Hacks for easy calorie counting

Someone just told me that he ate only processed and junk food to lose weight because it was easier to count the calories. It got me wondering, what are some of the tactics people use to make calorie counting easier.
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Replies

  • penguinmama87
    penguinmama87 Posts: 945 Member
    edited July 2021
    coderdan82 wrote: »
    Someone just told me that he ate only processed and junk food to lose weight because it was easier to count the calories. It got me wondering, what are some of the tactics people use to make calorie counting easier.

    Actually, for on the go I have done things like this - though I usually pick something like a protein bar and maybe a piece of fruit. But if I tried to eat that way all the time I would probably feel really, really hungry.

    I use a food scale. It took me a while to get used to it, especially for cooking, but now I use it for pretty much everything I consume at home except very low or 0 calorie foods and it's second nature. I use the database @kshama2001 mentions too, since many things I eat do not come with labels.

    I also prelog my food so I have an idea of my calories going into my day. I find that way I have an idea of how much I can eat, I can make sure to save room for any treats I want, and I don't end up being way under or way over by surprise.
  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 845 Member
    edited July 2021
    I keep a dry-erase board in my kitchen to help keep track of foods and measurements. It's too easy to forget to count an ingredient when busy in the act of cooking. I often weigh my foods before I begin cooking and build my salads right on the scale - taring between additions. I do the same if I'm mixing up a meatloaf or meatballs. When adding calorie-dense things like bread crumbs or rice to a recipe, it's important to accurately weigh and never guesstimate.

    Sometimes, I will portion and prep foods ahead of time. For example, I may weigh, blanch, shock and freeze sliced/cubed potatoes in single serving sizes. I then know that each baggie of ready-to-cook potatoes is 110 calories.
  • Noreenmarie1234
    Noreenmarie1234 Posts: 7,352 Member
    edited July 2021
    I basically eat the same things every day and I know how many calories are in them so I can just add meals consisting of multiple things with one click and i just memorized all the weights of everything. (like for example I have "turkey wrap lunch" which is my usual turkey wrap and salad the way I always make it)

    Or "night snack" which logs my whole 3 bowls of pumpkin pudding(made same way every night) and 4 lenny larry cookies.
  • amusedmonkey
    amusedmonkey Posts: 10,331 Member
    edited July 2021
    Meals, recipes, favorites, recent. Basically, after an initial period of populating your own database, most people have a few staples they eat frequently. Save your frequent meals as meals, save your frequent dishes as recipes, populate your favorites with your frequent snacks, and use "quick tools" to copy a meal from yesterday if you're eating leftovers. It takes a bit of effort at first, but it's worth it. It's very easy and quick to add things once you have your personal food database.

    Another trick is to pre-log your day in the morning. This is two birds with one stone as it allows you to see what you can and can't fit in, and it makes logging easier during a busy day as all you need to do is look at what you have planned and eat it (and change the quantities if needed). If you change your mind about something it's easy to change a couple of items on the fly.

    Edit:
    There is a trick I use when I'm not tracking nutrients precisely. For dishes that have many similar ingredients and are not in my recipe database, I sometimes log a group of them as one ingredient. For a salad, I'll log any fats or proteins separately, then log all the vegetables as the highest calorie vegetable in that salad. I just weigh all the vegetables and log them as "tomatoes", for example. Same for dishes that have one prominent ingredient and many lower calorie ingredients. I log a vegetable pilaf as "rice" (plus any fats and proteins).

    Note that I was able to do that because my deficit was always relatively small. If you're pushing the limits on deficit and do this too often, you may end up undereating.
  • coderdan82
    coderdan82 Posts: 84 Member
    Thanks to everyone that replied. I'm actually not new to this, I've tried and failed several times before. And I think I failed because I was trying to eat same as before (in lower quantities of course) which made calorie counting complicated. From the responses it seems like my meals will have to become a bit more repetitive if I want to sustain this. I don't think I'll go the junk/proceeded good route, it just doesn't seem very healthy, but maybe things like using sliced cheese where the calories are known per sliced instead of a brick of cheese that I have to weigh, or small buns instead of loaf of bread, etc.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,624 Member
    coderdan82 wrote: »
    Thanks to everyone that replied. I'm actually not new to this, I've tried and failed several times before. And I think I failed because I was trying to eat same as before (in lower quantities of course) which made calorie counting complicated. From the responses it seems like my meals will have to become a bit more repetitive if I want to sustain this. I don't think I'll go the junk/proceeded good route, it just doesn't seem very healthy, but maybe things like using sliced cheese where the calories are known per sliced instead of a brick of cheese that I have to weigh, or small buns instead of loaf of bread, etc.

