• Isaac J. Wedig MS, CSCS

An Alternative to Calorie Tracking

An easy way to monitor your calories, eat healthy, and achieve your goals, without tracking your food

Changing your bodyweight comes down to one simple equation:

'Calories in' versus 'Calories out'

We've all heard it before; Eat more calories than you burn and you'll gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you burn and you'll lose weight.

Given the energy balance equation, it makes perfect sense to track your calories when working toward a fat loss or muscle building goal. Having an awareness of your caloric intake gives you a great reference point from which you can tweak your diet and make continued progress toward your goals. 

Typically, when we think of calorie tracking, we imagine the use of food scales, measuring cups, and smartphone applications such as MyFitnessPal. 

While tracking your calories in this manner is a perfectly viable approach to weight loss and muscle building, it isn't always necessary. Sometimes, a more simplified approach of quantifying your caloric intake is  just as effective. 

In this blog, I'll show you an alternative way to monitor your calorie intake, achieve your goals, and eat healthy, without meticulously tracking your food.

The Problem with Food Tracking

Counting calories isn't quite as simple or as accurate as it sounds. 

The process of measuring, logging, and recording everything that you eat is tedious, time consuming, and requires the use of many different tools- food scales, measuring cups, smartphones, and computer tracking applications. 

Unfortunately, as elaborate as this process may seem, it's not actually all that accurate. 

There are many places for error to arise when tracking food. There is error in how you measure your portions, error in the food databases that you use, and inherent error in nutrition labels.

Calorie tracking gives you a decent estimate of what you're consuming, however, the extra effort doesn't always equate to more accuracy and better results. The trade off between the work that is required and the reward that is received may not be worth it.

Additionally, tracking your food can be a rather tough dietary method to adhere to. It's inconvenient when eating out, hard to do when traveling, and when life gets busy, you may not have the time and energy to weigh, measure, and track everything that you eat.

Food tracking simply isn't a realistic long-term approach to eating. No one can/should track their food for the entirety of their lives. Therefore, it's important to find more intuitive and convenient methods of eating that prove to be more sustainable and practical for life.

An Alternative to Food Tracking

What if there was a way to effectively monitor your calories with half the effort of food tracking? 

Lucky for you, there is. And all you need is your hand. 

That's right. No food scales, no measuring cups, no math, and no data logging. 

Using your hand as a simple portion guide you can set up quality meals that indirectly quantify how many calories you're consuming on a day-to-day basis. Just like food tracking, this can help to establish a great reference point from which you can alter your diet in order to move toward your goal.

The coolest part is, that by using your own hand, you can scale your intake to your individual body size and calorie needs. 

There are four simple portion measurements that you need to know;

  • A serving of protein is equivalent to one Palm

  • A serving of vegetables is equivalent to one Fist.

  • A serving of carbohydrate is equivalent to one Cupped Hand

  • A serving of fat is equivalent to one Thumb

How to Use the Guide

To set up your diet, eat 3-4 meals per day, preparing each of your meals by using these simple portion guides and following the four steps below.

Step One: Select and portion your protein

A palm sized portion of protein is the same thickness and diameter of your palm. Try to select lean protein sources such these:

  • Chicken breast

  • Turkey Breast

  • Fish

  • Lean Ground Meat

  • Lean cuts of steak

  • Egg whites

  • Fat-free dairy

Step Two: Select and portion your vegetables

A fist sized portion of vegetables is the same size and thickness of your fist. Try to select fibrous vegetables such as;

  • Broccoli

  • Asparagus

  • Spinach

  • Lettuce

  • Cauliflower

  • Peppers

  • Zucchini

  • Tomatoes

  • Brussel Sprouts

  • Celery

Step Three: Select and portion your carbohydrates

A cupped-hand sized portion is the amount of carbohydrate that you could hold inside your cupped hand. Pick from whole carbohydrate sources such as;

  • Brown Rice

  • White Rice

  • Potatoes

  • Quinoa

  • Corn

  • Oatmeal

  • Fruits

  • Squash

  • Whole wheat grains

Step Four: Select and portion your fat

A thumb sized portion of fat is the same thickness and diameter of your thumb. Select from quality whole fat sources such as;

  • Nuts

  • Nut Butters

  • Seeds

  • Avocados

  • Vegetable Oils

Making Adjustments Once you Stall

After a week or two of following the template, if you're bodyweight hasn't changed, then you may need to start adding or subtracting calories from your diet. This can be done by simply adding or removing servings of either carbohydrate or fat from your day.

Trying to lose weight?

If you're not losing weight then you need to eat less. Therefore, you have to remove some portions from your diet.

If your trying to lose weight and not getting anywhere, try removing one serving of fat and carbohydrate from your day of eating and see what happens. Continue subtracting servings of either carbohydrate or fat week-by-week until your weight starts to come down. 

Trying to gain weight?

If you're not gaining weight, then you have to eat more.

If you're weight is stuck, try adding 1-2 servings of fat and carbohydrate to your day on a weekly basis until you start to see progress. 


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