Calorie counting keeps you accountable for the food and beverages you consume and allows you to see how many calories you are consuming daily. Using a notebook and pen or an on-line tracking tool, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choose My Plate Supertracker, enables you to closely monitor your caloric intake. Taking in fewer calories than you expend every day creates that all important calorie deficit which is essential for weight loss. By carefully weighing and measuring foods and portion sizes, you can be very accurate. To lose one pound in one week, you need to consume 3,500 fewer calories than are necessary to maintain your weight. Calorie counting allows you to examine your total caloric intake over that week. You can make adjustments to your diet, if necessary, to stay on track.
How to create a calorie deficit
For example, if you need 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight, perhaps you wish to consume a 1,500 calorie diet. Doing this, in addition to exercising, may enable you to create an even greater deficit than 3,500 calories per week so you can possibly lose 1.5 lbs per week. Though your weekly total calorie deficit is more important than hitting the mark every day, if you add up your calorie totals and see that you were consuming about 1,700 calories per day, you need to cut back on your intake. Get back on track by skipping a higher-calorie treat for the day; replacing a high-calorie food for a lower-calorie substitute or reducing your portion sizes.
How to keep a calorie count journal
Individuals that monitor and keep track of their daily food intake using a food journal or diary for example, are more likely to lose weight and maintain that loss. You become much more aware, and more careful, of everything you put in your mouth, especially because you will have to write it down later. There is software that enables you to keep a very sophisticated food and activity log on your computer as well as applications (apps) for your cell phone. You do not need these tools, however. You can keep it simple and basic, with a notebook and pen.
The first thing you need to know is your daily calorie recommendation to lose weight. Keeping a calorie counting food journal will enable you to see if you are adhering to that calorie limit. Write down everything you eat and drink. Be as detailed and accurate as possible and include specific portion sizes. Write down basic nutrition information alongside the entry (available on the nutrition facts panel or through an on-line database). At the very minimum, you need to list the calories.
How to find calorie count for a recipe
With the Internet at your disposal, you can look up recipes for everything from chicken to artichokes and your search will yield hundreds, if not thousands, of results. Many websites that offer recipes also provide the basic nutrition information for one serving, such as allrecipes.com and cookinglight.com. If your recipe is similar to a published recipe that lists the nutrition facts, you can make a very rough estimate (according to the ingredients and serving size) of the calories per serving in your version of the recipe. However, if you have an existing recipe that does not include a nutrition analysis or calorie count and you want an accurate analysis, there are online tools you can use to calculate its nutrition facts.
Use one of the many on-line recipe analysis programs, such as Sparkpeople.com, Caloriecount.about.com, or nutritiondata.com. These websites allow you to create a login, track your calorie intake and create your own recipe database that you can save and share with others if you wish. There is a learning curve to analyzing a recipe on-line. Keep in mind that there are limitations to these programs.