Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tracking Your Food: When, Why and How

There was a time when food tracking was treated like a given, a necessary tool for anyone wanting to lose weight or better their health. Thankfully, there’s more nuance to that conversation now. The fact is, tracking your food can be a useful exercise for gaining more insight into what you’re putting in your body. It can also be a tedious endeavor that sucks all the joy out of eating.

If you’re going to invest the time—and it can be quite time-consuming if you include any variety in your diet, let’s make sure it’s not a waste. 

You Might Want to Track Your Food If…

  • You have a goal where hitting a specific macronutrient and/or caloric intake is important. This includes cutting before a bodybuilding competition, starting a ketogenic diet, or even just losing weight.
  • You’re conducting an experiment. Maybe you want to see how your hunger changes when you eat more protein and less fat, or if your sleep improves if you increase your total carbs by a certain amount. Maybe you’re going to try a month of strict carnivore and plan to track your micronutrient intake.
  • You suspect you aren’t eating the right amount. If weight loss has stalled, your total calorie intake might be higher than intended. On the flip side, if you’re an athlete whose performance and recovery have been subpar lately, perhaps you are eating too little. Some people find that keto dramatically suppresses their appetites to the point where they need to intentionally eat more. In any case, you can’t make the necessary adjustments unless you know how much you consume on a typical day.

You Don’t Need to Track Your Food If…

  • You feel good and aren’t looking to change anything. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • You stick to the same basic meals most of the time. Even if you’re trying to manage your macros, if you’re a creature of habit, you can probably get away without tracking. Once you know the nutritional info for your standard meals, there’s no reason to input them in a food tracker over and over.
  • You’ve been keto for a while. You have a good sense of how to keep your carbs low enough to stay in ketosis, and/or being in ketosis 24/7 isn’t that important to you.
  • You just don’t want to. Your desire to eat intuitively outweighs your desire to manage your food intake.

You SHOULDN’T Track Your Food If…

  • It triggers unhealthy eating behaviors or anxiety, or it otherwise messes with your mental and emotional well-being. 

Is Food Tracking Reliable?

There will always be some error in food tracking. Besides measurement error on your end (we’ll get to that in a minute), there is natural variation in foods. One ribeye is fattier than the next. This apple contains more water. That cabbage was grown in more nutrient-depleted soil. 

The FDA allows for up to 20% error on packaged food labels. That means that any information you get off the package might be wrong by 20% in either direction. Likewise, if you’re eating in restaurants and relying on the nutritional info they provide, consider it a rough estimate. Depending on how the food is prepared and the portion size you are given, your specific meal might vary a little or a lot. 

All this is to say that food tracking is not an exact science. That doesn’t mean it’s futile—it can still be useful for the reasons I gave above. However, there’s no point in stressing if you’re off your daily targets by 25 calories or 7 grams of fat. You should view tracking as a helpful but imprecise method of gathering data. Don’t micromanage to the point of causing yourself grief or anxiety.

How to Track for Maximum Accuracy

That said, there are steps you can take to improve the accuracy of your tracking:

Weigh, Don’t Measure

If you care about precision, invest in a food scale. While tablespoons (mL) work for liquid measurements like salad dressing, weight is much more accurate for proteins, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and legumes. 

Weigh Foods Raw

This is true even if you intend to cook them. When you enter them in your food tracker, make sure you select the entries for the raw items (e.g., “Celery, raw” instead of “Celery, cooked”).

Do NOT Use Pre-entered Recipes

For example, if you make a pot of chili, do not simply select the entry for “Chili” in your food tracking app. Your version of chili might differ substantially from what’s considered “average” chili by the app.

Most tracking apps will allow you to input custom recipes, which is helpful for foods you will make again and again. Alternately, you can enter the ingredients separately into your daily food log. 

If you are cooking big batches of multi-ingredient recipes, the best way to figure out exactly how much you ate is to weigh the final product and then weigh your portion. In the chili example, you’d create a custom chili recipe in your app and enter all the raw ingredients. After it’s cooked, weigh the entire batch, then weigh your portion. If you make 800 grams of chili and eat 150 grams, you ate 18.75% of the recipe. 

If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. Food tracking is so much easier if you prepare simple meals: protein, side of vegetables, add healthy fat. It can be a major bummer for those of us who like to experiment in the kitchen and prepare more elaborate meals. 

Tracking FAQs

What’s the Best App?

There are lots of options here. I personally like and recommend Cronometer. The free app and desktop version have everything you need, but there is also an inexpensive premium version. The entries are all based on official food databases, so it’s as accurate as you can get, and it provides pretty granular nutritional info. You can input your own macronutrient targets and also add custom recipes. 

