How and why to use a digital food scale



  • xpr3tty_in_inkx
    xpr3tty_in_inkx Posts: 1 Member
    i use a scale and i find that it is the easiest way to make sure i am getting the exact serving size, i think that helped my diet a lot!
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    I like this post. Giving it a bump for others :drinker:
  • lightenup2016
    lightenup2016 Posts: 1,051 Member
    edited October 2016
    For those who are resisting purchasing a food scale--I did too for quite a while, but I took the plunge, and I actually enjoy using it. It's really no more difficult than before, but I love the added precision. I did always hate those packages that say one serving of chips is 1/10 of the bag, or pieces of chocolate – – when there are 14 servings of random-sized pieces, so that a serving is difficult to guess accurately. So now I just throw those on the scale, measure in grams, and I know exactly how much I'm eating.

    I also enjoy knowing the total number of calories in my homemade meals. I weigh and add up the individual ingredients first, then bake the dish and either use a measuring cup to measure out things like chili, or for things like shepherds pie, I simply make score marks with a knife to divide the dish into, say, 8 servings, then divide the total calories I had weighed out by the 8 servings. The servings could be further weighed on the scale, but I have not used it for this.

    The scale is also great for measuring out high calorie items like cheese. I never felt like I could accurately measure out 1/4 cup of grated cheese! Now I just weigh it out, and I know exactly how much I'm eating or using in a recipe.

    One tip--usually you can find the items in the database listed in units of 100g or 1g (but do an initial check that the item has been entered correctly). Most often I'll choose the 1g option, so then when I'm weighing cheese, for example, the 40g of cheese just goes into the database as 40 servings of 1 g. No calculations needed!

    Again, if you're hesitant, just do it! It just might make your life easier, not harder! I got mine from Amazon for $15.
  • merbear787
    merbear787 Posts: 82 Member
    Is it ok to use the ounces to measure my food? I'm following a good plan and everything is in ounces so I'm using the scale to measure that way. Thanks for the post!!
  • tomteboda
    tomteboda Posts: 2,171 Member
    @merbear787 Yes, if your scale reads in ounces , particularly to the 0.1 oz it is fine to use ounces.
  • merbear787
    merbear787 Posts: 82 Member
    @tomteboda thanks! ☺️
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    Don't mind me. Just giving some holiday bumps.
  • avskk
    avskk Posts: 1,789 Member
    edited January 2017
    debrag12 wrote: »
    debr1126 wrote: »
    I'm no expert, but I've finally made peace (or at least an uneasy truce) with weighing my food. Along the way, I've found a couple of tricks to help make it easier and, since I like to write, why not share? Anyway, here goes.

    First of all, if you don't have one, buy a digital food scale. Just do it. If you're trying to lose weight, you NEED one. Trust me. Here's the URL to the one I have (because I'm too lazy to make it a real link):

    That particular model costs ~$50, which isn't pocket change for most of us, but I believe it's the most important and essential tool in your arsenal when you're trying to lose weight. (The other, in my opinion, is a heart rate monitor--but that's another topic.)

    Of course, you don't need to buy the same kind I have. Buy whichever one you like. If a pink or purple food scale will make you like it more (or hate it less), get that! Just read the reviews and make sure it's accurate and, whichever one you buy, it must have two features: The option to weigh in GRAMS, and a "ZERO" or "TARE" function.

    Grams are important because, if you look at a food label (which you should be doing, right?), you'll notice that they'll always put a serving size with an arbitrary measurement--3 pieces, 1 scoop, 1/12 cake, 1/2 cup, one rounded tablespoon, and so forth--followed by a weight in grams. The weight in grams is required by the food label police because pieces, scoops, slices, measuring spoons, etc., are ridiculously arbitrary for solid foods. Pieces vary in size. Chunks break off. You can mash food down or let it stick out the top of a measuring cup. Your idea of a "rounded" spoonful or a "full" cup and mine may be totally different from what the label guy had in mind. Grams, however, don't lie. They are what they are, no matter how you stack them. They are the best and often the ONLY way to make sure you have an actual "serving" of food, and not 1.16 or .89 servings. You can even weigh those tortilla chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag that you tell yourself "don't count." Unfortunately, they do have a weight--and they do count.

