Newb at estimating calories

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I feel good about tracking the meals I prepare myself because I can read the nutrition information on the packages. However, as I've just discovered, eating pretty much anything else I feel totally out of my depth in reliably estimating how many calories are in a meal made elsewhere.

For example this weekend I was at a holiday party where there was a sort of stew served over rice. It had beef and beans and white rice. But I didn't know how much beef was on my plate, or beans, or how much rice was there. It could have been 400 calories or 800 calories for all I know, and as I'm learning, that can be the difference between losing weight or gaining weight.

And then there are 6 types of cookies, brownies, pastries sitting on a tray. They all seem to range greatly in calorie count.

How do I deal with these situations and have any confidence that I'm sticking to my calorie goals?

Replies

  • kommodevaran
    kommodevaran Posts: 17,890 Member
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    When losing weight (and counting calories) I pretty much avoided that kind of situations. Occasional estimation of meals is not a big deal, just plot in a number. But if you eat out all the time, you'll need another strategy. Weight management is not about getting the numbers on point, but about not overeating, and consistency. Think in order of magnitude. One serving of dinner is OK. Three portions, and then a plate of cookies, is not OK. Two portions and then a couple of cookies is OK for Christmas, if it's just one day. And so on. Fill half your plate with salad/vegetables, and the other half split equally between meat and starch. Or just take one plate if it's a stew. It doesn't matter, if you don't eat all the time, and you mostly eat real food. But if you eat all the time, and/or mostly eat junk food, you'll most likely have to count calories.
  • skolbie2
    skolbie2 Posts: 23 Member
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    I had wondered the same thing so thanks for asking the question, and thanks for the answer. I've also noticed the data base is full of different 'options' to choose from, sometimes making it tedious. I can use this approach now and go at this better.
  • quintessential1
    quintessential1 Posts: 54 Member
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    Great response kommodevaran. I often one into these scenarios and you insight makes lots of sense.
  • cchhiipp22
    cchhiipp22 Posts: 37 Member
    edited December 2016
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    Thanks, kommodevaran!

    Certainly infrequent occasions like holiday parties I can feel fine estimating, because in the long run I'm not in those situations a lot. However, due to the nature of my work, I do eat at restaurants several times a week. So I am going to need some strategy for being able to accurately estimate calories in these situations. I don't usually eat double portions at restaurants, but I also wasn't losing weight with my normal routine.

    So how does one calculate calories at restaurants (non-chain restaurants that aren't in the MFP food database?)
  • chunky_pinup
    chunky_pinup Posts: 758 Member
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    cchhiipp22 wrote: »
    I feel good about tracking the meals I prepare myself because I can read the nutrition information on the packages. However, as I've just discovered, eating pretty much anything else I feel totally out of my depth in reliably estimating how many calories are in a meal made elsewhere.

    If you're preparing meals from packages, be sure to accurately measure everything in them with a food scale, as the nutrition labels can very often be quite off. When I know I'm going to be doing something where calories will have to be estimated, I make sure that I am extremely accurate with my tracking the rest of the week so I can have a little leeway with the estimation that will occur at any given event.

  • CafeRacer808
    CafeRacer808 Posts: 2,396 Member
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    cchhiipp22 wrote: »
    Thanks, kommodevaran!

    Certainly infrequent occasions like holiday parties I can feel fine estimating, because in the long run I'm not in those situations a lot. However, due to the nature of my work, I do eat at restaurants several times a week. So I am going to need some strategy for being able to accurately estimate calories in these situations. I don't usually eat double portions at restaurants, but I also wasn't losing weight with my normal routine.

    So how does one calculate calories at restaurants (non-chain restaurants that aren't in the MFP food database?)

    For restaurants that aren't in the database, I search for comparable recipes. I can usually find several with different calorie numbers. I'll then choose the recipe that either has the highest calorie count or the one where the calorie count is the average of all the other recipes I've found. If I can't find a similar recipe, then I'll search for and log my meal's component parts.

    With regard to guessing portion size, I've found this gets easier the more I log foods I eat at home. For example, I now have a pretty good idea of what a cup of rice or 28 grams of pretzels looks like.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
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    My tactic: I log as accurately as I can 99% of the time (which means double-checking entries, using Recipe Builder, weighing solid foods) so that the impact of my estimates are minimized. I also found that the longer I logged, the more confident I felt in my estimation ability. The stew that seems overwhelming in the first few weeks is a lot easier once you've made some stews at home, used the recipe builder, and seen the calorie counts several times.
  • Tacklewasher
    Tacklewasher Posts: 7,122 Member
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    cchhiipp22 wrote: »
    So how does one calculate calories at restaurants (non-chain restaurants that aren't in the MFP food database?)

    Try to google them first to see if there is nutritional info on the web. Otherwise, pick something you think is as close as possible. I go to one pub with my dad and we get a pepperoni pizza. I use the Domino's entry as I think it is closest, but probably over.

  • cchhiipp22
    cchhiipp22 Posts: 37 Member
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    This is all useful information. Thanks, everyone!
  • kgirlhart
    kgirlhart Posts: 5,038 Member
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    cchhiipp22 wrote: »
    Thanks, kommodevaran!

    Certainly infrequent occasions like holiday parties I can feel fine estimating, because in the long run I'm not in those situations a lot. However, due to the nature of my work, I do eat at restaurants several times a week. So I am going to need some strategy for being able to accurately estimate calories in these situations. I don't usually eat double portions at restaurants, but I also wasn't losing weight with my normal routine.

    So how does one calculate calories at restaurants (non-chain restaurants that aren't in the MFP food database?)

    I eat out a lot and mostly at non-chain restaurants. My strategy is to use an entry from a similar chain for whatever I eat. And then always use the same entries, so even if the calories are of they are consistently off. Sometimes my food log will show that I had foods from 3 different restaurants in one meal. I just try to get as close as possible.