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Old 09-03-2011, 07:39 AM   #1
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Question calorie counting issues...

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!
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Old 09-03-2011, 07:53 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 07:59 AM   #3
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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

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Old 09-03-2011, 08:16 AM   #4
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 08:16 AM   #5
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 08:19 AM   #6
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 09:48 AM   #7
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:26 AM   #8
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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
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:45 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TooManyDimples View Post
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!
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:48 AM   #10
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 12:20 PM   #11
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 12:44 PM   #12
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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.
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Old 09-03-2011, 01:57 PM   #13
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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!
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Old 09-03-2011, 03:08 PM   #14
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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!!
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Old 09-03-2011, 03:14 PM   #15
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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).
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