take off one slice of bread, or scrape off mayo which I don't like, to reduce the calories (knowing that it's a lot more than my sandwich at home). Then come home and estimate.

JessLess
09-03-2011, 01:20 PM
I do what zoodoo613 does. I take my best guess at estimating. No matter how perfectly you weigh everything, I don't think the databases are 100% correct anyway. I also eat a lot of salads grilled chicken and no dressing when I'm out. I'm used to them, it doesn't bother me.

Rana
09-03-2011, 01:44 PM
I estimate -- and I know it won't be perfect, but it's better to record it than to not record it.

I like using the Calorie Count Recipe Analyzer link that Heather posted. It's great to come up with a total recipe/serving calorie count. It's easy, fast, and as accurate as you're going to get with it.

Oxia
09-03-2011, 02:57 PM
wow! I've been out all afternoon at the pool, and I'm thrilled to come back to so many helpful ideas. I guess I'm a little nervous about estimating, but like some of you said, I'll try to be careful about important things (oil, but not veggies). The more I do this, I'm learning what portions or normal amounts foods (such as butter) are.

oh and thanks Heather for the website-- it looks great!

Heather
09-03-2011, 04:08 PM
I got the link from someone else on 3fc a while ago. You do have to make sure the site counted ea of your items (sometimes it doesn't understand your ingredients).

Oxia, for me, calorie counting is more about being accountable and being sure I write everything down than worrying that I'm completely accurate. I know I can't be.

Good luck!!

kaplods
09-03-2011, 04:14 PM
I've always been a calorie estimator, because I was taught the exchange system when I was very young (I joined Weight Watchers with my mother in 1972 at 8 years old, and the WW food plan was an exchange plan in those days and up until 1997).

Exchange plans are a way to estimate calories (because all the foods within each exchange group have a similar calorie, carb, fat, and protein count).

For example, almost all breads = 1 (80 calorie) bread exchange per ounce.

Once you're familiar with the exchange plan and the common exchanges, you get to be pretty good at estimating exchange values and therefore calories. A large piece of fruit is usually 2 (70 calorie) fruit exchanges. Berries and melon are the best value for the volume (about 1 cup per fruit exchange, whereas many other fruits are 1/2 = 3/4 of a cup per exchange).

For most veggie exchanges 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked = 1 (25 calorie) veggie exchange

It may seem more complicated than standard calorie counting at the beginning, but I think that the exchange system has the advantage of making it easier to count in your head and also making it easier to learn good estimating skills. For example, when you know that most meats are one exchange per ounce, I can guess that even reindeer probably would come out to one protein exchange per ounce. The exception is fatty and very fatty meats (which count as 1 protein and 1 fat per ounce, or 1 protein and 2 fat exchanges per ounce, respectively).


If I'm presented with a new food, I can estimate exchange value (and therefore calorie count) with good precision based on the food it's most similar to.

Avocado looks like a fruit, but it doesn't taste or feel like one in the mouth. It feels more like butter in the mouth, and so it's no surprise that avocado counts as a fat, not a fruit.

While there's a learning curve involved, I think that learning the exchange system makes it easier to judge food by their taste, texture, and appearance. You get a feel for what an ounce feels like in your hand (especially if you use a food scale always at first, and then at least periodically to keep your portion estimation skills in check).

I know this initially seems like more work than straight calorie counting, and if you're the type to want scientific precision, it may not be right for you (if you're tempted to call a 75 calorie piece of fruit 1.07 exchanges rather than just 1 fruit exchange then exchange counting probably isn't for you).

