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CHELHART SparkPoints: (3,881)
Fitness Minutes: (1,780)
Posts: 96
6/6/13 11:40 A

Good info: I'll admit to cheating and sort of substituting to get "close enough". Mine doesn't have to be perfect, but I have noticed HUGE difference since I started tracking. I was eating too much...simply put.

GUSGUS02 SparkPoints: (43,790)
Fitness Minutes: (30,479)
Posts: 1,213
6/5/13 11:35 A

Thank you everyone for the great tips. I find this part the hardest. Another hurdle, another day!

HTHY1DAYATAIME SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (1,928)
Posts: 45
6/5/13 2:22 A

Everyone else has given some really great tips that I wasn't privy to (like the SP recipe builder button). I'm still relatively new to this and I totally understand your viewpoint about calorie tracking being tedious. One thing that has helped me stay consistent so far is to track my foods, even if it is a day late. Sometimes this helps on days where I've already tracked breakfast, but get busy, exercise, and by the time it's time to go to bed I'm too tired to track. So I get up in the morning, track yesterdays lunch/dinner/snacks. If you click the arrow to the left of the date (under nutrition tracker) it will let you go back to the previous day and track. After I've tracked yesterdays, I run the daily report for yesterday and then I can see my good points and weak points, which gives me incentive for the current day. Then I can go about my day, exercise, eat my breakfast, etc. I wouldn't recommend making a habit of this method of tracking, as it IS more work, but I only recommend it as a way to stay caught up on tracking when you are too tired, forget, or feel lazy. I have also benefited from tracking even when I slip up and eat a food that's high in fat or calories, or when I binge (which has been getting less and less often emoticon ). I find that the guilt I feel that day or the next day for putting junk into my body is so heavy. I also feel particularly deflated when I realized that the junk I ate is canceling out all the hard work and sweat of my workouts.

I've also read that some people on here write down what they eat on paper, then come online and enter it here. It sounds like it would save time because you wouldn't have to remember what you ate, but just look at the paper and input it.

Good luck OP, emoticon and emoticon

JENNAB211 Posts: 8
6/4/13 12:15 P

I know this may not help the OP with the home cooking, but for others.. on the spark people app (at least for the iphone) there is an option to scan the bar code of any thing that has one. I have found that the information is in the system for a lot of the packaged items I eat. Not that we want to eat tons of the packaged food, but it's great especially for items that have a bunch of different serving sizes depending on the packaging and are a pain to look up.

ICEDEMETER Posts: 1,332
6/4/13 9:53 A

HI Simbakittycat!

If you go to the "Articles and Videos" tab at the top of this page, you can mouse over it and will find "" towards the bottom of the left-hand list. Clicking on that will take you over to the recipes site (you can get back to SparkPeople by going to the "Community" tab on the recipes site).

The Recipe Calculator is where you can enter your recipe. When you open an already created recipe, it will have a button to hit called "Create a Recipe Makeover". When you hit that, it opens the recipe in the calculator so all you have to do is edit whichever items you are changing.

All of the recipes that you create go in to your recipe box. When you are in your Nutrition Tracker on SparkPeople, you can pull up everything in your recipe box by using the "Recipes" tab.

Hope this helps!

EXOTEC Posts: 3,327
6/4/13 9:52 A


You can find the recipe calculator by clicking on the "Recipes" tab on your Nutrition Tracker page, in the same group where the Search and Favorites tabs are. When it opens the Recipes tab, there's a little red listing inside which says "access the recipe calculator," or some such.
It's great!

You can also search through all the shared recipes in the database. It will ask you what kinds of filters you want to apply to your search, such as a particular ingredient. I have also searched by member name. I have a load of shared recipes in there.

I've never tried to use the recipe makeover option, but it sounds like another good tool!
Have fun!

6/4/13 9:46 A

This is great information! Thank you. Tracking is probably the #1 most important thing that helps me to lose weight. Please tell me where to find the recipe calculator and makeover. Thanks.

EXOTEC Posts: 3,327
6/3/13 5:36 P

I use every tool at my disposal!

SP's Nutrition Tracker is a true godsend.

The recipe calculator is awesome, too. Every homemade recipe I use is in there, already portioned out.

Portion control - knowing what a *real* "portion" is - is a must.

I use my groupings too. I frequently will eat the same meal over an over, and it sure simplifies things to not have to enter each item individually.

My favorites list of other things I get into occasionally is ridiculously long!

