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4 Secrets of Calorie Counting from a Top Food Blogger

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/30/2010 10:27 AM   :  138 comments   :  27,658 Views

Tina Haupert is one of the nation's most popular food bloggers. At Carrots 'N' Cake.com, she blogs about her life as a health writer, wife and mother to one adorable pug named Murphy. She lets readers inside her home, her cupboards and her fridge, sharing workouts, recipes and meals. Tina lost 20 pounds about five years ago--and has kept it off. Now she's sharing some of her best tips with the dailySpark.

By Tina Haupert of Carrots 'N' Cake

Until about five years ago, I really didn't pay attention to what I ate. I didn't weigh myself. I didn't count calories. Basically, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted, so, not surprisingly, all of those extra calories caught up with me, and I packed on the pounds--20 of them.

When I finally decided to lose those 20 pounds, I started to count calories. At the time, I worked a full-time job where I sat at a desk for 40 hours a week, so tracking calories online was convenient for my lifestyle. The Type A personality in me also liked the organization and easy-to-understand tracking and results.

For the next two years, I counted calories every day and learned quite a bit about the way I eat as well as how to better incorporate nutritious, not just low-calorie, foods into my diet. Here are just a few of the things that I learned from calorie counting:

I ate too much: I knew that I was eating too much, but I didn’t realize just how many calories I was consuming until I started tracking them online. After a few days of counting, I was surprised to learn that I was eating more than 3,000 calories per day! I had no idea! Counting calories online helped keep me aware of what I was putting in my mouth-- and made me realize why I had gained weight in the first place. I reduced the amount that I ate each day, and slowly, but surely, the weight came off.

Portion size matters: When I realized that I was consuming too many calories, I immediately reduced my portion sizes. I wasn’t eating unhealthy foods—I stuck with salads, turkey sandwiches, and stir-fry dishes—I was just eating too much of everything. I started using measuring cups and spoons to measure my food, which helped me understand my overblown portion sizes. For instance, I used to slather peanut butter on a whole-wheat English muffin without a second thought, but when I finally started to use measuring spoons, I realized that I was adding more than two servings.

Nutritious foods give you the most bang for your buck: When I first started to count calories, I focused on eating as many low-calorie foods as possible. I soon realized, however, that my low-calorie food choices, like rice cakes and fat-free gelatin, did nothing for my hunger. Instead, foods like fibrous fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as satisfying low-fat protein kept me full for much longer, and soon they became the basis of my diet.

Just keep on trucking: Most people think losing weight is all about restriction; I think it's all about balance. When I was counting calories, if I overindulged at a weekend barbecue or mindlessly munched throughout the afternoon, I didn’t throw in the towel for the day. I made sure that my next meal was super healthy and moved on. Some days, I went over my calorie budget, other days I came in under. As long as I consistently counted calories, the weight continued to come off.

Looking back on my weight loss, I don't think I would have done anything differently. Counting calories was integral to my weight loss, and, with its guidance, it taught me a number of important principles about healthy eating--many of which I still use to make choices today.



For more than two years, Tina Haupert has shared her life through journaling her daily meals on her blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake. Each day, she strives to find the right balance without losing out on fun or good taste. She is currently writing her first book, which will be published in 2011.

Do you count calories? If so, how often? Is it helpful to you?


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Comments

  • NIMESNIMES
    138
    couldn't aggree more. 15 months ago I am ashamed to say that I was knocking 110kg for 1m83 an 51 years old. Yes I love food and cooking and drinking. After many futive attempts in previous years I looked in the metaphoric mirror and realised there was no real secret just pure science, the more you put in the bigger you get. So it was very strict callorie control, something that suits my personality, I still eat well, intersting and tasty meals, definately less in terms of quantity,thank good for portion control (very difficult at the start). I have managed my way through the difficult summer season and for the last 3 months have averaged 75kg and I feel on top othe world. Everyone wants to know my secret but there is no secret just count the callories you take in and be imaginative so its a pleasure and not punishment. - 9/17/2013   2:12:35 AM
  • WALL-E4
    137
    I wish it could be easier to track all the calories... I imagine an iPhone application which could just scan my plate, do the counting and then put in a counter like on www.many-calories.com - 12/10/2011   9:00:21 AM
  • FITRABBIT
    136
    I have created a FREE iPhone app called FitRabbit ( www.fitrabbitapp.com/download ) that puts a twist on traditional diet and fitness software by turning your fitness goals into a fun, social game.

    I would love to hear your feedback on the app!