    Well, any way that you choose is going to require a bit of tracking - so brick cheese or loaf of bread versus pre-cut slices doesn't really "fix" the issue.

    I wouldn't go to repetitive meals, either. The best way to get good nutrition is by eating a wide variety of whole foods such as whole fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, lean protein, eggs, lowfat dairy (so limit that cheese!) and a variety of oils, preferably non-saturated ones.


    I don't buy a lot of bread because I tend to eat too much of it when it's around, and same with cheeses. One or two pieces of bread a day and a half portion of cheese is about all I have room for, calorie-wise.

    Once you find your calorie level and get some proficiency with cooking and calculating it gets easier.
  • steveko89
    steveko89 Posts: 2,187 Member
    Frankly, if you don't adjust your mindset you're likely to just fail again on this attempt. Your calorie counting/tracking methodology isn't what needs fixing; you're baseline way of eating and portion control is what go you here, fixing that is the path to losing and maintaining at a healthy weight.
  • penguinmama87
    penguinmama87 Posts: 945 Member
    coderdan82 wrote: »
    Thanks to everyone that replied. I'm actually not new to this, I've tried and failed several times before. And I think I failed because I was trying to eat same as before (in lower quantities of course) which made calorie counting complicated. From the responses it seems like my meals will have to become a bit more repetitive if I want to sustain this. I don't think I'll go the junk/proceeded good route, it just doesn't seem very healthy, but maybe things like using sliced cheese where the calories are known per sliced instead of a brick of cheese that I have to weigh, or small buns instead of loaf of bread, etc.

    Any change will have some kind of adjustment period, and it will be uncomfortable because it's new. I think accepting that at the outset helps the mental game a little. It feels hard because it is hard, not because you're doing it wrong. (Mitigation strategies can still be worth it, but any habit change requires effort, especially at the outset.)

    You don't *have* to weigh food, but I will say if weight loss stalls it's probably one of the easiest things to fix. You can get a decent one very inexpensively and they take up minimal counter space. Almost all of my food is prepared from scratch and I still weigh and use the recipe builder. I use a dry erase board like @MsCzar (a pen and paper are also fine), or my laptop if it's well out of the splash zone. I recently discovered I can use the recipe builder on mobile too but it doesn't really fit my brain, so, I typically don't edit recipes there. I do tend to rotate between the same few breakfasts and then lunch is often leftovers, but I have a very varied diet and I don't find it cumbersome to log it.

    When I got serious about logging about six months ago, it did feel weird at first. But now it really doesn't. My diet has changed some in that time, but it's also good to know you don't have to have it all figured out on day one even if you're coming back to this after a while. If a strategy you try doesn't work out as well as you'd like (give it some time to see if it's really working or not), then try something different. :)
  • wilson10102018
    wilson10102018 Posts: 1,306 Member
    It might help to have a little introspection here. A person who wants to lose weight and chooses CICO as the science to believe in, has one choice - count calories. Having said that, avoiding the calorie counting process is just another form of denial or aversion. My favorite psychologist often said: "if you want to know what a person wants, deep down, what they really, really want, just look at what they have because people get exactly what they want." If you don't want to count calories you either don't really want to lose or you don't really believe the science.
  • amusedmonkey
    amusedmonkey Posts: 10,331 Member
    edited August 2021
    It might help to have a little introspection here. A person who wants to lose weight and chooses CICO as the science to believe in, has one choice - count calories. Having said that, avoiding the calorie counting process is just another form of denial or aversion. My favorite psychologist often said: "if you want to know what a person wants, deep down, what they really, really want, just look at what they have because people get exactly what they want." If you don't want to count calories you either don't really want to lose or you don't really believe the science.

    I don't think that's true. Applying the science practically can happen in a variety of ways. You could believe the science and understand how it works, and use a method that helps you create a deficit without counting calories. When you eat less by manipulating certain parameters in your lifestyle and way of eating, you understand that the deficit is being created by eating fewer calories and not alchemy. You're not denying the science, you're just using the concept in a different way.

