BLOG NUTRITION, FOOD
November 13, 2013
How & Why to Meal Track
Although "Meal Tracking" is technically 12 letters, we can call it a "four letter word" (or phrase) for all-intents and purposes in our discussion today. I say this because I know that tracking can be tedious, and sometimes it's the last thing we want to be doing. But it's also one of the most important, and most effective, thing to do when balancing your health.
First let's start with why we should track our meals.
Let's say you learned that you were going to have your income cut in half tomorrow. Less money coming in means less freedom with $$ out.
In order to determine how to spend less, you'd be wise to do a quick overview of your current & recent finances...
- How much were you spending before?
- What were you spending it on?
- What are your goals?
- What can you adjust for, have less of or do without?
You would be much less likely to meet new (and more strict) budgetary goals without this information.
Now apply that same theory to food:
- How much are/were you eating?
- What were you getting the most calories from?
- What were your goals? What are your goals now?
- What can you adjust for, have less of or do without? (And what do you need more of!)
Do you see the connection? Keeping track of what you eat allows you to set a 'budget', to keep track of what you do within your budget & how you meet your goals, then know what to adjust (if anything) to get there! It provides you with objective feedback and accountability.
Now that you know why to meal track, here's a few ideas for how to make it work for you:
- Save time
Tips: Track the night before (also helps you plan your meals!), or half the day at a time, then change what you need to. Save custom "favorite" meals or foods. Save entire meals or snacks on the weekends (check they're balanced, then shop & enjoy.) Track while you're eating or waiting for your food.
- Save money
Tips: Pre-plan your day in the tracker, and pack what you need- save on restaurant or convenience foods! Use previous weeks' of food for meal ideas- grocery shop with these in mind, and buy less on impulse at the store.
- Use it as a planner (& a Dietitian-on-the-go)
Tips: Track a day or more ahead of time, and grocery shop / grab foods accordingly! Check the nutritional balance of your day after you pre-track to make sure it's balanced (can be much easier than trying to adjust at the end of the day!)
- Use it for accountability
Tips: Enter your foods as you eat them, or right before/after to stay accountable to your food choices within a meal and within a day. Take photos of your food then enter it into the tracker when you have more privacy as needed.
- Use it to set up goals & rewards
Tips: Set goals for your nutrition, and for keeping up with meal tracking. Set reminders for meeting your goals on your calendar to keep it up. Example: 2 weeks from now, add a pedicure to your Saturday as a reward for 2 weeks of tracking! Keep the goals ongoing (say once a week or month) for continued motivation.
So tracking your meals helps you stay on track with your food, just like tracking your expenses helps you stay on track with your budget. If you're new to meal tracking, know that it takes some time to get used to. You're learning, and that's OK. Every day that you continue to track is a day closer to making it a permanent, healthy, life-long habit, and that's a good thing.
Encourage your friends & family to track as well - it's free, and can help you meet a plethora of nutrition & health goals. Plus, others tracking helps you stay accountable to tracking yourself. They don't need to know you're using them - in a good way! :)
How do you meal track, and how does it help you?