    Because fitness is becoming increasingly social, FitRabbit allows users to share their meals and workouts with their friends on Facebook, if they choose to share. The app also spices things up a little bit by offering prizes for healthy activities, like eating vegetables and working out frequently.

    FitRabbit aims to be useful, without being distracting. The user can snap photos of their meals and then do the calorie lookup later. Exercises and workout intensity can be easily measured through FitRabbit's built in heartrate monitor.
    - 7/21/2011   4:04:14 AM
  • 135
    Tracking calories is a new thing for me- I am learning about portion size through that also.
    But I gotta say- as a feminist- I got far better things to do with my time than being obsessed with how much every loving mouthful costs, energy wise. - 5/31/2011   8:53:28 PM
  • 134
    I track my calories most days, but I don't find it to be easy. - 5/7/2011   8:56:57 PM
  • 133
    Tracking I got. Exercise I got. It's the darn portions and food choices that are killing me right now. But I won't give up, thanks to the big SP. - 4/10/2011   6:13:29 PM
  • 132
    I love this blog. It is so full of common-sense. Before joining SP almost 5 months ago, I never tracked calories so consistently. I recently wrote a little blog on my page, "Tracking Kept Me On Track". It was after a week of eating 'out' four times and yet losing 2 pounds! It proved to me that every situation has a solution and no excuses are allowed. The time and effort that it takes to track our calories and nutrients are worth everything to me. Most of the time I track my day's menu on a paper chart, and then enter it on our amazing SP tracker to see how it looks. I can adjust it as needed, but I always have an idea of where I'm at any time during the day. It's nice when I see I can add a low calorie muffin or other nutritious treat. ( My favorite is Chef Meg's Zucchini Muffin.) So I think I shall always be a tracker to maintain even when I am at goal. Thank you, Tina, for a great blog. I'll read it again soon. - 4/8/2011   11:34:55 AM
  • 131
    I am amazed at the education I am getting by simply using the nutition tracker. I used to think having soup & salad for lunch was a very healthy choice. By comparing food choices via the tracker I see that I can have a turkey sandwich instead of soup and stay fuller & enjoy the meal more. I've gotten very choosey about how I "spend" my calorie range for the day. After I saved my favorites & added groups for the meals I use consistently daily tracking became very fast actually. I plan the meals for the day & include the breakfast for the next morning so I can get my day started & log on later when it fits into my day. Up until now NOTHING worked to even lose an ounce but using both the nutrition & fitness trackers on SP is actually working & faster than I had imagined it would. I do believe that adding the exercise is a key element. I appreciate the comments about going over & under your ranges but still continuing because I see that in myself & was discouraged by it earlier this week. I too weigh & measure because when I don't my eyes lie to me and portions start to creep up again. The trackers keep me honest and on track overall. Don't stop before the miracle happens :) - 4/7/2011   11:47:18 AM
  • ANNICA5
    130
    I have just started with my calorie counting yesterday I hope by the end of the year I will feel and look a whole lot better... - 4/7/2011   11:32:43 AM
  • 129
    Yes, daily. - 5/30/2010   2:26:29 AM
  • 128
    I use the food tracker pretty consistently and it really is an eye-opener. I've eaten things then tracked it afterwards and was shocked at how many calories, fat, etc., I had actually consumed. Now I try to plan ahead and I'm working on mindless eating. Now that the weather is warming up, I plan to eat outside instead of planted in front of the TV. I measure my food more often, but I have to get away from eating straight from the bag. - 5/11/2010   3:31:39 PM
  • 127