Primal folks might also prefer Cronometer because, unlike a lot of food tracking apps, it doesn’t assume you are trying to be keto or even low carb. If you are keto, Carb Manager and KetoDiet App are two popular options. Personally, I don’t like that Carb Manager grades foods based on what it considers acceptable for keto. My beloved Japanese sweet potato gets an F—no thanks (even if I can’t eat a big portion on keto). I’ve never tried KetoDiet App because it costs $8.99, whereas Cronometer is free and gives me everything I need. If you have tried it, let us know what you think about it in the comments below.  

Whatever app you choose, don’t assume that the default macro settings are right for you. A lot of keto apps will set your carb limit at 20 to 25 grams, for example, whereas The Keto Reset Diet recommends starting with 50 grams total. (This usually works out to 30 to 35 grams net in my experience.) The calories might not be appropriate for your activity level. Either set custom macros or simply ignore the app when it says you are over your carb limit or calories or whatever. 

How Do I Track Cooking Fat?

It’s impossible to know how much fat you leave in the pan when you sauté your veggies or how much oil is absorbed you fry chicken. Since most people are more concerned with eating too many calories than too few, the more conservative approach is to add all the cooking fat to your food diary when sautéing or roasting (i.e., assume you consume it all). When frying, the best answer is to weigh your cooking oil before and after frying to estimate how much is absorbed. Neither will be precise, but it’s the best you can do, so don’t stress about it. 

Is There a Preferred Time/Method For Tracking?

How and when you track your food depends on why you’re tracking in the first place. If you’re trying to get an unbiased look at how you’re currently eating, I recommend logging your food on paper for a few days, then entering it into an app to get the nutritional info. Logging makes us more mindful of what we are eating. This is generally a good thing, but if you’re trying to get an accurate snapshot, you don’t want to change how you’re eating based on the data

If you’re trying to manage what you eat, it’s best to enter your food before you eat it. This keeps you from accidentally eating more or less than you want, and it helps you balance your macros according to your goals.

Whatever you do, log foods as you weigh/measure/eat them. Don’t think you’ll remember exactly what you ate earlier today, much less yesterday or the day before. You won’t. 

Do I Have To Track My Food If I’m Keto?

You never have to track your food. However, if you’re serious about being in ketosis, I do recommend tracking your food for at least a week or two at the beginning just to make sure you’re on track. Most people don’t know how many carbs are in foods, so it can be easy to go over your limit. Managing your electrolytes is also very important. Apps like Cronometer will show you how much sodium, potassium, and magnesium you are getting from food so you can supplement appropriately.

Can I Just “Lazy Track”?

Sure, you can eyeball portion sizes of steak and measure your broccoli in a measuring cup instead of buying a food scale. It won’t be particularly accurate. As long as you understand that, go ahead. I wouldn’t bother taking the time to track for this level of (im)precision though.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. If you track your food, what insights or benefits have you gotten? What app do you prefer and why? Let us know below.


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The Sick Care System

Sick Care System /sik ker ˈsistəm/ noun

  1. The standard westernized healthcare system. 
  2. A proposed system of health care maintenance that was better informed in terms of information, yet produced remarkably poor results. 

The 20th century saw perhaps the greatest improvements in human health in all of history (with some notable caveats). This was due in large part to public health, sanitation, vaccination (controversial, I know!), and antibiotics. In the developed world, infectious disease has largely been banished. 

This is, of course, incredible. Overlooked, under-appreciated, but incredible. 

Unfortunately, these advancements in health have proven ineffective in addressing the major causes of early death, enormous costs, and diminished quality of life: chronic degenerative diseases. 

“People are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food”

Wendell Berry (Environmental activist, author, farmer) 


The Sick Care System. 

Where once there existed “juvenile” and “adult onset” diabetes (the former being autoimmune in nature, the latter being largely due to over consumption of food) there are now toddlers with type 2 diabetes. Every year tens of thousands of peer reviewed research papers are published on these topics, yet both rates of occurence and associated costs of these conditions continue to escalate. 

We know more about disease than ever before, yet we appear largely incapable of changing the course. Why? Greed, ineptitude, conspiracies…

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. 

Bad news first… 

We are told the wrong advice, offered the wrong solutions. 

For example: Type 1 diabetics proved to have substantially better glycemic control and health markers when eating a low carb diet than ANY intervention tried to help type 1 diabetes to date (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29735574). It was a Herculean effort to even get this study done and it is in complete opposition to the current standard of care which is “eat what you want, just cover it with insulin.” 

This might seem like a tangent from the topic at hand, the Sick Care System. However, I bring it up because this type of information—the efficacy of a low carb diet for an otherwise intractable health condition—is now in the crosshairs of tech companies such as Google and Facebook. These companies have taken such a dim view of paleo, keto, low carb diets that now they’ve made some of the best resources on these topics extremely tough to find. 

