And the truth is out. Yup, I HATE tracking. But why do I still do it and recommend my clients do it, and how can we find a happy medium between?
Today I will share with you some of the personal tricks that I do to keep me on track, without plugging everything into a macronutrient counter.
1) You NEED to know what your eating
This is the first step to long term success. You have to be aware of what you are putting in your body and how much. This is where tracking and reading nutrition labels is key. Yes, I just said I hate it, but tracking needs to happen AT FIRST if you have no clue where to start.
This will at least teach you awareness of what foods are high in what, and how much your current intake is.
For your activity level, be honest with yourself. If you workout 3 days per week, but sit on your butt all day afterwards, select one or two activity levels lower. For me, I have an active job, in which I easily hit 15000 steps per day, and I workout 5 days per week – so I enter that.
Then before making any dietary adjustments, try this simple trick: track all your food for a week – see what your levels of calories are at, and see what your weight does for that week. If you gain weight, you are too high, lose weight – then you are in a deficit, if you stay close to the same, you are right around your maintenance.
2) Transitioning Off Of Counting
Here is where it becomes more manageable. Say your goal is to eat .8-1 gram of protein/pound of body weight per day (this should be your goal, regardless of if you are trying to gain or lose weight).
Say you eat 3 meals per day, and have 2 snacks (this is what I do). If my goal is to get about 180 grams of protein per day, I break that up evenly.
- Meal 1: 40 grams
- Snack 1: (Post Workout): 30 grams
- Meal 2: 40 grams
- Meal 3: 40 grams
- Snack 2: 30 grams
After tracking my diet for a week or so, I know what I need to eat to get these numbers. I then keep it relatively the same throughout the week. I know that 2 eggs and 1 cup of egg whites is roughly 40 grams of protein at breakfast, so I eat this everyday. Sometimes I will sub out one egg (6 grams) for an ounce of turkey or ham (6 grams), but I keep the numbers the same and I know what subs for what.
Same goes for carbs. If you know how many carbs you need in a day, break it up among your meals, and learn what 20-30 grams of carbs looks like as pasta, rice, bread, oats, fruit, etc. You can then make simple exchanges and swaps to keep meals different, without having to recheck every micronutrient.
What does 50 grams of carbs look like? Here is an example using elbow pasta:
- 2.4 ounces/heaping half cup (dry)
- Heaping full cup (cooked)
This goes back to knowing your food, and knowing your nutrition. Once you familiarize yourself with labels and foods that you eat regularly, you don’t need to track these meals.
3) Mixed Meal Dinners Are Tough
It is easy to track dinners that are 3 things – meat, starch and veggies.
It is hard to track things like lasagna, pasta dishes, casseroles, etc. because everything is mixed in. The more you can avoid these dishes, the better.
However, a few tips that I have for them are:
- If you know what your breakfast and lunch added up to (especially if you eat around the same things for these meals) you should know about how many calories you have left. Typically, by dinner time I still have about 800-1000 calories leftover from my total daily goal of 2600. By knowing this, you should be good to consume a normal sized portion of about any meal, if avoiding things like: french fries, butter rolls, dessert, second helpings, anything else high in fat.
- Look at the meal as individual nutrients. If it is a pasta dish, try to get less pasta on your plate than normal, and more protein and veggies. Same goes for rice dishes.You can at least minimize your over eating here.
- Plate your portion out, and put the rest away before leaving the kitchen. This will reduce your urge to go back for more, and keep you true to your one serving.
- Avoid added calories when possible. Don’t add butter, oils, or other fats when possible. Most mixed dishes already have a good amount of fat in them, and since fat is higher in calories, you are avoiding adding any additional high calorie options.
- Make healthy swaps when possible. If a dish calls for a half stick of butter, you usually don’t need that much (unless you’re baking). Cut back on butters, fats, and sugars to minimize the access junk calories.
Once you learn your goals, determine your needs, and figure out your common foods, tracking becomes obsolete and overbearing when you can just make simple swaps and substitutions for your meals.
Noodles with Roast Pork and Almond Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Drizzle oil in an ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle pork with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper; place pork in pan. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Turn pork over, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 10 minutes. Shred pork into small pieces.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons pasta water; keep pasta warm.
4. Combine almond butter, 2 tablespoons pasta water, remaining salt, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and chili garlic sauce. Divide pasta evenly among 4 bowls; top evenly with sauce, pork, onions, and mint.
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Stay healthy my friends,