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Calorie Counting Dos and Don'ts

Know Exactly How Many Calories You Consume for Faster Weight Loss


Updated February 20, 2013

Calorie Counting Dos and Don'ts

Make sure you count every calorie to get the best results


If you count calories for weight loss, you probably know that accuracy is the key to success. Calorie counting can be time consuming, but for most people it is the best way to lose weight. Use these dos and don'ts to make sure you know exactly how many calories you consume each day.

Dos and Don'ts for Counting Calories

  • Don't rely on memory. Even if you are not trying to lose weight, it is hard to remember what you had for dinner or lunch yesterday. Can you remember it now? Even if you can recall what you ate, it is nearly impossible to remember how much you ate with any accuracy.

  • Do get a portable calorie-tracking device. You are more likely to get an accurate recording if you jot down the calories in your meal before you sit down to eat. To do this you'll want to have a calorie tracking method that goes wherever you go. This might be a small notebook that you throw in your purse or it might be a downloadable app for your smart phone.
  • Don't use guesswork to determine portion sizes. People tend to underestimate their portions. Steve Coley, fitness director at a Minneapolis area YMCA says that certain foods are easy to overeat and under-record. "Cereal is a huge culprit," he says. "Not only do people not count all of the calories in each oversized bowl that they eat, but they forget to count the calories in all of the milk that they consume with the cereal."
  • Do invest in a kitchen scale. A digital scale will help you see exactly how big a serving size really is. You don't have to use the kitchen scale at every meal, but each time you eat a new food, weigh a portion of food so that you know exactly how much to eat. If you consume more or less than the serving size indicated on the nutrition facts label, you'll be able to get the correct calorie count if you know exactly how many grams were in your serving.
  • Don't forget to record snacks or nibbles. A common mistake made by calorie counters is to ignore small snacks or nibbles. For example, you might visit a restaurant with a friend and choose to skip dessert in an effort to keep your calorie and fat intake low. But if you grab a fork and eat a few bites of your dining partner's dessert, those calories count.
  • Do make a habit of writing down everything. If it goes in your mouth, it gets written down. Make this habit your rule for calorie counting. You might be surprised how the small indulgences throughout your day add up to a big change in your weight loss results.
  • Don't break the bank buying expensive tools. The best calorie tracking tool for you isn't necessary the most expensive one. You'll find different gadgets and tools at every price point. The one that works is the one you actually use. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a tool that is effective.
  • Do find a tool that fits your lifestyle. Online tools might work for people who are in front of a computer all day. Other dieters who are on the go all day might prefer to have an app for their smart phone or mobile device. And for people who like using the traditional pen and paper method, a small notepad works well. Make sure that the notebook you choose is small enough to carry with you in a pocket or purse.
  • Don't limit yourself to just tracking calories. Your total calorie intake for each day is important for weight loss. But if you record more information about the food you eat, you can use the information to get past weight loss barriers and to improve your health. Depending on the tool you use, you can track specific things like calcium and sodium intake, along with exercise.
  • Do at least break down the major nutrients. In addition to recording total calories, be sure to record protein, carbohydrate and fat grams for each food you eat. Trans fat and fiber content are also good numbers to know. Increasing your fiber intake and eliminating trans fat from your diet will help you to improve your health.

Calorie counting is important for healthy eaters, whether they are trying to lose weight or not. Be sure that the method of counting you use is accurate so that you get the health or weight loss results you want.

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