If The Information Monopolies (Google, Facebook, etc.) had acted 5 years ago as they do today, it’s highly likely this study would have never happened.  

Now, the good… 

Chronic degenerative disease is largely preventable and, in many cases, reversible. 

However, this process requires a complete reorientation. 

We must move away from the “magic bullet” cures of the antibiotic discovery era. This process is not one of potions, pills, and one-size-fits-all bandaids. 

We must embrace species appropriate diet, movement, socialization, and circadian biology. 

For those just beginning their journey to health, this may feel completely out of reach. 

But just know, many people have been in your shoes. And they changed course—redirecting out of the Sick Care System—to take their health into their own hands. 

So far, it has been possible in large part due to the free exchange of information, arming sick, fed up people with the knowledge needed to self experiment to find what works for them. 

This enormous opportunity, of the citizen scientist relying on the greatest repository of knowledge in history, coupled with the ability to test and assess efficacy of everything from diet, to exercise and pharmaceuticals, is now in jeopardy due to the monopolization of information retrieval and discovery

The information gatekeepers have now entered the scene and are curating what they think We need. 

Does this make you angry? Have a burning desire to right this wrong?

So do we… 


Join us in the healthy rebellion



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Online Macro Calculators, Favorite IBD Resources, Anti-Candida Diet During the Holidays & Sneakers for Orangetheory

Hey guys!

Welcome to the next edition of CNC Instagram Live! As always, I’m so glad to be able to jump on here and answer some of your questions. I have another awesome list of questions from you guys, so let’s get started!

1. How come all macro calculators have different results when I input the same info? 

That’s the thing about online calculators – they are all different. There are a lot of very smart people who put these equations together, and they chose different things to include. For example, some are based on BMR while others are based on TDEE. Some include activity level, others don’t. Plus, there are different multipliers for different types of exercise you may do. Some take weight and body fat percetnage into consideration, while others don’t.

I’ve played around with a lot of different online macro calculators to compare how each one stacks up to the one I use for clients, and I’ll say I’ve gotten a variety of results. But after all, this is just an estimate of your energy needs – it’s a starting point. I always recommend to make adjustments within the first two weeks of counting macros if something feels off. And I also think it’s very important to work with a nutrition coach for this exact reason! A coach can help you achieve your goals depending on if you want to lose fat, feel better in the gym, put on muscle, etc. The feedback and support you get from a coach, you can’t get that from online calculator.

2. I was just diagnosed with UC. What are the best resources for IBD?

My opinion on this has definitely changed over the years of having IBD as there’s no one way to get better, and there’s not one resource that will help heal you. That said, these resources have been incredibly helpful in my journey battling UC.

  • CCFA
  • IBD-AID – a diet based out of UMass Amherst, focused on anti-inflammatory and prebiotics and probiotics
  • Against the Grain Podcast – hosted by GI doctor, Samir Kakodkar, who host amazing guests with a variety of perspectives
  • Lucy Mailing – super smart, studies the gut microbiome, works with Chris Kresser
  • Andrew Kornfeld (aka IBD Coach)
  • IBD Parenthood – great resource for those with IBD that are wanting to start a family
  • Facebook: Entyvio Warriors

3. What are you going to do during the holidays with your anti-candida diet?

The plan is to keep keep trucking along. I’ve been doing well on this diet and don’t want to give up now. I haven’t been eating as much sugar, so the plan is to keep that up. I won’t be indulging in as many special holiday treats as I usually do, but I’m sure I’ll have a few things here and there. I’ve had a little bit of Enjoy Life chocolate when a craving hits and having a little something once in a while helps to keep me more consistent overall. I never think of diets as black and white, so I’m doing what I can!

4. How did you first figure out your food sensitivities?

Whoops, I’ll make sure to answer this in a future edition!

5. Tips for traveling with UC?

Remembering back to my bad flare days, here’s what was important for traveling: planning ahead, packing all the foods, knowing where the bathrooms were, trying to find a grocery store where I could buy foods I could eat, and checking menus. Also, I’ve learned there’s something called a restroom request card that you can hand to managers at stores and it allows you to use their bathroom. I don’t have one, but may consider getting one if I need it in the future. And, of course, try not to stress since it can definitely make gut issues worse.

6. What sneakers do you wear for Orangetheory?

I either wear the Brooks Launch or Brooks Hyperion. They’re both great lightweight running shoes that also work on the weight floor at OTF. I actually just tried out these limited sprinkle sneakers (Brooks Ghost) at OTF yesterday and really liked them! 🙂 I personally don’t like running in a super supportive shoe at Orangetheory because I’m not running more than 3ish miles on average. You can use the Shoe Finder on the Brooks website if you’d like help finding the right fit, or check out your nearest running store for a custom shoe fitting.