    For example, a while back we were changing providers and were without an internet connection for 10 days. I did not want to use my precious mobile data because I needed it for work, so I did not count calories. What I did was skip breakfast and make sure I'm active enough throughout the day. The higher calorie allowance per day and per meal helped me stay in control of my CICO.
  • wilson10102018
    wilson10102018 Posts: 1,306 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    It might help to have a little introspection here. A person who wants to lose weight and chooses CICO as the science to believe in, has one choice - count calories. Having said that, avoiding the calorie counting process is just another form of denial or aversion. My favorite psychologist often said: "if you want to know what a person wants, deep down, what they really, really want, just look at what they have because people get exactly what they want." If you don't want to count calories you either don't really want to lose or you don't really believe the science.

    Calorie counting has been great for me. But it would be really short-sighted to presume it's the ONLY way to lose weight. You can believe in CICO and choose another path than calorie counting to achieve a caloric deficit.

    What would that be?
  • ReenieHJ
    ReenieHJ Posts: 9,722 Member
    I basically eat the same things every day and I know how many calories are in them so I can just add meals consisting of multiple things with one click and i just memorized all the weights of everything. (like for example I have "turkey wrap lunch" which is my usual turkey wrap and salad the way I always make it)

    Or "night snack" which logs my whole 3 bowls of pumpkin pudding(made same way every night) and 4 lenny larry cookies.

    Sorry for the OT question but would you mind sharing your pumpkin pudding recipe? I love pumpkin anything. :)
  • wilson10102018
    wilson10102018 Posts: 1,306 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    It might help to have a little introspection here. A person who wants to lose weight and chooses CICO as the science to believe in, has one choice - count calories. Having said that, avoiding the calorie counting process is just another form of denial or aversion. My favorite psychologist often said: "if you want to know what a person wants, deep down, what they really, really want, just look at what they have because people get exactly what they want." If you don't want to count calories you either don't really want to lose or you don't really believe the science.

    Calorie counting has been great for me. But it would be really short-sighted to presume it's the ONLY way to lose weight. You can believe in CICO and choose another path than calorie counting to achieve a caloric deficit.

    What would that be?

    Choosing to skip certain meals, eliminating snacks, reducing portions, choosing lower calorie versions of things or reducing/eliminating high calorie items, are all options to reduce one's intake. More exercise, of any kind, is a way to increase your calorie burn. Doing those things has been more than sufficient for some people in the past when you couldn't get the level of precision we can now, and there are some successful posters here now who use those methods too. I like the precision of calorie counting so I do it that way, especially since I've gone overboard in the past when I wasn't as precise and ended up really undereating (and getting burned out), but it really is sufficient for some people.

    Some people keep their houses clean without a cleaning schedule and don't need a planner to avoid being late. I think those people are amazing and I am not one of them - I gotta write it down. But I'm not going to say they really don't care about it because they don't do it my way. I will suggest to people who struggle with those things to write it down because that's how I've made it work for me.
    Lietchi wrote: »
    It might help to have a little introspection here. A person who wants to lose weight and chooses CICO as the science to believe in, has one choice - count calories. Having said that, avoiding the calorie counting process is just another form of denial or aversion. My favorite psychologist often said: "if you want to know what a person wants, deep down, what they really, really want, just look at what they have because people get exactly what they want." If you don't want to count calories you either don't really want to lose or you don't really believe the science.

    Calorie counting has been great for me. But it would be really short-sighted to presume it's the ONLY way to lose weight. You can believe in CICO and choose another path than calorie counting to achieve a caloric deficit.

    What would that be?

    Choosing to skip certain meals, eliminating snacks, reducing portions, choosing lower calorie versions of things or reducing/eliminating high calorie items, are all options to reduce one's intake. More exercise, of any kind, is a way to increase your calorie burn. Doing those things has been more than sufficient for some people in the past when you couldn't get the level of precision we can now, and there are some successful posters here now who use those methods too. I like the precision of calorie counting so I do it that way, especially since I've gone overboard in the past when I wasn't as precise and ended up really undereating (and getting burned out), but it really is sufficient for some people.

    Some people keep their houses clean without a cleaning schedule and don't need a planner to avoid being late. I think those people are amazing and I am not one of them - I gotta write it down. But I'm not going to say they really don't care about it because they don't do it my way. I will suggest to people who struggle with those things to write it down because that's how I've made it work for me.

    OK, so in your World, calories count but you don't have to count calories. You just guess at them because you have skipped a meal or whatnot. Got it.