GlamourGirl827
09-03-2011, 08:30 PM
Great thread! I've been struggling with this. Personally I micro manage my calories for a few days then become frustrated at avoiding certain foods I can't calculate down to the exact calorie and go bananas and eat some out of control meal. Its like I'm saying to myself, "Ha! Record THAT!"
I think I need to be an estimator to keep my sanity but I've only been able to maintain with estimating. Seems I need to start counting to continue losing.
:P

kaplods
09-03-2011, 11:17 PM
Great thread! I've been struggling with this. Personally I micro manage my calories for a few days then become frustrated at avoiding certain foods I can't calculate down to the exact calorie and go bananas and eat some out of control meal. Its like I'm saying to myself, "Ha! Record THAT!"
I think I need to be an estimator to keep my sanity but I've only been able to maintain with estimating. Seems I need to start counting to continue losing.
:P


If you only maintain by estimating, that may mean you tend to underestimate - but that doesn't mean you have to stop estimating, you just have to either refine your estimation skills or change your calorie target.

Say you were aiming for 1800 calories, but tend to overestimate calorie content by about 15% (meaning you actually eat about 2070 calories when your target is 1800).

If you lower your goal, you'll probably continue to underestimate to the same degree, but you'll lose weight because your target is lower.


If you lower your goal to 1500, you'll take in about 1800 calories. If you lower your goal to 1200, you'll actually be taking in about 1400 calories.

Just keep lowering your calorie goal, until your estimation works for weight loss.


Heck, even if your estimation is so far off that you're eating 2000 calories when you're aiming for 1000, you can lower your goal to 700.


It doesn't matter, so long as you find the "goal" that works with your estimation.

Esofia
09-04-2011, 05:50 AM
I'm using FitDay, the PC version, and this is what I do for cooking big batches. I write down everything that goes in, measuring as I go (as said above, especially with cooking oil, nuts and other high-calorie foods), and then I divide it into portions when it's done. Once I know the number of portions, it's easy to use software to work out the data for an individual portion, and save that as a custom food. If you tend to cook recipes the same way and serve up the same size portions, you should only need to do this once.

If you're using the online version of FitDay, I think you'll need to use another website to do this (can't remember the name but there are several), but if you're using the PC version, what you have to do is browse the foods already in the database, pick something which has ingredients listed, click on edit, rename it to your food, put the number of servings as 5 or whatever the total was, edit the ingredients listed to turn them into yours (remember to change the quantities too, and copy and paste if there aren't enough), and then change the number of servings to 1 and hit save. Yes, it's a faff, but it's the only way to input ingredients, and it's much quick to do than it is to explain. If you just create a custom food in the usual fashion, the ingredients column doesn't work, you can't add anything. Quite daft, I know, but there are quite a lot of flaws with FitDay and the folks who made it clearly have no interest in fixing them.

Beach Patrol
09-04-2011, 12:06 PM
I do estimate a lot (& I use FitDay) if I am cooking for myself. Lucky for me, I hate cooking so I rarely do it. (LOL but it's true!) :lol:

I usually don't have to estimate when eating out because most places (specifically chain restaurants) have on-line menu & nutritional values.

I agree w/others who say "planning is key" - but sometimes you just find yourself in a place where you HAVE to eat out. In those cases, I go for the most obvious least-caloric foods available. ALWAYS water to drink (or diet soda) and nothing fried. And oftimes I forego food altogether & have something I KNOW is healthier when I get home. The trick there is to NOT over-eat, because when you let yourself get TOO HUNGRY, that's always a danger. But I have also found that even when I'm "ravenous" I am able to keep portions in check by reminding myself that BEING STUFFED is not a happy feeling, and reminding myself to EAT SLOWLY so the stomach has time to tell the brain "OK, I've had enough!" :^: Also, it's well worth noting that being "hungry" for a little while is not going to kill you. Most times I find that I can ride it out.

Another easy way to handle that kind of predicament is to eat something 'pre-packaged' such as crackers from a vending machine. Maybe not the healthiest thing to do, but at least then you CAN count your calories by the proper amount.

And last but not least, I input a "create your own food fake guesstimation" into my FitDay. It's 100 calories. Therefore any given day, meal, etc, I can add "x amount of calories" (by using serving size) to my daily intake. So if I am pretty sure I ate about 400 calories of whatever, I just input my Guesstimation Food at 4 servings.