    I just started with this program a little over a week ago but agree with the tracking everything you eat. I am finding it helpful in making better choices when I know how many calories are in the food. It is really making me aware of what I am eating. Hopefully shortly I will see some results. - 5/4/2010   1:56:27 PM
  • 126
    I had never lost any weight in my life, until I started tracking points (weight watchers) and calories (on SP) last September. And now I'm down nearly 30 pounds! It makes a huge difference; seeing what you're eating on paper is a real eye-opener. - 4/27/2010   4:59:04 PM
  • ALEXANDRA64
    125
    Tracking has made a big difference in my life in learning that I could eat healthy without depriving myself of good food. When I first started I saw a pattern in my eating: eat too much one day and not enough the next day to make up the difference. Neither are healthy. I am learning to moderate my food in a more balanced way. - 4/18/2010   1:01:05 PM
  • LOVEMYBOY64
    124
    I've always been a healthy eater, but with SP the breakdown for carbs , fats, proteins, & cals has been a blessing. trying to figure out the % of this & that never really worked for me but the SP nutrion tracker is a definite keeper... thank you SP! - 4/6/2010   4:34:58 PM
  • 123
    Tracking has forced me to realize the true amount of calories in foods...I used to "estimate" but I was really underestimating the calories in some foods. - 4/5/2010   3:29:48 PM
  • 122
    Yes, I track every day...even on days when I overeat. :) It's helping slowly, but helping nevertheless... - 4/5/2010   10:47:36 AM
  • 121
    I started tracking, but when it came time to dish out the food on the plates I was not using measuring cups, or spoons. I thank you for the reminder to measure out the food. I am setting an example to those I dish up food for when I measure out reasonable portions and not huge portions like I always used to do. Also, I am cooking entirely different foods now. - 4/4/2010   9:51:43 PM
  • 120
    I track EVERYTHING daily - 4/3/2010   7:00:57 PM
  • 119
    mindless eating was my biggest problem..... so tracking everything is a must for me! - 4/3/2010   9:34:50 AM
  • 118
    What a timely question. I am at a point right now after yo-yo-ing with my weight so often that I was wondering whether I really want to start tracking all over again (I've been doing it on and off since I started using SparkPeople in January 2007). I know I'm only successful when I do track, so I guess I'm a lifetime tracker! - 4/2/2010   12:57:55 PM
  • 117
    When I first started tracking, I found out that I actually consumed LESS calories than I needed; on an average day, I would eat 1200 calories! That wrecked havoc on my metabolism; put my body in to a "starvation" mode, burning protein (muscle) and banking every calorie it could. So even tho I was under-eating, the days I did eat a good diet, it converted anything extra in to fat. When I food track, I know i'm eating enough calories, without overdoing it. Unfortunately - I'm a yoyo-er; I lose, I gain. Fortunately, the trend has been only to gain a little back, not the full loss; but, the main variable that changes is my food tracking. I stop, thinking I "know" how to eat, and invariably, the result is the same: Gainage! For the first year in five years, I weigh more than I did the same time the previous year. Tracking keeps you focused on your goals, since you do it throughout the day, and keeps you honest with yourself. - 4/2/2010   11:25:26 AM
  • 116
    I've been a maintainer (thanks to SP) for over a year and a half now - I maintain a 108-110 for a full 14 months - even as a maintainer I tracked ALL my calories (food scale) every day - then at Christmas through February, I stopped tracking and gave the food scale a break. I went up to 115 - I am not "back" on track and yes, I will always and forever "count and track my calories" - 4/1/2010   9:39:55 PM
  • JENNIBETHR
    115
    I'm glad I read your life story. Is good to know that there are people with your same struggles in life that have become succesful in achieving their goals. You have given me the motivation I needed today. Thanks! - 4/1/2010   2:42:17 PM
  • 114

