Ever since my sister shared about her weightloss by simply limiting her sugar intake, I’ve been tracking everything I eat using MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is best known as a calorie counter, but that’s not why I use it. I’m not trying to lose weight but to understand exactly what I’m eating and how much sugar, protein, and fat I actually consume.
The insight I’ve gained is invaluable.
Without this insight, I’m just a fool in disguise, convincing myself that I’m making healthy choices when, in fact, I may not be. For example, I don’t eat a lot of desserts or sweets. But holy cow, does my sugar intake quickly go up when I eat my favorite baked oatmeal or my whole-wheat apple pancakes – both of which contain fruit AND maple syrup. So though my choices may be considered healthy (or healthier than other choices), they can still pack a wallop if I’m trying to limit certain types of food.
If you don’t pay attention to what you eat, it’s easy to deceive yourself into thinking you have healthy habits.
Don’t be deceived. You can know the facts.
Gaining insight over my food choices
Over the past month or so I’ve become extra conscious of my meals and how I pick them. I’ve learned that one of my favorite sources of protein – nuts and nut butters – adds a lot more fat than protein to my diet. Yes, this is something I already knew but I never really put together how it affects the balance of macronutrients in my diet. So while I sit down to a snack of peanut butter and an apple or a handful of pecans, my nutrition graph shows a dramatic increase in fat. Good fat, yes, but it quickly adds up! Especially when you eat more than one serving, which is easy to do.
For me, the biggest benefit of using MyFitnessPal is knowing how much protein I’m eating. Or how little, for that matter. One of my favorite sources for nutrition guidance is Precision Nutrition, and they recommend eating for your body type. With this in mind, my goal is to have 25-30% of my calories come from protein.
I fail at this every day. I average around 20-22% of calories from protein.
Thanks to tracking everything I eat with MyFitnessPal, I know that I need to make an effort to eat more protein. So I’m developing new habits, such as eating string cheese wrapped in ham or turkey as a snack instead of that extra helping of peanut butter. And here I thought I was already eating a lot of protein!
Before I go on about this, I want to assure you that I am in no way getting compensated for promoting MyFitnessPal. It is a tool that I find helpful and I want you to be able to get the same benefits from using it as me.
As with tracking anything, the biggest inconvenience is the data collection. It can take a bit of time to enter everything into the app. And when you eat at someone else’s house, the actual ingredients that make up the whole of the meal is a guessing game. So I aim to be as accurate as possible without obsessing over it.<
Overall, I like using MyFitnessPal. Here are my top five reasons why:
Since almost all of the meals my family eats are prepared at home, I can easily import the recipes I use for accurate tracking. Many of the meals I pick come from blogs and websites I follow, so all I have to do is copy and paste the link from that webpage into the Recipe Importer and MyFitnessPal loads in the recipe. It doesn’t always match the ingredients perfectly, but that is easy enough to fix by adjusting the quantity or replacing the item.
All the recipes you enter are saved until you decide to delete them. So if there’s something you eat regularly – like Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal – the nutrition info is easily available to you. Just add an entry to your Food Diary, select the Recipes option, and locate the recipe for the meal you’re eating. I also like that you can adjust the serving size. So if you only eat a small amount of oatmeal instead of a full serving, you log a partial serving.
There are some things that you always eat together. For me, it may be ham and turkey on a Sandwich Thin or tuna on a Sandwich Thin. Or a couple of scrambled eggs with whole-wheat sourdough toast for breakfast. Every time I make that particular meal, I don’t want to log every individual item and the serving size of each. MyFitnessPal makes it easy by allowing you to group certain items into a meal. Then the next time you eat that meal, simply select it from the Meals tab when adding it to your Food Diary.
If you’re like me, there are certain things you eat consistently. Maybe it’s string cheese or peanut butter or apples. When you pull up your Food Diary to log a new entry, the items you most recently added are listed first. This makes it easy to find and add your favorite foods to your Food Diary on a daily basis.
And you can select multiple items from the list at one time. so if you’re eating last night’s dinner for today’s lunch, all those food items are listed right at the top. Convenient!
App and website
When it comes to loading recipes and managing meals, using MyFitnessPal’s website is far easier than using the app. But when it comes to adjusting quantities and adding things on the fly, the app is the way to go. I love that I can use both and that the two are always in sync with each other. If I know what I’m going to eat for the day, I can log it all through the website in the morning and then adjust things as needed via the app as I go. This combination works perfect for me.
Graphs and data
My absolute favorite part of using MyFitnessPal is the nutritional breakdown of all the food I eat being provided back to me. You can see it for each day or for a week. You can view detailed information, such as how much protein, fiber, sugar, and fat you consumed:
And you can get more statistical data, such as the percentage of calories that came from carbs, protein, and fat:
This is the part I pay attention to the most. When I notice that my protein percentages are lacking, I go for a snack of ham and cheese in the afternoon. If my sugar intake is especially high, I cut back on the amount of carbs I eat for the rest of the day.
The only thing I wish the app did that it doesn’t do is separate added sugar from natural sugar. I set 65 grams of sugar as a daily goal (don’t ask me why because I don’t really know). After eating a couple pieces of fruit, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for other foods. But I’m not so worried about the sugar that occurs naturally in the food I eat. What I want to be most conscious of is the sugar added to my food. It would be really helpful if MyFitnessPal gave me that information.
What MyFitnessPal can do for you
I have become a believer in tracking what you eat. I don’t really care what tool or method is used. The important thing is knowing what you put into your body so you can make mindful, healthy choices throughout the day. Using an app like MyFitnessPal can help you:
- Know when to NOT eat certain foods (desserts, fried foods, processed foods)
- Know when to eat MORE of a certain food group (protein, carbs, fat)
- Know when to enjoy a treat without wreaking havoc on the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve (yes, I think I will have that hot chocolate today)
I also use it to log the amount of water I drink in a day. I drink a lot of water, so I don’t have a goal to get in a certain amount. It is interesting to see just how much I actually drink though. And on evenings that I feel especially thirsty, I can usually trace it back to not drinking as much water as I usually do during the day.
If you want to read more about what Precision Nutrition says about protein, check out some of these articles:
- All about protein
- Limit protein to 20g per meal?
- Will a high-protein diet harm your health?
- Forget calorie counting
And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us all know how much protein you eat and how you get it all in.