Keep tweaking it for yourself. It really does get easier with time. :D

zoodoo613
09-04-2011, 12:47 PM
And last but not least, I input a "create your own food fake guesstimation" into my FitDay. It's 100 calories. Therefore any given day, meal, etc, I can add "x amount of calories" (by using serving size) to my daily intake. So if I am pretty sure I ate about 400 calories of whatever, I just input my Guesstimation Food at 4 servings.

Keep tweaking it for yourself. It really does get easier with time. :D

This is brilliant! Why did I never think of this!

Heather
09-04-2011, 01:36 PM
I do something similar. I entered a food into my calorie counting called "Just a Bite". Mine is 25 calories. Sometimes just a bite is only 25 calories... sometimes I have several bites and scale up!

GlamourGirl827
09-04-2011, 02:07 PM
Kaplods, I guess I was kind of estimating without and exact goal along with intuitive eating. I started calorie counting last week because I would like to continue weight loss. I guess once I start putting a limit on how much I can have I want more because I'm not suppose to have it. Likewise if I'm not calorie counting I don't think twice about turning down a second helping.
I want what I'm not supposed to have!

FitGirlyGirl
09-04-2011, 02:27 PM
I plan ahead if I know I am going to be away from home at an eating time and take something with me. I also keep protein bars in my purse for emergency situations. Yes, they are processed food which I would rather not have, but they are only for situations when the other choices are even worse.

As for things you cook at home, I have never used fitday, but I assume it has a recipe builder. I track my calories on the site that Heather posted a link to and I can build and store recipes and meals. I measure (in grams) every nutritionally relevant ingredient (I don't measure water, non-salted seasonings, etc.) as I am cooking. I measure the total weight of the finished food (in grams again). I divide by 100 and use that as the number of servings for the recipe. Since the serving is always the same weight for every recipe I build I never need to remember what it was for any particular recipe. I measure how many grams of the food I eat and put in the number of servings accordingly. If I eat 285 grams then I put in 2.85 servings, 62 grams = 0.62 serving, etc.

I also cook for my husband, occasionally friends, and will hopefully be cooking for kids soon. That doesn't change how or what I cook. It doesn't matter if they do not need/want to be on a diet. Healthy food will not hurt them and if they need more calories than you then they can just have a larger portion than you. My husband will also sometimes add extra cheese, butter, etc. to his portion of things that I cook.

kaplods
09-04-2011, 04:53 PM
Kaplods, I guess I was kind of estimating without and exact goal along with intuitive eating. I started calorie counting last week because I would like to continue weight loss. I guess once I start putting a limit on how much I can have I want more because I'm not suppose to have it. Likewise if I'm not calorie counting I don't think twice about turning down a second helping.
I want what I'm not supposed to have!


Boy do I understand wanting what I'm not supposed to have, so for me it was essential to stop looking at it that way (easier said than done, but also easier done than I would have expected).

First and foremost, I never set a hard limit. It seemed ridiculous to me that I could feel good at 1500 calories and like I'd blown it on 1525.

I had to look at my food budget, as I would my monetary budget. I CAN buy anything I want to with my money, but if I spend the rent money on shoes, I'm not going to be very happy in the long run.

I like the exchange plan, because it reminds me to get in foods I might otherwise neglect. I'm not a dairy fan, and while I know that there are ways to get calcium other than dairy, I still have to THINK about it, to get in calcium rich foods. With fruits and veggies I tend to be feast or famine - either eating enough to rile my IBS and end up in the potty all day, or I eat too few (which also aggravated the IBS but more in the constipation direction).

It also helps me be creative. Spending limits with money do that too. If I know that I have $30 to spend on an outfit, I'm extremely creative and more pleased with my purchase than when I have no limit. When I know that I have x number of fruit servings it makes me very aware of making the best of my choice.