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Athleisure Winter Favorites

athleisure winter favorites

Athleisure Winter Favorites

A year ago I declared a handful of athleisure staples as  my “mom uniform.” This year’s uniform has a bit more variety, but as always, I live in mostly (black) athleisure staples that put comfort and convenience at the top of the fashion pyramid. Here’s what’s in this year’s wardrobe and what I love the most in my closet!

Leggings, All Day, Every Day

High Price

Lululemon Align II 25″ = These are the uber popular super buttery soft leggings. They don’t have compression and feel like you’re wearing nothing at all! The waist won’t dig in at all. They’re best for under tunics and dresses and lounging around.

Lululemon Wunder Under High Rise 7/8 = These have a bit more compression and super smooth, more of athletic material. These are my favorite for workouts these days, but I do wear them as clothes too.

Low Price

Colorfulkoala High Waisted Leggings = These are a Wunder Under dupe! They’re very similar in fabric and fit. (Great if you’re taller since these are not 7/8!) Price = $22. Unbeatable.

Colorfulkoala 7/8 Leggings with Pocket = I LOVE these for the price – $25. They’re great for everyday wearing and workouts. THE PHONE POCKET IS GOLD, especially if you’re wearing a dress with no pockets over top. They have quite a bit of compression, which I really like.


High Price

This Athleta vest. Total splurge (I bought mine with birthday gift cards!) but I already know it’s something I will wear all the time! Zip pockets FTW. Super warm layer. Not too puffy.

I have several jackets similar to this that I wear the gym daily. I have on a tank, then a jacket, then a big coat in the winter. Usually, I wear my jacket 25% of the way into a workout, until I break a sweat, and then unzip to easily take off. It goes right back on during the cool down. As someone who is always cold, this keeps me from freezing under the fans! The pockets are great for phones and airpods too.

Low Price

I have a herringbone jacket similar to this Old Navy Performance one that is awesome. I will only buy jackets with zip pockets so I can have my phone safe and secure, whether chasing a baby, heading to the gym, or on a run.

Mom Jeans To Play In

Athleta Sculptek (high) vs. Mid-Rise Rockstar (low). Other than price, which is better? I’ve worn them both over and over and the Sculptek wins. They stretch but they don’t stretch out and they fit my waist a bit better. The Rockstar need to be washed (aka shrunk back to size) more often. But for the price, the Rockstar is still a great jean!

Cozy Dresses + Tunics

I love a great tunic dress with leggings and boots for the winter. I have several older versions similar to this Hideout Dress by Title IX. Also, I love this Title IX Tunic Sweater’s design and have a similar one from a previous season. The Lou & Grey Signature Softblend Cowl Tops are also cozy tunics for wearing with leggings. The Athleta Uptempo Hoodie has that same supersoft fabric fleece inside and is on my Christmas list!

For Lounging Around On The Weekend

Have I talked about “morning time clothes” before? I used to throw a robe or sweatshirt on, but Thomas taught me to have a separate set of lounge clothes to wear in-between PJs and showering. You can move around better than when wearing a robe, and they’re much warmer than baggy pajama pants. These Lou & Grey Signature Softblend Sweatpants have been LIFE CHANGING and I live in them on chilly mornings! (This jumpsuit  seems like a great all-in-one option too 🙂 )

Athleta Venice Joggers and the Distance Jogger are both great thick waistband, loose-fitting, zip-pocket styles for Saturdays around the house or running errands.

For Mornings When You Don’t Want To Get Out Of Bed

If you’re not ready to leave your down comforter this robe is like wearing one! I absolutely love mine (which was a mother’s day gift!) No stiff terry cloth here: Pottery Barn Teddy Bear Faux Fur Robe. Also life changing have been my LL Bean Women’s Wicked Good Slippers. I love that they are bootie style and keep my entire foot warm.

And for Birch…

This Kyte sleep sack is the softest there is! I just bought him the next size up in the 2.5 tog weight. It’s like a warm robe to sleep in!

I also bought him some of the Kate Quinn bamboo outfits. They frequently go 40-50% off (making them reasonable for organic bamboo instead of uber expensive for a baby outfit). I stumbled across a sale lately and stocked up on 12-18 month winter clothes. So, so soft!


Tell me what your all-time favorite winter outfit is!

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Roasted Acorn Squash With Feta

This roasted acorn squash with feta makes a delicious, vegetable side dish for pasta, rice or any number of different meats.

Acorn squash is not something I make a lot of. But every time I do make… Read more →

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