"When should I measure with a measuring cup vs on a scale?"
Mass measurements are always more accurate than volume measurements, assuming your scale is precise. The only time I use volume measurements are for things that are very low calorie so an inaccurate measure won't really matter (things like lettuce), if the quantity is so small that the average kitchen scale will have a hard time weighing it (things like small quantities of dried herbs), and for liquids (because it's easy to jam an extra hundred calories of a dry, loose food into a measuring cup and it's a lot harder to do that with, say, milk). Otherwise, I use the scale exclusively. And even when I don't measure in grams, I do a little mental math and track it that way, for the sake of consistency.
Another poster had it right that it's a good idea to check the method of measurement used in the catalog before you track. However, since I manually entered all the foods I eat using data from a different site that gives more precise values than SP does, that means that the catalog of values I choose from are already all listed in grams. It was time consuming for the first few weeks, but now that I have a large personal database built up, I don't have to add something new more than once or twice a week, and everything is tracked in the values I prefer. Plus, it's all in a format that organizes by different types of food (dairy, vegetables, grains, proteins, packaged items etc). Kind of OCD, but it makes my food log a whole lot more organized and streamlined, and it's actually much faster for me to use.
There is no way around this, it is a pain in the rear.
I use Spark Recipes and the calculator there to get an exact calorie count on my recipes. I save my recipes and use them again and again. For simple recipes I just toss the ingredients into my food tracker on Sparks for that meal. http://www.sparkrecipes.com/
Sometimes I will use myfitness pal which has an easy to use app on my iphone that allows me to scan in ingredients when creating a recipe and calculating the calories. I then just add the calories/protein/carbs/major vitamins into Sparks under add a food not listed.
There are a couple ways to do it. None of them are super easy, but if you use the same recipes over and over it gets easier.
SP has an absolutely wonderful tool called a Recipe Calculator. Naturally, you do have to measure everything the first time you make something. Then you list how many servings it makes, and the Calculator gives you a "nutrition label" just like any you'd see on a commercial product. You can then pick it from your "Recipes" in your Nutrition Tracker and know exactly what you're getting.
You can save your own recipes there, or the ones SP sends in our emails, or even other Sparkers' recipes they've shared.
I use mine all the time. Check it out.
Fitness Minutes: (74,443)
3,293 7/25/13 8:13 P
Look up the item before you eat it and see if it is measured by weight or volume. Meat, cheese and dry pasta are by weight. Liquids, other dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), many fruits, rice and legumes are by volume. If it isn't obvious on Spark, you can generally tell by reading the package. Silly English measurements! Ounces are almost always referring to weight, not to fluid ounces. Things that measured in cups are by cups and fractions of a cup, not by fluid ounces.
Actually, tracking everything before you put it in your mouth is a good strategy. I don't always do this, but when I do, it works!
Fitness Minutes: (0)
18 7/25/13 7:58 P
Extremely helpful. I'm new to this and always on a budget so this is perfect!
7/25/13 7:52 P
Thanks for all of the responses so far! I'm new to SparkPeople and am still figuring out all of the tools.
I didn't realize the recipe maker was there! I'm basically living on a "poor grad student" income so I try to buy raw materials and just make everything form scratch (plus I can control how much salt/garlic/sugar/etc goes into it! and add my own flavors!) In grad school I actually did start measuring everything until I learned what "weight looked like". I do measure portions with a measuring cup for things like fruit but I think I'll have to bust out the scale again for more dense foods.
Here's another question while I'm on this. It may sound silly but I figured I'd ask! When should I measure with a measuring cup vs on a scale?
Fitness Minutes: (74,443)
3,293 7/25/13 7:19 P
I do several different things. You can:
--enter your own, complete recipes and save them at SparkRecipes --enter groups of foods and save them as groupings (especially handy for salads) --repeat and recycle the same foods frequently --find the closest analog that is already in the tracker and use that (not very precise...I generally only do this out of desperation, or when I know that my homemade version is VERY close to something store-bought...for example, I know my own pico de gallo is pretty much exactly the same as what Kroger sells, just with better ingredients)
I find that I am cooking simpler foods because they are easier to enter. Really though, once you get the things that you eat frequently into the tracker, it all becomes much easier.
I still weigh and measure everything even though I have been doing this for a couple of years. Otherwise it is much too easy to lie to yourself and slip up...and in the case of things like pasta, 2 oz. vs. 3oz. can make a huge difference in calories and carbs.
I count everything and use the groupings and SparkRecipes sites regularly. Since I cook the majority of what I eat from scratch, if I didn't count it my numbers would be extremely inaccurate.
Fitness Minutes: (2,008)
7/25/13 5:46 P
I eyeball portion sizes using the shortcut methods (fist for 1 cup, deck of cards for 3 oz, thumb for tbsp, etc). When I make a recipe from scratch, which is a lot, I run it through the recipe calculator to get the nutrition info for a serving size. It's a little bit of work but I only have to do it once if it's a recipe I make on a regular basis.
I pick the closest thing I can find on the tracker.
It's pretty extensive so I can get a good approximation of my calorie intake. Also I will add any additional olive oil or butter just in case. I would rather err on the side of being over on my calorie count than under.
I couldn't agree more regarding the measuring advice. It is too easy to over estimate a serving with the "eyeball" technique.
7/25/13 3:52 P
food scale food scale food scale!!!
It's a lifesaver, such a huge help when you are cooking and/or portioning out your servings. Much more accurate than trying to measure in cups or by "eyeballing."
I find it is absolutely easy to track calories accurately while cooking from scratch, I just weight the ingredients as they go in. If it's a complex recipe that i figure i'll make more than once, I'll input it into the recipe tracker, then next time (as long as I make it the same way) it's easy to just select "1 serving of.." from my Recipe tab on the nutrition tracker.
I don't get too fussed about measuring certain low/no-cal items accurately (does it matter if there's a tbsp of fresh cilantro or two? not really!) but I am very careful when it comes to oils and other fats, as there IS quite a difference between a teaspoon and two! For these though, it's easier to use measuring spoons. Everything else, goes on the scale.
I just approximate. I don't think my numbers are far enough out of line to be a worry. But I do tend to weigh and measure - I will measure a serving of rice or pasta. I try to eyeball my protein portion to the right deck-of-cards size. If I'm a bit off, it isn't going to kill me, especially as I understand that the nutrition numbers are just an estimate based on an average of nutritional values for a given item.
Ever had grapes that are sweeter than other ones? They will actually have a slightly different sugar & caloric amount. The big thing is getting close.
7/25/13 3:35 P
Hi Everyone, I've tried tracking my calories in and calories out many time over the years and while I can get at least an approximation of calories-out form trackers, I'm having a hard time with the calories-in part!
It's too expensive, usually pretty high in sodium, and not always that tasty(!) to buy pre-made meals and I actually like to cook/bake anything I can from scratch. My struggle is knowing how to calculate the calories I take in if I'm making everything. Even when I measure out my ingredients I just don't know that I'm getting accurate numbers in my trackers. If I'm approximating and then getting inaccurate numbers, I'm worried it will give me a false sense of progress.
Is there anyone else in my situation? If so, do you have any suggestions?
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