Many people don’t track what they eat. They probably know that overeating is unhealthy, but they don’t understand how much food to eat or how to track their food intake.
With so much going on in our lives, it’s also very easy to eat mindlessly, without realizing the effect it has on our bodies.
But, tracking your food intake is important if you intend to achieve specific fitness goals. Even if you just want to be healthy, monitoring your food intake is still important.
Now, there are various ways to track your food intake. You may have heard of portion control or calorie counting. The question is, what’s the best way to track your food intake?
In the video that we are about to show you, Registered Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Brian St. Pierre from Precision Nutrition gives a concise explanation of the best way to track your food intake.
According to Brian, the best way to track your food intake depends on your goals, needs, and life situations. This educative video runs for about 10 minutes, so it won’t take much of your time to watch it.
7 Ways to Track Your Food Intake
In the first 6 minutes of this video, Brian explains the different ways of tracking food intake, how it all fits on the spectrum from least precise to most precise, and how there is a cost-benefit ratio for each one.
1. Mindless Eating
The least precise on the spectrum is mindless eating. Well, this is actually not a way to track your food intake because there is no tracking involved.
Mindless eating refers to eating what you want without tracking or awareness of your food intake. It hardly requires any effort, but it has the lowest level of precision and no health benefit.
2. Mindful or Intuitive Eating
After mindless eating, Brian talks about mindful or intuitive eating. This method uses your fullness and hunger cues to determine when and how much you should eat.
Mindful eating requires only a little effort and it can be beneficial for people who already have the skill. However, it may not be precise enough if you have specific body composition goals.
3. Portion Control with a Plate
The third on the spectrum is portion control with a plate. This method uses your plate to portion your food and track your intake.
For example, you use half of your plate for vegetables; a quarter for protein; one-eighth for starches and fruits; and the last one-eighth for healthy fats.
This method is quite simple and easy to do, and it’s precise enough for most people to reach their goals. It can also be adjusted to your eating style and preferences.
4. Hand-Size Portion Control
At number four in the spectrum is the hand-size portion control. This method uses your hand or parts of your hand to measure your portion sizes.
So, you use your palm to track protein; your fist for non-starchy vegetables; your cupped hand for starches and fruits; and your thumb for healthy fats.
This method has several advantages:
- It’s easy to use;
- You have a personalized and consistent reference because your hand size is always the same;
- You can use this method anywhere because your hands are always with you;
- It can be adjusted to your eating style;
- It’s precise enough for most people to reach their goals.
5. Weighing Foods and Tracking Macros
The next method is weighing foods (counting calories) and tracking macros. This method is more accurate than mindful eating, portion control with a plate, and hand-size portion control. It’s suitable for those who intend to reach a more precise goal.
However, this method also has its drawbacks. It requires more effort, and it could lead to disordered eating as you become obsessed with the numbers.
6. Weighing Foods and Following a Specific Meal Plan
The second last method on the spectrum is weighing foods and following a specific meal plan. This method uses food weighing and macro tracking, but it takes them further by integrating them into a specific meal plan.
People who have very specific body composition goals, such as bodybuilders, often use this method. It has a high level of precision, so it can make you very lean. However, this method could come with a high cost to your social and mental life because it requires a lot of effort.
7. Living in a Metabolic Chamber
Lastly, the most precise method is when you participate in a research study and live in a metabolic chamber where scientists prescribe and measure all your food intakes. This type of tracking though is not realistic and possible for anyone.
Which Method Is Right For You?
After explaining the 7 ways to track your food intake, Brian discusses the best tracking methods for 3 groups of eaters.
This grouping is used by Precision Nutrition to classify clients based on their goals, nutritional knowledge, skills, and what they can do consistently.
Which method is right for you depends on which group of eaters you belong to. The 3 groups of eaters include:
Level 1 eaters: These are people who only want to live a healthy life. They may not have precise body composition goals. Most people fall into this group. The best methods for this group are mindful eating, portion control with a plate, or hand-size portion control.
Level 2 eaters: These are people who have more advanced body composition goals, such as high-level recreational athletes. Since these people need a more precise method, they can opt for hand-size portion control or food weighing and macro tracking.
Level 3 eaters: These are people who are paid for their body appearances, such as bodybuilders, physique competitors, or models. Since they have very specific body composition goals, they can opt for macro tracking and following a specific meal plan.
At the end of the video, Brian advises people to look at what they want and what they need, and find the middle between those things. Your cost-to-benefit ratio should also fit your daily life and goal needs.
Now, having discussed what’s inside Brian’s video, please watch the video to get more details on how to best track your food intake. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.