Food Journaling has been well documented to be an effective way to track calories for weight loss, or weight maintenance. At one time, completing a food journal meant having to write down everything you ate, a tedious and often inconvenient process. These days there are numerous online programs that make food journaling a breeze. With minimal effort you are able to see the number of calories and the breakdown of both macro and micronutrients you have consumed.
Most people also use these programs to determine what their optimal intake and food breakdown is. Like most information on the internet, it is important to question if the program is giving you a reasonable calculation of calories and amount of carbohydrate, fat, and protein you need each day. As a consumer it is important that you have some knowledge of what you should be eating so you can assess if the goals provided by the program are realistic and will provide you with optimal nutrition for your health.
So how can you tell if your program is giving you a reasonable estimation of calories you need each day? An easy way to tell if the calories are adequate is to ask yourself these questions. Do you have enough energy throughout the day to go to boot camp and participate in the other activities you want to do? Do you feel satisfied after you have consumed your allotted number of calories? If you want to lose weight, are you losing more than two pounds per week? If you are consuming adequate calories you should generally feel like you have enough energy to do the activities you want, and not feel like you are depriving yourself of food. The recommended rate for permanent weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. This allows for you to enjoy a healthy diet with adequate nutrients for your body to function at its best.
A more technical way to determine your daily caloric needs is to calculate your basal metabolic rate and multiply it by an appropriate activity factor. The Harris Benedict equation is a good formula to use to determine caloric needs. Calculators are available online and this can be used as a tool to assess your programs calorie goals. It is important to remember that all calculations are only estimates of your caloric needs as many physiological factors play a role in determining energy needs.
The daily percentages of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat in your diet are also important. Health Canada has set guidelines for daily intakes at between 45-65% Carbohydrate, 10-35% Protein, and 20-35% Fat. These guidelines are reference values for healthy individuals without significant medical or nutritional issues. If you are interested in knowing more specifically what percentages are best for you, a registered Dietitian can help provide recommendations tailored to your nutritional needs and goals.
Online Food Calculators are an awesome tool to manage your dietary intake and educate yourself about food nutrient values. With the right knowledge you can use them with confidence to effectively and successfully meet your nutrition and weight management goals.
Note: If the program you use gives you only the totals of Carbs, Protein, and Fat/day you can figure out the percentages doing this simple calculation. Take the total number of grams of Carbohydrate, multiply the grams by four, then divide that by the total number of calories/day, and finally multiply by 100 to get the percentage. Protein is calculated using the same factor of 4 and Fat is calculated by using a factor of 9
Sharon Fast-Registered Dietition