    I agree the tracker does help you see what your are really eating and you can change those habits to make it much better.

    Same with my work outs. - 4/1/2010   12:54:43 PM
  • 113
    Tracking also helped me realize that I was consuming way too many calories daily. Using the Spark Tracker has not only helped my monitor calorie intake but has also allowed me to fine tune my eating to meet my nutritional needs in areas of fiber and protein consumption! - 4/1/2010   8:08:01 AM
  • 112
    This is so true! The day I started counting calories and using SP nutrition tracker, was the day I started to drop those unwanted pounds! - 4/1/2010   7:09:59 AM
  • 111
    Even if you know how to eat, tracking calories is the best way to make sure you are consistently doing what is best for your body. - 3/31/2010   10:30:20 PM
  • 110
    Yes - - I do count calories! And the same goes for me too... Some days I go a little under - some days a little over.. Some days I get A LOT of cardio in and other days not so much!
    Great blog! - 3/31/2010   10:28:06 PM
  • 109
    I do count calories and it has been helpful for me. I know that there are certain days when I burn a lot of calories training for my first half marathon so counting the calories that I eat every day made me realize that on days I train harder and burn more, I need to supplement by eating more calories.
    SparkPeople has been such a major help to me and counting calories is so easy now! I love it! - 3/31/2010   10:11:39 PM
  • VANANDEL
    108
    I definitely count calories - it's the biggest reason why I can maintain my weight loss. But I totally agree with Tina's second observation - you have to measure everything! I find that when I stop measuring, for example, a Tbsp of almond butter, then suddenly it's 1.25 Tbsps on my toast! I now eat my breakfast in a measuring cup - easier that way! - 3/31/2010   9:37:48 PM
  • 107
    I have been consistantly tracking calories on SP since Dec 2009 and it has been a huge part of my success. I too was eating way to many calories each day and had major portion distortion. Tracking helps keep me accountable and makes me think twice about what I eat knowing I will have to track it. - 3/31/2010   8:13:06 PM
  • 106
    Definately count calories as best I can every day, it helps to know where you stand for the day with calories, carbs, fat and protein. Once you get started it really is easy to do. - 3/31/2010   8:05:00 PM
  • HORSINGAROUND1
    105
    I have to agree, I didn't use to count calories and didn't pay attention to how much I ate until the pounds added up. By then it was too late and I was 40 pounds heavier. I've since lost 10 of it, but it took a year of doing just that. So, that's when I joined SP and so far have lost another 2 pounds, but am now watching my portion sizes and counting calories. - 3/31/2010   6:56:09 PM
  • PAMELALANDIS
    104
    I have been tracking almost daily since January, 2010. (The exceptions are when I have been out of town.) I am trying to be consistant. It is encouraging to see that others have had the same food issues as I have, i.e. too many calories, wrong types of foods, out of proportion, etc.. Thanks for sharing, everyone. Pam - 3/31/2010   6:46:32 PM
  • 1FITMOM50
    103
    I agree with everything in this blog, especially about being consistent. - 3/31/2010   4:20:09 PM
  • 102
    I could have written this article because this is the way I lost 30 pounds in 6 months. I agree about rice cakes not being filling....small portions of healthy food is the only way. - 3/31/2010   3:28:16 PM
  • 101
    That was so good to read today. For some reason I am struggling with overeating today and this put things in perspective, I am pretty new at all of this and will definitely check out your blog! It is amazing how you don't realize how much you eat until you start writing it all down! - 3/31/2010   3:04:11 PM
  • 100
    I use my SP tracker every day, varying my calorie count from 1200 to 1500. I weigh every Monday morning. I've lost 20 pounds in 4 months with only 1 gain of 1/2 pound. I really think varying the calorie count from day to day keeps the body from going into famine mode. - 3/31/2010   1:51:50 PM
  • 99
    All previous attempts at weight loss failed. The one task I hated most...loathed in fact, was keeping a food journal. When I started with SparkPeople, I decided that I was going to have to get over myself and just do it.

    WOW!! I have leanred so much about nutrition just from logging my calories. Since I started on Jan 1st, I've lost 38 pounds. I have NO DOUBT that I wouldn't have lost that much without the tracking. It keeps me in check as to how much I'm actually eating. But even more, I'm able to make better choices before I eat (before I even buy) the foods. I'm learning what to look for, how much to expect from various foods, and how to get the best filling for the least amount of calories.

    Tracking is the best tool in my arsenal. - 3/31/2010   1:33:33 PM
  • 98
    Portion control is how I lost most of my weight. It's so easy to overeat portion size. I'm still working on it. More exercise is next. - 3/31/2010   1:14:01 PM
  • 97
    Yes I count them and I too learn a lot by this. Those little things like spreads and dips and salad dressings yikes! I am becoming so much more aware of why I gained so much weight. - 3/31/2010   12:09:48 PM
  • ALISSAD22
    96
    She hit the nail on the head. I, too, used to eat with reckless abandon with no thought of how much. Counting calories has been the key to my success and a practice that I will do daily. No matter what else you do, you cannot out run your fork and knife! - 3/31/2010   11:59:58 AM
  • 95
    It has been EXTREMELY helpful for me. I'd say! I've lost over 90 pounds with sparkpeople by counting my calories! I, too, did not realize that on an average day I ate about 4,000 calories! I didn't even really know what a calorie was when I joined.

    I have learned SO much since I started over three years ago. =) - 3/31/2010   11:31:42 AM
  • 94
    Tracking calories is so hard for me cause im a skipper on meals and i know how bad it is for me and it scares me sometimes cause i dont think about eating but when i do think about eating its not something good for me. - 3/31/2010   11:22:56 AM
  • NORTON97
    93
    I LOVE Tina's blog and read it every day. I look forward to all her helpful ideas and especially her positive outlook! - 3/31/2010   11:06:52 AM
  • 92
    I really needed to read this today. I'm struggling to get back on track after being away at a conference. - 3/31/2010   10:59:06 AM
  • 91
    I try to count my calories when ever I can I use the tracker on sparkpeople as often as possible. I really do think it helps a lot. - 3/31/2010   10:21:52 AM
  • 90
    Yep, sure do. Sure helps! - 3/31/2010   9:46:43 AM
  • VEGAS519
    89
    I love tracking my food intake.. it helps to remind me to eat more of some things and consume a bit less of others. Plus, keeping track of my water is great! - 3/31/2010   9:34:40 AM

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