So far as the values, I always use the portions and label values when I enter a new item. You can even find fast foods on websearches. I've got lots of those in my Favorites. I'm of the notion that the nutrition label on commercial foods are written for the food as it's intended to be consumed, unless noted otherwise. For example, raw vs cooked. If it varies, the amount isn't significant enough to worry about, IMO.

And as a side note: I read (somewhere?) that when you include a marinade or cooking oil, etc, the nutritional value of that item only adds about 10% of its value to the portion. When I write recipes, I try to include the actual amount on the ingredient list, but enter the 10% value in the calculation list.

As others have said, it's not an exact science. But with all these great tools at your disposal, if you're off, it won't be by any amount that's going to derail your plan!
Good luck.

LDHAWKE SparkPoints: (19,069)
Fitness Minutes: (1,818)
Posts: 771
6/3/13 5:10 P

I do a lot of home cooking too. I usually try to use recipes that already have the nutritional information. When I record my daily nutritional information (what I ate today) I click on the drop down "Enter Food Not Listed", add the nutritional information, and be sure to save it in my favorites. If I don't have the nutritional information, then I calculate it using the SparkPeople feature and made sure I add it to my favorites. It takes time but if you save the information then it will be there the next time you make the recipe.

KDYLOSE Posts: 1,520
6/3/13 4:55 P

It depends what your cooking style is too, I think. I like to cook big pots of things that I sort of make up as I go. Sometimes when I'm not getting the flavor or texture I want, I get very caught up in adding things and frankly I'm not going to stop at that point to measure and write down what I'm adding. Since mostly adding low calorie ingredients and spices, not a big issue, but I often end up with something I have no clue how to track. I do what someone suggested below, find a listed commercial food that seems to match. I try to estimate high when I'm estimating. If I'm not sure if it's 300 or 400 calories, I'll go with 400.

MOINSDEMOI Posts: 2,406
6/3/13 9:15 A

JOVAJAU - Great idea about taking pictures of the weight and nutrition information. I buy from the bulk bins at HEB but the nutrition label doesn't print out on the price tag. Rather than write it down or find something close, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Thank you! emoticon

MARYBETH4884 SparkPoints: (133,969)
Fitness Minutes: (164,600)
Posts: 3,490
6/3/13 8:00 A

I cook almost everything from scratch and put it in the recipe calculator. It's great and easy. When I make something again it's there and if I tweak a recipe these day it is lowering calories, salt or simply making it healthier. I know that what is in the tracker will cover the calories with a little wiggle room. I have found that tracking is the key to my weight loss. I find the time and effort to calculate recipes and track every BLT( bite, lick,taste) well worth it!

SHEL_V2 Posts: 189
6/3/13 12:23 A

Groupings and recipes both work great for tracking things you regularly make. A few key differences:

Groupings put each item in your tracker. This is helpful if you modify the recipe depending on what you have on hand or mood. Groupings are also easy to edit if you later realize there is an error, or you change how you make the item.

Recipes provide you a little help with remembering how much a portion is. You just enter how many servings there are when you enter the recipe. Also, a recipe can be saved to your "favorites", making it even easier to add to your daily nutrition.

EARTH-ANGEL Posts: 310
6/3/13 12:18 A

I make everything at home also to cut down on eating processed foods. Over time I have found it easier to track if I keep the recipes very simple. I don't track spice because the amount is usually negligible. Sure its a bit plain but its also a stress free method and easy to digest. I also have a Salter Nutritional scale that ran me about $70 CDN that has a nutritional database that used to make things really easy when I had more complicated recipes as it calculated calories and macro-nutrients for me. Now I just use it to weigh things. Hope this helps!

6/2/13 11:33 A

I utilize the grouping feature on the calorie counter for common foods that I mix together, such a favorite salad of mine. I input all the ingredients the one time, save it as a group and voila! It is there next time I make that particular entrée salad! I LOVE doing my tracking because it is solid evidence that I am doing a good job and I need that "pat on the back" at the end of the day in order to motivate. Good luck!!

ELMA1913 Posts: 5,051
6/2/13 9:02 A

I am more concerned about how many carbs I have, since I am diabetic.

MARY536 SparkPoints: (2,725)
Fitness Minutes: (1,941)
Posts: 34
6/2/13 9:01 A

I try to track my calories all of the time. Sure, I miss a day here and there. But, when I consistently track there is a big difference in what I eat and how much. I purchased the calorie tracker on my Samsung phone last week. Yes, the app is 3.99. Yes, it is worth the small price. Yes, it has made a difference. So if your goal is to become better at tracking the calories, I would suggest to buy the app from spark people and if you're on your phone often like I am, it will work for you!

