Calorie Counting and Nutrient Balancing Tools

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Health, Healthy Tips, Nutrition, Recipes

So, it is a new year and you are on your way to bettering your health, life, family, etc. by choosing healthy foods and sticking to a regular workout routine. You are super psyched to start and I am right there with you!

I personally have a difficult time logging what I eat and what my family eats. I know it is one of the most important, if not THE most important, things to do in order to achieve and maintain a truly healthy diet and lifestyle. Research has shown repeatedly that the simple action of recording a meal into a journal, notebook, Word document, etc, over and over again causes a positive change in the food choices that we make. It is that easy, but I find it overwhelming. I have five bazillion things to each day for my family and myself, I don’t have the time write down the fact that ate half of an orange, a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Up until now I have just mentally logged it and moved on. BUT, I say, this is not good enough for me for 2012. My healthy year will begin with me not only recording the foods I eat, but keeping track of the amount of primary macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) that I eat on a daily basis. Knowing my own caloric needs for my average level of physical activity each day and combining that with my dietary goals for the new year, I know that I want to have a diet that (on average) is high in proteins and low in fats and carbohydrates. To find out where you need to be focused as far as your own diet goes, I suggest talking to your doctor or a nutritionist, as each person is different. I like to throw around words and “studies” but the reality is, I am just some girl who enjoys reading articles on the internet and magazines and am in no way qualified to tell you what to eat. I do believe that a few things are accepted as general knowledge and I try to focus on these points. For instance, you are better off grabbing a banana or low-fat yogurt for a snack than, say, a bag of chips or a milkshake. I think we can all agree on that.

Now where to begin. How do I figure out how much protein is in a cup of yogurt?? What if I don’t have the actual cup with the list of ingredients in front of me? How do I analyze a recipe without having to Google foods at nauseum on the internet? No worries! I have solutions for you! Oh how I love technology 🙂

If you haven’t read my blog about Lose It! then you really should. This is a great FREE website that allows you to record the foods that you eat. If you have a smartphone there is FREE Lose It! app that allows you to scan barcodes and record your foods on the go. Love it. Check out my blog about it here. ‘Nuf said 😉

Another great FREE site that is just priceless when it comes to keeping track of what you are feeding your body is called Calorie Count. This site is powered by It is similar to Lose It, by way of creating a user account, logging in, and recording your foods and exercise for the day. It also has a smartphone app that can be downloaded free to your phone. What sets Calorie Count apart is its ability to break down the foods you eat even more than just telling you how many calories you have consumed in a day. It will break down the amount of proteins, fats, carbs, etc. for you as well. If you have high blood pressure and must watch your sodium level, this site will tell you how much sodium you have consumed. It is super easy to use and I find it to be very helpful when it comes to keeping myself on track.

My favorite feature of the site is the recipe log. If you are at all like me, you have sat down a few times with a new recipe from a cookbook or magazine. It looks healthy, the author claims it is healthy, but who knows how healthy it actually is. Recipes can have 20+ ingredients and I am not going to spend the time looking each and every ingredient up on the web and then try to fit them all into my daily nutritional needs. That would be exhausting, not to mention a huge buzz kill for my “New Year, New Me” resolution.

To use the Recipe Log, go to Calorie Count site and create a user account. It’s free and they don’t ask for any personal information other than an email address and zip code.

Once you have an account and are logged in, click on the Food Log tab, or just click the link here.

This is a picture of the recipe for Vegetable Chili that I am making

Type in the ingredients to the recipe or foods that you are planning to make, including the amounts and how many servings you are planning to make.

Then click on the “Analyze Recipe” button and you will see a screen that looks something like this.

My Vegetable Chili recipe turned out to be about 487 calories per serving. I can see under the Nutritional Analysis (click on the image to enlarge it) that it is low in saturated fat, has no cholesterol, and is a good source of fiber and a number of vitamins and minerals. There is also a letter score next to each ingredient that rates its nutritional “grade” as one would get a grade on a report card. I can see that lowest graded ingredient listed is the canned plum tomatoes. I am able to click on that particular item further to see it’s break down of nutrition. When I do that, this is what I see.

The tomatoes called for in the recipe are canned. Canned tomatoes are great for you in many ways but all canned food contains high amounts of sodium. This is the reason the score is lower. I personally don’t have any medical issues to restrict sodium, so, if this is the worst part of this recipe, to me… the good outweighs the bad. If you are watching sodium, you could further change your recipe to include fresh chopped tomatoes or choose a low-sodium variety of canned.

After going through this step by step, it may seem like a lot to do, but really, the worst part is typing in all of the ingredients. Once you do that, it is as easy as clicking here and there to read the nutritional scores. You can save recipes so you don’t have to retype it the next time you want to make it and add it into your daily menu. What you will likely find is that you eat the same things over and over again 70-80% of the time. Humans are creatures of habit. I have about 4 different breakfast items I circulate through depending on my mood. Once those favorite foods are logged in, it will becomes easier to plan daily menus.

I am in love with this site. It really makes my life easier in regards to balancing my nutrients. I have found that I don’t eat enough fat in my diet on a day to day basis. Never would have discovered that on my own.

I went through a lot here! Let me know what you think if you decide to test it out. I think it is a fun tool and very handy for figuring out the nutritional values of new recipes. If you have any questions let me know and I will do my best to answer them for you.

Happy meal planning!

  1. wartica says:

    I’m glad to hear you set the standards high this year for watching the calories; I think we all need positive goals to set for the next year with our eating. As long as you got a list together then you’re already on the right track.Hope you had a great new year’s day and I look forward to reading more:))

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