There are many different methods of food tracking to help you achieve your body composition goals. However the main point to consider is accuracy, as most studies show that around 30% misreport and up to 100% in other studies. This is usually down to genuine mistake with things like oils that we cook with, milk in tea, retrospective tracking (tracking all your food at the end of the day instead of beforehand) and a quick snack being missed off the days nutrition tracking approach.
Full on tracking isn't for everyone and some may find it can be a trigger if they have had a history of disordered eating or may even create an obsessive attitude towards food consumption.
There are different methods you can use. The most accurate obviously includes the most data and therefor the most effort so not for everyone.
Here I have listed different methods from the easiest to the most effort required.
FOOD CHOICE ONLY- This is good if you'd like to clean up your diet but not focus on the calories. Swapping out highly processed foods for cleaner whole foods will no doubt have a positive effect on your health and may reduce inflammation. For fat loss purposes these swaps may trigger a response, however calories in calories out still needs to apply for ongoing weight loss.
FOOD CHOICE PLUS PORTIONS- One up from food choice and another great method. You can use the hand method for instance this being- a flat palm size of protein, a cupped hand for starchy carbs and a thumb size of fat per meal with the rest made up of non-starchy veggies. Or just being mindful of your portion sizes over eating healthier food choices in abundance. Some foods named the 'halo effect' like avocado or almond butter for example are nutritious but extremely calorie dense so it's important to be mindful with portion size.
PROTEIN- Many individuals do not eat enough protein. So tracking protein consumption can show you where you may need to increase this macronutrient. Endurance athletes can fall into this category with carbohydrates sometimes being the preference but more and more studies show that protein intake should be at least 1.4-1.6g per KG of body weight. ( you can track consumption on a tracking app like my fitness pal) Those in a hypertrophy may use this method although it's important not to just go mad with food as fat gain will increase more than favoured and harder to remove when cutting.
UNUSUAL DAY CALORIES- This is a great method for those wishing to transition from tracking calories and/or macros. Unusual day means maybe a special event, a busy day or eating out e.t.c... Most people tend to eat the same amount of calories week on week give or take 500kcals so this can be a good method to keep atrack when your daily routine changes temporarily. (use a tracking app)
CALORIES- This tool is the most beneficial to most people. It's a great way to educate yourself around the calorie value of food and data to adjust your food choices. You will need to know your calorie goal for your weight loss/gain/maintenance ( I have explained how to do this in a previous blog) Energy balance is key for weight management as well as making good food choices for satiaty and your health.
CALORIES AND PROTEIN- This is my prefered method for accuracy and making sure your protein requirements are met. Protein plays a huge role in your weightloss/gain journey. It aids muscle protein synthesis (helping us to build or maintain/repair muscle) it is essential for every part of the body and helps keep hunger at bay. The two components of calories and protein combined is a powerful tool for acheiving your body composition goals. (use a tracking app)
MACRO RANGES- This method is useful for body builders and physique competitors but not essential for the general population. Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats are tracked with a precentage of the days calories or grams per day. However you may enjoy this method and some people do. My suggestion would be to track protein (1.6-2.2g per KG of lean body mass or at least 1.4g per KG of BW) then adjust Carbohydrates and Fats to suite you. However try to keep your fat between 20-30% of yoyt daily calories and Carbs make up the rest.(use a tracking app)
ALL MACRO'S- Only really necessary for professional athletes. This method requires a lot of dedication and monitoring again using a tracking app.
So there are a huge range of methods to use. It really needs to work for you and your lifestyle. You don't need to use the same method all of the time so maybe play around and see what works best. Overall these are great tools for your own personal data and feedback so you can adjust as needed.