JULIA_RUN2SMILE Posts: 1,518
6/1/13 8:12 P

Tracking ( and I try to track all the time) is my way of not cheating myself... even when I have a "cheat" day... it is good to keep it in perspective!
I do my best for meals that I take at s restaurant... otherwise, I have my whole list of recipes that I entered into Spark Recipe Calculator.

MAKING_CHANGES_ SparkPoints: (9,129)
Fitness Minutes: (7,337)
Posts: 41
6/1/13 5:02 P

I love the idea of taking pictures of the nutrition info. Awesome!

6/1/13 12:52 P

I track everythinv I eat (well I try to). I am not strict about the calories as long as I don't go too far off. I monitor other info more closely due to health concerns.

JOVAJAU SparkPoints: (1,434)
Fitness Minutes: (637)
Posts: 11
6/1/13 10:34 A

then i'm cooking i like to take pictures ofproduct on scales, and take picture from packaging with nutrition value, then i have time i can sit down and enter everything in food tracker :) as i cook only for myself is quite easy

CAPTIV8ED Posts: 212
6/1/13 4:06 A

I do what BunnyLamb does, find something close enough

LJS61571 SparkPoints: (3,336)
Fitness Minutes: (2,148)
Posts: 57
5/31/13 7:08 P

i try not to track calories all the time. i try to use it as a guideline to help me so that eventually i will be able to get a good enough estimate in my head that i don't need to be on here tracking every thing i eat. already i am much more reliable at calculating in my head how i am doing each day.

NICKYCRANE SparkPoints: (84,888)
Fitness Minutes: (45,342)
Posts: 1,317
5/31/13 4:42 P

I dont track my cals any more. Tho I do try to cook low calorie main courses. This month I have been aiming at 5 veg, plus fruit, which fills me up and limits the amount of calorific stuff I can eat. Next month, I shall track either grains or protein, probably aim for 6 helpings of grains. Imwas cal checking strictly for about 4 months, and lostmweight quicker than I aimed,to. Now I am on maintenance, and scales are staying steadynwithout tracking cals. Imgo againstmthe accdepted wisdom and jump on the scales every day. Dontnwantmto havento go back to calorie tracking!

SHARONCAPPS Posts: 4,952
5/31/13 4:37 P

I love the recipe calculator. I love to try new recipes but if they don't have the nutritional information I don't like to use them With the recipe calculator I can punch in the ingredients and see if it is one I can use nutrition wise. It is one of the reasons I like SparkPeople. I do like to keep track of everything I eat and right now I measure everything.

RACEWELLWON Posts: 2,613
5/31/13 10:32 A

The recipe calculator is the way to go - add all of your ingredients - then put the number of people the recipe feeds and hit calculate - then add to your favorites so you can access that recipe every time you prepare. In the beginning its seems tedious but , then becomes fun to make different recipe's of food you and your family enjoy and easy to track - Happy Cooking emoticon

YOJULEZ SparkPoints: (15,981)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 2,171
5/31/13 12:47 A

For meat, you go by whatever the tracker says. So for example, the first entry for chicken breast says it's for cooked meat. So you would weigh it once it's cooked. Other entries for other items specifically say "raw". So those you would weigh raw.

LMG12112 SparkPoints: (1,546)
Fitness Minutes: (103)
Posts: 16
5/30/13 9:21 P

ARTGOD: Always weigh your meat BEFORE cooking! :)

ARTGOD Posts: 184
5/30/13 9:18 P

I have a calorie counting question....

when you cook meat to you enter the weight before or after cooking. for example i made turkey burgers, before cooking they were 3 oz each but after only 2 oz. if you are having 2 burgers that is quite a difference?

SIMPLYME160 SparkPoints: (1,834)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 143
5/30/13 2:17 P

I used to,until it became to stressful keeping track of Everything. Now No, i;m careful about portions.

SIMONEKP Posts: 2,617
5/30/13 2:09 P

ditto on recipe calculator and and editing of recipes to fit the meal.

BUNNYLAMB SparkPoints: (52,562)
Fitness Minutes: (35,798)
Posts: 555
5/30/13 1:23 P

I admit to cheating a little by choosing fast food, storebought, or restaurant versions of foods that closely resemble what I'm eating. I check the nutritional info to see if it makes sense with what I'm eating, and I try not to do it too often, but it does save time in a pinch. It's also the only way I've found to track foods that I didn't make but are not listed--for example if I'm eating a homemade cheese scone for which I don't know the recipe (heaven help me) I will choose one that's listed and about the same size.