    Once, you've got your scale, how should you use it? This may sound obvious, but some people need to read it: Weigh everything you're about to eat, unless 1) It's a liquid (you should usually use measuring cups for liquids), or 2) It comes prepackaged and pre-measured in a single-serving container. Notice I said "pre-measured," so fruit is NOT EXEMPT. Think about it: Do you really know what a "small" apple is? A "medium" banana? A "large" baked potato? Don't trust your eyes to tell you; if yours are like mine, they're lying cheats. Maybe you live in Brobdingnag (Gulliver's land of the giants), and your idea of a "small" apple is what the nutrition label guy calls, "OMG! What IS that thing?" It takes about ten seconds to find out for sure and, if you're on a tight calorie deficit budget like I am, you should try to be as accurate as possible. Otherwise, "Why am I not losing weight?" Been there, done that.

    The "tare" or "zero" button is something I just couldn't live without. It's bad enough having to keep a scale near my food; if I also had to have a notebook, pencil and calculator on hand, forget it. Oh, wait. Sometimes I do that. *sigh.* Anyway, what does "tare" mean? Here's from Wikipedia. "Tare weight /ˈtɛər/, sometimes called unladen weight, is the weight of an empty vehicle or container. By subtracting it from the gross weight (laden weight), the weight of the goods carried (the net weight) may be determined." In other words, it can be used to subtract the weight of your plate from the weight of your plate + food. Here's how that works.

    Let's say you want to eat a serving of spaghetti and meat sauce. Who doesn't? You've been good and read the label (or looked it up online if the label was unclear) and found out that a "serving" of cooked spaghetti is 1 cup (140 g). Now, spaghetti is a perfect example of how difficult it is to use a measuring cup for a solid food. How the heck are you supposed to get an accurate "cup" of spaghetti? My mushy spaghetti will settle into the cup like it's found its forever home. My husband's chewy spaghetti will be desperately trying to escape, like it knows what's coming next and wants no part of it. Spare yourself the drama!

    Put your scale on a flat, stable surface. Turn it on and wait for the display to settle. If it's reading anything but 0, tap the "zero" or "tare" button. (I'll just call it the "zero" button from now on to save time.)

    Now that you've made sure the scale is reading "0" when nothing is on it, weigh the plate you plan to eat from. Make sure your scale is displaying grams (mine has a button to switch from lbs to grams). It's a good idea to notice the weight of the empty plate, just in case the scale turns itself off before you're finished weighing stuff. (Mine has an auto-off function that sometimes triggers before I'm done weighing--which is the only thing I *don't* like about it, though it does save batteries when I forget to turn it off manually.)

    Once you've weighed your empty plate, tap the zero button. Now your scale is "zeroed" (tared) for the weight of the plate. Take the plate to the spaghetti bowl and let your lying eyes guide you as you wrangle a "serving" of spaghetti onto the plate. Bring the laden plate back to the scale and weigh it. The weight you see is for JUST the spaghetti. How close did you get to one serving? Take off or add spaghetti as appropriate until you're right at 140 g. You can use a measuring cup to dish a serving of meat sauce onto your spaghetti, or weigh it too, if you know the weight of a serving (I'll write about that in a minute).

    It occurs to me as I"m typing this that "guessing" a serving, then weighing to see how accurate you were, might be a way to gradually "train" yourself to better estimate serving sizes--but, having regained nearly all my lost weight using the 'eyeballing' method, I doubt I'll ever trust myself that much again.

    Anyway, back to your spaghetti dinner. What if you're going to eat another weighable food along with the spaghetti and meat sauce? Zero the scale and add the next food to the plate. Now you're weighing just the new food, all by itself. It's almost like magic! *ahem* It's science magic.

    What if you're making a recipe? You can weigh/measure each ingredient separately, or use the scale to weigh each item as you add it to a mixing bowl, not forgetting to zero out after each new addition. Unless I'm sure I can get it all weighed quickly, I usually weigh each item separately as I go because of that auto-off feature I griped about before.

    Oh, and here's another way your scale can help you! (And this is a good argument for buying a scale with a higher weight limit than you think you might need.) Let's say you're making a nice pot of homemade chili. The recipe says it makes 8 servings. (By the way, check out MFP's recipe builder if you haven't already. It will total the calories per serving of your recipe for you.) But exactly how much IS a serving? By the time you've added chopped veggies, liquids, accounted for evaporation (?), and so on and so forth,how can you tell how much 1/8th of the pot is, without the dreaded guesstimation?

    Before you even start cooking, weigh the pot you're going to cook the chili in. Write down its weight. Add all the ingredients, cook your chili, then (carefully--it's hot!!!) weigh the full pot of chili. Now, one thing life has taught me is to avoid math at all costs, but sometimes you need it. Don't you hate when teachers are right? Subtract the empty pot's weight from the weight of the pot filled with chili. That's the weight of your entire recipe of chili. Divide by eight. (You have a calculator on your computer, btw.) That's the weight of one serving of a chili recipe that makes "8 servings." Voila! And it's also an example of when you might use a scale instead of a cup to measure a liquid(y) food.

