4 Secrets of Calorie Counting from a Top Food Blogger

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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WILDKAT781 10/2/2020
thank you Report
MUSICNUT 5/17/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
SPARKNB 3/9/2020
I summarize all 4, with a variation on the 4th:
"Just keep on TRACKIN'." Report
I've been a daily calorie counter on SP for 5 years straight. Report
Very helpful writing.
Blessings Report
"If you bite it, write it". Report
I've been tracking my food and calories since the summer of 2010. It wasn't until October 2011 that I got serious and finally lost weight. Have been at or under goal since April 2013 and still track everything every day. It works. Report
This is not a complicated science. It is all here for you on Spark. Knowing the caloric total show not be passed, logging my food by calories per item keeps me honest...sometimes I go over....and the guilt kills me. I make up for it the next day. Report
I don't track and yet have no problem with my weight. Report
Counting calories makes me accountable. Report
I do pay attention to calories and portion size. Report
I do count calories because it keeps me on track to slow healthy weightloss. Report
Counting calories has led to portion control which has in turn led to making more healthful selections; more "bang for the buck" as it's said. It's the primary tool that's helped me lose 90 pounds so far without any feelings of deprivation and make a true, sustainable lifestyle change. Although it felt more difficult in the beginning, I soon learned that as long as I do my best it's OK to be off by a bit here and there, so while I still track every calorie I'm not nearly as obsessive about brand names, restaurants, etc. I can safely estimate a calorie count so sometimes I just choose the "best answer" and log that. I use SparkPeople's nutrition tracker, either on my phone or at my desk. Report
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. Report
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. Report
I track my calories most days, but I don't find it to be easy. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 :) Report
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... Report
Yes, daily. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
Yes, I track every day...even on days when I overeat. :) It's helping slowly, but helping nevertheless... Report
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. Report
I track EVERYTHING daily Report
mindless eating was my biggest problem..... so tracking everything is a must for me! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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" Report
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! Report

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. Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 Report
I agree with everything in this blog, especially about being consistent. Report
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. Report
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! Report