First of all, I’m so grateful to those of you still following this series. Tracking macros is something I’m passionate about (as weird as that sounds), and knowing there are people like you out there who are actually interested in reading what I have to say about it, is crazy to me! So thank you!
One thing I want to say before I get started, just so I don’t have to address it later, is the importance of a food scale. This might sound crazy to some of you, and I was skeptical in the beginning too, but hear me out. When you’re tracking macros, portion size is extremely important. Many foods are measured in grams or ounces in MFP and without a food scale, I would have no clue what 150 grams of sweet potato looks like, or 4 ounces of ground turkey, etc. You can probably track macros without a food scale, but it’s going to be extremely difficult. Food scales take the guess work out of measuring food, I don’t know what I would do without mine. Here is the exact one I use – it’s worth every penny, and it’s only $13!
Okay, on to the good stuff. The post I’ve been working so hard on – tracking your foods! So you have your macros, you’ve downloaded MFP, you’ve tailored it to your own specific macros, and you’re ready to go. So let’s do it!
My advice to you – plan your meals the night before! I take two minutes before I go to bed every single night to plan the next day’s meals. It takes the guess work out of tracking as you go throughout your day. I’m a fairly busy person, so I don’t want to have to open MFP to add foods I eat throughout the entire day, if it’s already logged, I don’t have to! It’s hard to hit your macros if you’re truly just inputting as you go, so this is really important especially when you’re first starting! The other reason I do this is because if everything is already planned out, I’m less likely to tear into the bag of Brownie Brittle when I come home starving after work. Eating something I haven’t accounted for in MFP just means I’m going to have to recalculate my macros to include the Brownie Brittle, which is something I have done before – that’s technically the beauty of counting macros, but it does take more time.
When you open MFP, you’ll come to a home screen, so the first thing you want to do is hit “diary” which is at the bottom of the screen, this is where all of your food entries will go. There you will see all of your meals and foods, once they’re added in. Before I’ve added anything, mine looks like this. (The amount of meals you have and calories will be probably be different for you, and these are not my true macros, I’m just using this for the sake of an example!)
To add a food, simply hit “+ Add Food” in the meal you want to add it to. There you will find the MFP database. You can search any and every food you could possibly want. If something you’re going to be eating has a barcode on the box/bag/container, instead of taking the time to search for the item, you can click the barcode icon at the top and it will allow your phone to scan the barcode and input it that way too. This is typically so much easier, so take advantage of this when you can!
What I like to do when I’m adding my foods, is to add all my fruits and vegetables first, that way I know I’m getting the nutrient dense foods I need for the day, before I start adding in anything else.
I typically eat two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day (this not some unspoken rule, it’s just something I shoot for). So for example, I would add:
- 1 serving/75 grams of blueberries (meal one)
- 1 serving/96 grams of banana (meal three)
- 2 servings/160 grams of riced cauliflower (meal three)
- 1 serving/33 grams of carrots (meal four)
- 2 servings/250 grams of green beans (meal five)
All you have to do is search your items in the search box, adjust the serving sizes to whatever you want them to be, and click the white check mark in the top right corner to add them to your food diary. When you search, it will look something like this!
After my fruits and veggies are added in, I start adding protein. Protein is one of the first things I do, because it’s hardest for me to hit as far as macros go. I need a lot of protein to keep me full throughout the day, so I want to make sure I get that out of the way so that I’m left with carbs and fat (the fun stuff!)
Here’s what I added:
- ½ scoop of protein powder (meal one)
- 2 servings/96 grams of egg whites (meal one)
- 1 serving/112 grams cottage cheese (meal two)
- 1 serving/4 oz. of ground turkey (meal three)
- 1 serving/4 oz. of ground turkey (meal five)
After your fruits, veggies, and protein are added in, it’s time for the carbs and fats, the best part of any day, right!? This is where you’re going to add some of the more “flexible” items in your diet.
Here’s what I added:
- 1 serving/33 grams old fashioned oats (meal one)
- 1 serving/75 grams of sweet potato (meal three)
- 1 serving/28 grams of Beanito cheese puffs (meal three)
- 1 Redd Superfood Energy Bar (meal four)
- 2 slices of Eureka wheat bread (dinner)
And lastly, I add fats. You would be surprised at how many proteins (like ground turkey) have fat naturally in them, that’s why I add fat at the end, after my protein is already added! That’s because I can’t adjust the fat that’s in ground turkey if I need to adjust my fat macros, but I can adjust my peanut butter serving from one tablespoon to a half a tablespoon, so that’s why it’s important to add them at the end!
Here’s what I added:
- 1 serving of Earth Balance Peanut Butter (meal one)
- 1 string cheese (meal two)
- 1 serving of Earth Balance Peanut Butter (meal five)
- 1 serving avocado (meal five)
How do you know when you’re “done”? Scroll to the bottom of your food diary and click the black box that says “Nutrition”. Then make sure at the top, you click “Nutrients”, here is where you’ll see your total macros of all the foods you’ve added so far, what your macro goals are (your actual macro numbers) and how many grams of each macro you have left. You will probably want to do this as your adding foods so you can see where you’re at with your macros as you go. Mine looks like this:
As you can see, I was one gram away from hitting my protein goal, 2 grams away from hitting my carb goal, and I hit my fat goal.
That being said, if you’re under your macros in one area (I would say by 5 or more grams), you’ll need to go back and add more of something, or add something in addition to what you have, so that you can come closer to your goal. For example, if I have 15 carbs left, I know that’s about how many carbs are in half of a banana, or a piece of whole wheat toast, or maybe a few M&Ms (!) … etc, so I would add one of those. If I’m low on fats, I know that peanut butter is a great way to get that in, so I may add an extra tablespoon to one of my meals. And if I’m low on protein, I might add another ounce of ground turkey to my meal at lunch/dinner.
If you’re over your macros, go back and cut down on some of the serving sizes. For example, for me, I would eat a 1/3 of a cup of oats instead of 1/2, or I would only eat 1 piece of toast instead of 2, etc. This is where it gets easier the more you do it. Right now you may be thinking? Well, how will I know what foods are 15 carbs, or 7 grams of fat, etc.? The more you play around with it, the better you’ll get. Truly! There really is no tutorial for that, it’s strictly trial and error. And I probably make it more challenging than it sounds, once you get into the app and start using it on a daily basis, it’ll become old hat in no time.
Here is what I want to stress – there is no right or wrong way to do this, I promise! You just have to keep toying around with different foods and serving sizes until you hit your macros. It gets so much easier as you go, so if right now you’re thinking this is like some sick twisted food version of Tetris, it kind of is, but it’s going to get easier!
If you’ve read this entire post, props to you! I pray I didn’t bore you to death (maybe I still did, so thanks for sticking with me!), and hopefully I’ve helped you along the way. If you have ANY questions at all, please leave me a comment and I will go into more detail in any area you might need! Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week!