AMANDANCES Posts: 2,045
5/30/13 11:17 A

I'm with JCWIAKALA -- unless you have very specific health reasons for tracking a nutrient or calorie count, an approximation is usually okay. With vegetables, if you UNDER-estimate how many you eat, they don't usually amount to many calories anyway. Measuring your food is a good habit to get into though. Especially on high-calorie items and high-calorie sauces.

It's easy to measure SOME sauces -- just use a measuring cup or measuring spoon when you're dishing out pasta sauce or alfredo or gravies/curries.

But the recipe tracker feature IS awesome, and I know some of my favorite meals are saved in mine. Once you add it all up ONCE, you don't have to do it each time.

JCWIAKALA Posts: 347
5/30/13 11:09 A

I'm going to throw this out there--it may or may not be popular. Tracking doesn't have to be an exact science, especially when you're first starting or you're really heavy. You're given a range on SP, so if you are off by 100 calories either way, it's not a huge deal.

I will say that the closer you get to your goal (and once you start to maintain), the more exact with your calories, the more successful you will be.

So for me, when it comes to tracking, I try my hardest, but sometimes I know I may be a little off. That's okay. I don't add up every little vegetable that I put on my salad, I just use the nutritional info for a Wendy's side salad to calculate my calories. It's quick, easy, and close enough.

KATYDAEM58 Posts: 3
5/30/13 11:01 A

I have not been consistent with tracking calories but see that is really needed to keep track of everything I put in my mouth. After reading some of the message boards I now know about the Groupings which is new to me and will help. Thanks for that info.

I.M.MAGIC Posts: 13,078
5/30/13 10:15 A

I track every day, because I'm a brittle diabetic with kidney issues, and my health is IMMEDIATELY affected if I don't. It's not just the calories that are important, it's the balance of nutrition, and I track that too! It's like brushing my teeth or combing my hair, or sleeping... it's just something I do now because I have to. But with SP, it's fun, too--rather like playing a challenging game...

I use a combo of recipes (some my own and some adapted from others--thank you! LOL) and the Groupings settings RUSSELL mentioned...

...because some recipes are static and never change, like my sister's recipe for low-sodium bread, and some are constantly changing, like my homemade vegetable soup, which uses a a few basics along with whatever leftovers and seasonal items happen to be in my emoticon refrigerator...

You just experiment until you find the right methods that work for YOU... because we're all different.

the nice thing about SP is it allows us to exchange ideas so we can all get a fresh perspective and customize our own programs!


SHAREBEAR1963 Posts: 1,778
5/30/13 9:38 A

I have not been tracking and I have gained some weight back, so I really need to start tracking. It makes a huge difference for me.

MAKING_CHANGES_ SparkPoints: (9,129)
Fitness Minutes: (7,337)
Posts: 41
5/30/13 9:32 A

I also use the groupings, then if it makes 10 portions, when I add it to my tracker I just put in .1 of a portion. I find this easier as I do everything from my phone. I do not use a computer. I use this when I make soup( which I do every week), then I portion it out in mason jars. It keeps for a long time in the fridge. It is a great filling food before lunch or dinner. This works for me becuaseI only cook for myself. Like someone already said tra king will bring success no matter what plan you are using. This is what I love about spark. The tracker is at my fingertips everywhere I go. Usually I fill it in when I have my morning coffee. Anyways that is enough rambling. Keep up the hard work.

MAKING_CHANGES_ SparkPoints: (9,129)
Fitness Minutes: (7,337)
Posts: 41
5/30/13 9:31 A

I also use the groupings, then if it makes 10 portions, when I add it to my tracker I just put in .1 of a portion. I find this easier as I do everything from my phone. I do not use a computer. I use this when I make soup( which I do every week), then I portion it out in mason jars. It keeps for a long time in the fridge. It is a great filling food before lunch or dinner. This works for me becuaseI only cook for myself. Like someone already said tra king will bring success no matter what plan you are using. This is what I love about spark. The tracker is at my fingertips everywhere I go. Usually I fill it in when I have my morning coffee. Anyways that is enough rambling. Keep up the hard work.

MAKING_CHANGES_ SparkPoints: (9,129)
Fitness Minutes: (7,337)
Posts: 41
5/30/13 9:30 A

I also use the groupings, then if it makes 10 portions, when I add it to my tracker I just put in .1 of a portion. I find this easier as I do everything from my phone. I do not use a computer. I use this when I make soup( which I do every week), then I portion it out in mason jars. It keeps for a long time in the fridge. It is a great filling food before lunch or dinner. This works for me becuaseI only cook for myself. Like someone already said tra king will bring success no matter what plan you are using. This is what I love about spark. The tracker is at my fingertips everywhere I go. Usually I fill it in when I have my morning coffee. Anyways that is enough rambling. Keep up the hard work.