    What if you forgot to weigh the pot, didn't write it down, or ate the scrap of paper you wrote it on? All is not lost. Weigh the pot full of chili. Ladle your chili into an attractive serving tureen. You were going to do that anyway, right? ;-) Now wash out the empty pot. Don't rush, you have plenty of time--that chili will still be piping hot when our sun turns to a cold black cinder. Weigh the empty pot and subtract it from what it weighed when it was filled with chili. Divide the result by 8 with your handy calculator. That's the weight of a serving. Now you know exactly how much chili you can has.

    That's all I've got. I still don't love weighing my food, and I guess I never will, but I do love my food scale. That other scale in the bathroom? Not so much.

    If anyone has more tips for using the food scale to make life easier, or doing things better, faster, easier or smarter than I do, please post them. I'm still learning, too.

    I weight my liquids on the scale in ml.

    That's one thing I hate about the database most things are in oz and even then a UK oz is different to an USA oz. Am I missing something is there a way to filter out oz entry's? Saying that I don't use many liquids.

    Just so you know, milliliters are a volume measurement, not a weight measurement. While most digital scales offer ml as a reading-unit, they do so on the assumption that 1ml = 1g -- which is only true for plain water at labaratory room temp (74F). Liquids other than water do not have the same ml-to-gram conversion ratio, and even water at higher or lower temps will be off.

    Also, the UK and US differ in their definitions of fluid ounces, not ounces by weight. MFP's database ounces are weighted ounces, not fluid -- they are the same (28 grams) in the US, the UK, and everywhere. This is actually why weighing food is more accurate than measuring, as a weighed ounce is always and forever 28g while a fluid ounce is different depending on your country, how your specific measuring cups are calibrated, and how you pack them.
  • tides57
    tides57 Posts: 27 Member
    Great advice!

    Sometimes instead of putting the bowl or plate on, then zeroing it, I'll put the container of food I'm about to eat on there and zero that out. Then I scoop out what I want until I get to the appropriate (negative) grams.

    For example, I love cottage cheese and I buy the big one from Costco. When I go to get a serving, 117g, I put the whole container on the scale, hit zero, and then start scooping until the scale reads -117g. ...


    This is brilliant! It never occurred to me. I think you've made my measuring life SO much easier
  • mehlerscasada
    mehlerscasada Posts: 35 Member
    You can buy great ones on Ebay and Wish for under $10! Mine has the on/reset button and the weight in grams displayed. I think it was about $6 with $3 shipping to Australia. Just google "cheap digital kitchen scale" and you should be able to find it! It's white and made from plastic for easy clean-up. Easily my favourite kitchen tool, especially for meal prepping! (I just weigh the whole batch and divide it by the number of meals according to the ingredient...for example 600 g of carrots divided by 5 'snacks' gives me the grams for the day's total amount.)
  • ktekc
    ktekc Posts: 879 Member
    Bump. . cause its awesome.
  • SuperCarLori
    SuperCarLori Posts: 1,248 Member
    After a year of losing 17 lbs eyeballing and guessing, today I bit the bullet and now own a scale!!!

    This is an awesome post, and I thank you very much.
  • Muana1005
    Muana1005 Posts: 172 Member
    I'm losing on a £3 ($4) manual scale. There is absolutely no need to pay so much for a scale.
  • klrenn
    klrenn Posts: 245 Member
    Another small tip:

    One thing I do if my plate is too big and blocks the display is place a small bowl on the scale and put my plate on top of raises it up high enough that I can see the display with no problem.
  • Soopatt
    Soopatt Posts: 563 Member
    My scale automatically zeros the plate when you turn it on, if you place the plate on first. so if I just want to add sauce or cheese to something, I put the loaded plate on the scale, then turn it on (it will read zero), then I just get the weight of the bit I add.

    An easy twist on the "tare" thing.
  • InkAndApples
    InkAndApples Posts: 201 Member
    klrenn wrote: »
    Another small tip:

    One thing I do if my plate is too big and blocks the display is place a small bowl on the scale and put my plate on top of raises it up high enough that I can see the display with no problem.

    This is a game changer. Spectacular.
  • SuperCarLori
    SuperCarLori Posts: 1,248 Member
    Awesome tips!!!
    Thank you!
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    I recognize this is an old post, but I've always found it useful. Giving it a bump.