Food Tracking: Weight vs. Volume

It doesn’t LOOK like much, but there’s 111 calorie difference between these two servings of Kodiak Cakes. Make this common mistake over 3-4 meals/ day and and THAT could be sabotaging your results!

If you are taking things to the point of tracking calories and macronutrients, it’s important that you TRACK THEM ACCURATELY!

It’s also important to understand the difference between tracking by VOLUME and by WEIGHT.

 

UNDERSTANDING WEIGHT VS VOLUME

  • VOLUME = is measuring an item by how much space it takes up. To measure by volume, you would use cups and/ or spoons (ex: ½ cup, 2 tbsp, etc.)
  • WEIGHT = is measuring an item’s mass, or the weight of the food item (ex: grams, ounces, fluid ounces, millilitres)
    • If you have ever opened a bag of chips and noticed that half the bag is air, this is because the product was packaged by WEIGHT (using a scale), not VOLUME (filled up to the top)

We DO NOT advocate tracking by volume for several reasons. Here’s why:

First, foods do not fit evenly into cups/ spoons etc. As a result, you may end up eating LESS than you need due to inaccurate measurement.

Second, it’s very easy to OVER serve when using cups/ spoons. Do you pack the cup? Should it be loosely packed? Should it be level or a heaping spoon? I mean, let’s be honest… when you use a spoon to serve yourself some peanut butter, who’s really serving just ONE?!

Last, but not least, who wants to clean those things over and over again. Just use the scale, you’ll thank us later.

To track your food by weight, one thing you MUST have is a digital food scale.

The process is as follows:

  1. Weigh the food item then, log it in MyFitnessPal (or your food tracking app of choice) according to the amount weighed.
  2. Follow this for each item you eat at each meal. As you do this, the app counts and keeps track of the calories and macronutrients you have consumed.
  3. Then compare this to the calorie and/ or macronutrient goals you have and aim to land within 10% of your target.
  • Solids will be weighed using grams (g) and ounces (oz), while liquids will be weighed using millilitres (ml) or fluid ounces (fl oz).

TIPS FOR WEIGHING FOOD AND LIQUIDS

USDA DATA FOR ACCURACY

When it comes to tracking/ weighing whole foods, some clients feel overwhelmed by the vast number of choices in MyFitnessPal’s database. They begin to question their own accuracy (or that of MyFitnessPal’s database) with tracking their calories and/ or macros. Just try typing “banana” in the search and you’ll see what I mean. You will get 100s of hits.

We have found this fear of making a mistake, or the wrong selection usually leads down a path of eating fewer whole foods and more packaged/ processed foods. Simply because, scanning a bar-code is easier and gives them peace of mind. This is quite the opposite of what we intend.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an extensive and accurate database of nearly 250,000 foods which includes virtually all whole foods in both their raw and cooked versions. And, many of those foods are also included in the MyFitnessPal database. So, when you know how to search, you will often find what you are looking for.

We suggest including ‘USDA’ in your search. And, when looking through the results, look for the suggestions that offer the USDA food code. Doing this will give you precise calorie and macronutrient info.

Here are a few examples:

  • Search ‘Banana USDA’ yields: “Banana, Raw USDA 09040”
  • Search ‘Blueberries USDA’ yields: “Blueberries, Raw USDA 09050”
  • Search ‘Grilled Chicken Breast USDA’ yields: “Grilled Chicken Breast, USDA – Sr28”

DRY WEIGHT vs. WET

Packaged foods are required, by the FDA, to include nutrition labels. The nutrition data included on those labels are given to you for the food ‘as is’. In other words, the weight stated on the label of dry goods like pasta, rice, oats, grains etc. are for the UNCOOKED product.

Another suggestion we have would be to simply weigh out the dry portion, cook it, then re-weigh it once cooked. Then, create a custom “food” or “meal” in MyFitnessPal using the cooked weight. Then you can use this over and over.

RAW FOOD vs. COOKED

Meat is most accurately weighed and logged in its RAW state. When you cook meat, water and a very small amount of fat are cooked away. This amount of reduction will change based on your method of cooking (baking, crock-pot, Instant-pot, grilling) and on how well the meat is cooked. A rare steak will retain more water than a well-done steak.

Furthermore, when you purchase meat at the store and there is a label on it, that label is for the raw product. So, if you are using the nutritional information from the label provided, you must weigh it raw.

Just remember, the way you buy it is the way the calories and macros are provided on the label. There are a few exceptions; sometimes bacon will specify that the nutritional data on the label are for the cooked product, so of course you should weigh it cooked.

SUGGESTIONS TO ELIMINATE FRUSTRATION AND MAKE THINGS EASIER AND MORE ACCURATE

  • If you feel it is more convenient to weigh your meat after cooking (which we suggest you do for convenience), look it up in the USDA database the way you cooked it but remember that it will not be as accurate as raw because your method of cooking and how ‘well’ you cook it may vary from what was done to the cooked meat tested by the USDA lab. Example: ‘Grilled Chicken Breast USDA’ yields: “Grilled Chicken Breast, USDA – Sr28” and will give you the most accurate information for grilled chicken
  • Whether you choose to weigh raw or cooked, the most important thing is consistency. Try and do it the same way, every time, for best results and to limit the variability in your tracking. Don’t go back and forth for the same item. Choose one and stick with it.
  • And, similarly to the WET vs DRY goods, you could simply weigh out the RAW portion, cook it, then re-weigh it once cooked. Then, create a custom “food” or “meal” in MyFitnessPal using the COOKED weight. Then you can use this saved item over and over.

We hope this helps eliminate confusion while improving the accuracy of your tracking. In the end, it’s the difference between you seeing results, or not!

 

 

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