I remind myself that I always have the choice to blow the rent money on shoes, or my calories on cheesecake, and doing either won't make me a bad person (just a foolish one).

Both with dieting and with money, I also budget for "discretionary spending." Hubby and I are on a tight budget, but we always set some "mad money" aside for each of us and also for us to use as a couple - money that we get to spend on anything we want - including foolishness without guilt (because we've already taken into account and aren't sacrificing the rent, groceries, insurance premiums, utilities, and other necessary expenses).

I do that with my exchange plan too. I wanted to follow a plan that averaged 1800 calories, but I also knew that no matter what my budget, I always would want more. So instead I took a 1500 calorie lower carb exchange plan and set it as my "minimum" and then gave myself a budget of optional exchanges (I borrowed that from the old Weight Watchers plans, when WW was an exchange plan and had optional calories and/or floating exchanges).

So in addition to my 1500 calorie exchange plan, I give myself 6 "floating" exchanges (meaning I can spend them on fruit, starch, protein or dairy exchanges).

That means my daily average (when I'm following my plan as I intend to) calorie intake falls between 1500 to 2000 calories.

I also don't consider myself "good" or even "better" for having eating 1500 rather than 2000. Those 500 calories (give or take) are my mad money, and while I don't have to spend every cent of it, I also don't have to feel guilty if I do.

I don't even have to feel guilty if I go over, or if I do something dumb and DO spend the rent money on shoes. I just have to learn from the mistake and move on. I'm not a horrible person if I overspend (with money or calories) but if I want to meet my goals, I have to stay in budget more often than not.


For me, the exchange plans help tremendously, because on straight calorie counting I either end up choosing based on trying to be as frugal as possible or based on what I want to eat (and while I like healthy foods, and aren't normally attracted to typical junk foods, what I spontaneously want to eat, isn't necessarily what would be best to eat).

When I allow myself to spend money or calories without having a budget in place, I do tend to spend less wisely - but I actually have more fun when I'm on a budget.

For example, one year I went to Florida with my family when I really couldn't afford it. I tried to spend as little money as possible, but I didn't have a budget (and purposely didn't, and just decided I'd spend as little as I could). The trip was terribly stressful, and I ended up spending more than I could afford anyway.

My husband and I have made many trips on almost no funds, but because we planned for it all, I had more fun than if I hadn't had a budget. Even when I only have $5 to spend, I have a lot more fun when I know that $5 can be spent without breaking the budget. However, if I'm spending money without KNOWING that I have the funds in the budget, it always ends up a stressful experience (even when after the fact, I learned that I did have the money).


I've discovered that calorie spending is pretty similar. I have a lot more fun and less stress with a budget than without one (but it is essential for me to include the little bit of "mad money" or "mad calories").

Muffins
07-31-2012, 01:33 PM
I just had a look at the Fitday website, it seems like it will be very handy tool to monitor my progress. Thanks for the tip.

gailr42
07-31-2012, 06:14 PM
Kaplods, have you or are you considering writing a book about your adventures in weight loss? I am sure you have the equivalent of a PhD in weight loss information - maybe budgeting, too, LOL!

I didn't exactly understand what an exchange program was, and now I do.

For me, I think the important thing is that I keep track of everything, whether I count or exchange. Then I have to think about what I have eaten or plan to eat. I tend to be a mindless eater and this makes me pay attention. I use the free FitDay and I think it is fine for my purposes.

I have been trying to create a lower calorie and fat salad dressing that I like. This always involves tasting as I go. Since I am using OK ingredients, I finally decided to just count the salad dressing tasting as 100 calories worth of Greek yogurt. I think that is probably an overestimate, but it gives me somthing to enter.

I have two other subjective ways of measuring calories. The first is how soon I feel hungry again [I don't seem to be affected by any particular food, just the calories]. The other is do my lips feel soft and smooth after eating? If yes, the meal has been oily or fatty. How's that for pure science?