Whether your goals include getting rid of unwanted body fat, building muscle, increasing endurance, or just getting healthier and feeling better, keeping track of what you eat can help you get there. By cataloging when and what you eat, you can gain insight into how food affects your body and mind.
What is tracking?
Through meal tracking there are a few important things to keep in mind. Recording the day and date, meal times, frequency, content and quantity are the basic metrics. You can use these to get a basic picture of your nutrition levels. To take things to the next level and uncover more about how food impacts you, you can take additional steps to figure out the nutritional elements of your food.
By writing down everything you consume, it removes the emotional element of food. Cataloging your food makes you think about food in terms of its components and it's effects on the body, rather than having eating as just a thing you do.
Tracking your meals, therefore, can help prevent accidental self sabotage and help you reach your goals faster and more easily. When you take the time to write everything down, you force yourself to really think about the impact what you eat has on you. It helps to ensure that you're eating and drinking enough and according to your goals.
Meal tracking also helps you learn more about the food itself. Depending on how you track, you can find out the nutritional components of food, see the breakdown into Micro and Macro nutrients, as well as learn the calorie content of what you eat.
Through analysis, and in collaboration with Progress Tracking you can discover patterns in your eating habits. Comparing your Meal Tracking and your Mood Tracking, you can see how what you eat affects your state of mind. It can also help you see if you may have any dietary issues or intolerances if you consistently feel ill after eating certain foods. Utilizing your physical Progress Tracking methods, you can see how foods affect your body fat percentage, and body measurements. This can help you make direct connections with your food intake and its physical effects.
How much should I track?
Despite the many benefits, Meal Tracking can be tedious and time consuming, depending on what system you use. The thought of tracking every meal for the rest of your life doesn't sound appealing, and is not recommended. Instead, your goals will determine how long you should track your meals. Luckily, you'll experience a lot of the benefits just by utilizing a meal tracker for a few days to a couple of weeks.
How to Track
There are many methods for meal tracking, ranging from very basic to very in-depth. One of the most basic systems for meal tracking is what's called the Cameraphone diet. Simply take a picture of everything you eat, and have a photographic record, along with an automatically generated timestamp. Another simple method is to keep a running list of what you eat each day, including the core information about your meals, as mentioned at the start of this article.
A more in-depth system for tracking what you eat is found through Choose My Plate, a website run by the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture. They created a nutrition tracker, SuperTracker (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools.html), as well as other great tools that are all available at their website for free. These can help you help you see your nutritional breakdown, find out what and how much to eat, as well as set goals.
Another great option is to track with a smartphone app, such as the meal trackers offered by MyFitnessPal, Fitbit or Jawbone Up. When tracking something you do several times a day, like eating, it’s important to have a system that’s quick, easy, and effective. These apps are with you as long as you have your phone handy, and simplify the process of entering what you eat, so much so that you can do it quickly either as you preparing, eating, or cleaning up. You can save frequent meals, see a similar breakdown to the ChooseMyPlate. SuperTracker, and hook into other health and fitness apps you may use.
Knowledge is power! By taking the time to keep track of what you eat, you can unlock amazing benefits and take control of your health and fitness.
Sample Meal Tracking
Monday, May 4th, 2015
Breakfast - 8:30 AM
4 Eggs, Over Easy in Coconut Oil
8 Baby Carrots
24 oz Water
Snack - 11:45 AM
16 oz Water
Lunch - 1:00 PM
1 Chicken Breast - On the bone
2 Kale Leaves, Sauteed in Coconut Oil
32 oz Water
Snack - 2:30 PM
4 Brazil Nuts
24 oz Water
Dinner - 5:45 PM
1 Steak, 12 ounces, Grilled
1 cup Cauliflower, Roasted with Olive Oil
32 oz Water
Dessert - 8:30 PM
16 oz Water