JIBBIE49 Posts: 69,370
5/30/13 12:36 A

Keep working at it.

KEITAMLI SparkPoints: (3,329)
Fitness Minutes: (1,548)
Posts: 10
5/29/13 11:41 P

I save the foods that I frequently eat to my favorites which means I don't have to search for them or re-add the nutrition info. the next time I eat them.

SUSAN727 Posts: 1,862
5/29/13 9:11 P

I'm good at this for a while and then I slack off. But I do think this is a way to be successful at any weight loss program.

Awesome Food Tracker on SP.

RUSSELL_40 Posts: 16,826
5/29/13 8:23 P

I use the Grouping buttons on the Nutrition tracker. I put in name of the meal, and then add in the ingredients. Then, I just click on the dish, and it is put on my tracker. That way i only have to do it once.

5/29/13 8:02 P

I didn't know you could save and edit recipes.

ICEDEMETER Posts: 1,332
5/29/13 11:50 A

One thing I really like about the recipe calculator is the ability to make a "recipe makeover" and save it separately.

I don't know about you, but things like my stir-frys, pasta sauces, and pilafs are never quite the same twice (they tend to vary based on what happens to be in the crisper). Using the makeover allows me to make only the changes that I need to, without entering it as a whole new recipe. I tend to save my base recipe as "Base whatever it is", and then save the makeovers as "Current month whatever it is". This also makes it easy to track any meals that I've frozen for later use, as I label them with "Current month whatever it is" too, so I always know exactly what to track when I eat it.

Unless I'm going to be having the exact same version multiple times, I don't bother saving it in my Favourites (I've got enough stuff in there!). I find it just as easy to add things directly from the "Recipes" tab, which pulls from "My Recipe Box" on the site.

It seems like a royal pain getting the base recipes in, but I hope you'll find, as I did, that it gets really quick once you get your "usuals" input and can just tweak with the makeovers.

5/29/13 11:30 A

Great ideas! Thanks. I did not know about the recipe builder or that it would save.

YOJULEZ SparkPoints: (15,981)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 2,171
5/29/13 11:29 A

You can use the recipe builder on to build out your sauce recipe, and divide it by the number of servings you serve it as... so 6 or 8 or whatever. It'll do all the math for you, and then you can add it to your tracker easily. You can get to the builder from your tracker, click on the recipes tab, then the button for "access the recipe calculator". Once it's built and saved it'll appear in the drop down menu in that tab under "shared recipes".

To figure out the number of servings you can do it a few ways. You can either measure out the entire amount of sauce, and then divide it by number of servings... so say it makes 8 cups of sauce but you only want 6 servings... each serving would be 1 1/3 cup of sauce. You can also weigh it...which I find to be easier. I made a list of how much each of my pots weigh, and so then I can weigh things like sauce as a whole, then subtract the amount of the pot. So, say the sauce weighs 18 ounces (minus the pot) and you want 6 servings. Each serving would be 3 ounces.

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
Fitness Minutes: (6,555)
Posts: 2,744
5/29/13 11:28 A

SP has a feature called 'Recipe Calculator' somewhere in the food tracker that lets you create recipes and then spits out the nutritional value. So for your pasta sauce as an example, you'd input the ingredients into the calculator, say how much a serving is, and the tracker would give you the nutritional value. You can then save it as a favorite so you don't have to go through the whole process again.

5/29/13 11:23 A

Any tips on consistent calorie tracking? I make so many things at home I find it incredibly tedious and hard to keep up with. For example, I make my own homemade meat sauce. I use a pound of ground beef, about a half cup of olive oil, a can of tomato paste, a large can of crushed tomatoes, various tablespoons of spices, a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of salt. How do I convert that into what I actually eat?? I can easily measure the pasta, but I have no idea how I would tack the sauce. Same goes with all the other meals I prepare. Like if I make baked chicken, I sprinkle with salt, add mushrooms, potatoes, celery, carrots, so on and so forth. Any advice?

ETA: I cook for a family of six so I often make large meals for everybody to eat. We also eat quite a varied menu daily so the kids don't get bored and rarely eat out.

Edited by: BLUBUTTERFLY512 at: 5/29/2013 (11:25)
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