I'd like to start tracking my diet, with a goal of understanding if I'm eating enough, getting close enough to the right amount of protein, fat, carbs, etc. But, I don't want to spend 10 minutes weighing every meal (Impossible in a restaurant) and entering every individual component of my meals into a diet tracking app (find the entry for hamburger patty, estimate the size/weight, look up the bun, look up and estimate each topping, etc). There's millions of phone and web apps that can do this, but if I have to spend 10 minutes tracking each meal, I'm probably not going to stick with it.

The question is, can you get reasonable accuracy on your dietary intake from rough estimates, and secondly, if so, what's a plan/solution/system/technique for doing this?

  • Also, I fully understand that there may be no solution to this, and I might simply have to get used to tracking each individual component of my meals. It's not what I want to hear, but that doesn't mean it's not the truth. – huntmaster Apr 26 '13 at 17:22
  • sure? There are smartphone apps that let you track this stuff, and most of the have mechanisms to let you define "standard" meals, or get a quick list of recently eaten foots to re-add the next time you eat them. If you're eating the same things day after day and / or willing to be a little imprecise in your record keeping and quickly guestimate the quantity of food you ate (which would probably be accurate enough for most people), then no, it doesn't take 10 minutes to enter every meal. – DavidR Apr 26 '13 at 18:03
  • for me, at least, the point of tracking my diet is just to become more aware of what I'm eating, and how it fits into larger goals (hey, that pizza I get on Friday night winds up being 20% of my weekly calories, maybe I should order something smaller), and not so much about hitting a certain caloric goal right on the head every day. – DavidR Apr 26 '13 at 18:10
  • I weigh all of my meals.. I would estimate the time cost at like 30-60 seconds per meal. What could you possible spend 10 minutes on? – Affe Apr 26 '13 at 20:57
  • @Affe I'm quite probably over-estimating that time. It's probably something that you get faster at as you go, and it's dependent on the ease of use of your tool. Maybe I just have to try it for a while and see if it's really the pain that I perceive it to be. – huntmaster Apr 26 '13 at 21:26

In general, most portions are about the size of a deck of cards, or a closed fist.

  • 1 portion of meat is roughly 20g of protein
  • 1 portion of starches (potatoes, etc.) is roughly 20g of carbs

The tough thing is to estimate the amount of fat in things, which can easily sneak up on you. Deep fried potatoes (all variations of fries) contain lots of fat. Same with some cuts of meat such as a pot roast. Burgers are also notoriously high in fat. While fat is necessary, and helpful, if you have too much you'll blow your calorie target before you get all your necessary nutrition.

If you stick with lean meat, fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit for the bulk of what you eat, you'll have a lot easier time getting in the ball park.

Take some time to figure out how many portions you need to eat, and then use your hand to ballpark the portions. If you are losing weight, you are eating fewer overall calories than you need to maintain. If you are gaining weight, you are eating more overall calories than necessary to maintain. If that's not what you want, adjust your portions.

  • '1 portion of meat is roughly 20g of protein' not here en argentina... Everyone's probably eating 200g/300g of meat per meal... ;) – Sebas Apr 30 '13 at 15:57
  • When you look at the "servings in container" labels, a portion of meat is about 3-5oz. That takes up about the same amount of space as a deck of cards. For every portion that size, it has about 20g of protein. 200g of meat is roughly 2 portions based on my definition so it has about 40g of protein. 300g being about 2.5 portions, or about 50g of protein. – Berin Loritsch Apr 30 '13 at 16:07
  • Yeah, I kinda did my maths thank you.. Noticed the smiley face? Was just a cultural moment. Thanks for the input anyway, as usual! – Sebas Apr 30 '13 at 17:41

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