So, macros seem to be a popular topic lately (if you don’t know what macros are, you can read my blog post here). Counting macros can be tricky enough at first, like anything, it really does take practice! But once you’ve gotten it down at home, here comes the other hard part, how do you track your food when you’re going out to eat? When someone else has prepared a meal for you? Or when you make a recipe that feeds more than a single serving? Well, I’m here to tell you some things that have worked for me! Or at least I think they work 😉
First. When going out to eat. In an ideal scenario, the restaurant you’re going to will have their nutrition menu posted online. Obviously this makes it super easy. At the beginning of the day you either insert your meal and eat your other meals/snacks around what you’re choosing. Or, once you get to the restaurant you find an option that works with what you’ve already eaten so far that day.
Okay, so easy enough. But what if they don’t have the nutrition menu online? Meh. Definitely not convenient but there are ways to still track and get around this. You ultimately have to estimate your portions. Yes, I know this isn’t ideal BUT it’s much better to do this and to be roughly on track than to just totally abandon your macros altogether. When this is the case, you want to choose food options that you can easily separate. For example, a sandwich, a burger, a salad with toppings on top (mixed in would be more difficult to estimate), tacos. Or even individual items like a donut, a biscuit, a bagel with cream cheese, etc. All these items you can search for individually. For example, a breakfast sandwich. You can search in your app for each item: plain bagel, turkey sausage, avocado, etc. Then you just guesstimate how much avocado (25 grams), or how much sausage (1 turkey sausage patty). You get the idea!
When you’re entering the food into your app it can be difficult to decide which brand to select. I use My Fitness Pal (non-paid version) and when I search for “chocolate cake donut” or “buttermilk biscuit” a lot of options come up. Searching for things like a bagel, chicken, avocado, etc. are pretty easy because those nutrition facts are pretty much the same regardless of the brand. When searching for less conventional items though, I usually try to pick an option that is somewhere in the middle in terms of calories, fat, and carbs. For example, if I type in donut, some donuts have 25 grams of carbs while others have 45; and some will say 10 grams of fat others will says 25 grams. So, I usually try to pick an option that is somewhere in between those two. Maybe around 30-35 carbs and 15-20 grams of fat. Yes, its not 100% accurate (obviously) but, it’s better than nothing!
Another thing that helps with tracking is to ask the server what the portion amount is. For example, if I’m ordering a chicken sandwich, I may say, “Do you know how many ounces of chicken it is?” Or when I’ve gone to breakfast I’ll ask if they know if the yogurt is non-fat. Again with the chicken you can always eyeball it and guesstimate but if someone is able to tell you right away that makes it easier! Also, with something like the yogurt, if they are able to tell you the fat % that’s great! If not, again, I usually choose a low fat option when entering in my app. Also, always get sauces on the side. For example, if you want mayo on a sandwich get it on the side so you can better estimate how much you are putting on your sandwich. Another example, I ordered tacos the other day and got guacamole and sour cream on the side.
Okay, moving on…when someone else prepares food for you. So the same principles pretty much apply as to when you are going out to eat. However, if a friend or family member has prepared a dish, you can probably ask them more about the ingredients they used or what is in it. For example, one of my girlfriend’s brought me lunch at work the other week. It was butternut squash with ground turkey, and then she brought toppings like sour cream, avocado, salsa etc. So, I asked her what % lean the turkey meat was, and about how much butternut squash there was going to be. She told me that is was 99% lean, and about 1/2 cup of squash (then she was also super sweet and brought a measuring cup so I could measure out the turkey–so nice!!) Likewise, if you go over to someone’s house, and they serve you something like soup (I don’t know!) then you could ask them for the recipe. So when it comes to recipes..
With recipes, you’re typically making more than one serving. In this case, I recommend putting the recipe into your app and then inserting how many servings/portions it makes. For example, let’s say you’re making chili. You go ahead and put in all your ingredients into your app, and then you have to decide how many servings it makes. What I do in this situation is I will go ahead and weigh on my scale the entire item. Let’s say the chili weighs 1000 grams (just picking a random number here). And you think about 200g is a good serving size for you. So you put into your app the recipe, and then say that there are 5 servings. Then when you put it into your meals on whatever days, if you eat 200g you say 1 serving, if you at 300g you say 1.5 servings, 400g you say 2 servings, etc. If you’re baking something then all you need to do it cut the item into however many individual pieces and then count those each as a serving. No need to weigh the batter or anything. God, that would be a nightmare!
Clearly tracking when going out to eat or having someone else prepare food for you isn’t 100% accurate, but overall I have found that by doing these things, it has helped me stick to my macros and my physique still makes progress just as it would when I’m preparing my own food. Of course I’m not eating out for every meal, but when you eat out 3-4x a week, tips like this can still help you reach your goals.
Any more questions or anything you guys are struggling with this in this department, let me know! xx