I Cannot Tell a Lie: Common Tracking Mistakes

We already know that knowing how much we’re supposed to consume and how much we actually consume is the only way to realistically track our food and beverage intake.  In my experience, there are some fairly common mistakes we make while tracking.  I want to discuss a few of those below and some ways you can avoid them as you take steps to a healthier you.

What are you drinking?

You do realize that beverages can contain calories, right? You can’t adequately track your daily caloric intake if you don’t include the calories that you drink. The most common missed calories in this category include cream and sugar put in coffee, alcohol and mixers, and sports drinks.


I am so excited that you tracked that you ate a hamburger. I’m a little less enthused to see you skipped the ketchup and the mustard and mayonnaise and the cheese and the lettuce and tomato and onion and pickle on it. All of those things have calories, and in some cases the calories in the condiments can be equal to or greater than what it is that you’re eating. Also included in this category – salad dressing.


How comfortable are you eyeballing 3 oz of meat? An ounce of cheese?  Do you know the difference between 8 tablespoons in 1/4 cup? I once had a client put 8 tablespoons of salad dressing on a salad. When I asked her, slightly incredulously – you put a quarter of a cup of salad dressing on a salad??  She wrote back and said no, I only put 8 tablespoons. She didn’t realize that 8 tablespoons in 1/4 of a cup are the same. She seemed much more comfortable with 8 tablespoons, then she did with a quarter of a cup (which also makes me think she was guessing). Get yourself a good set of measuring spoons and measuring cups or a food scale.

Eating before you track

I’m sure Panera Bread is a lovely restaurant. But I can’t begin to tell you how many of my clients have eaten there and tracked the food afterwards only to find out that they have consumed all of their Weight Watchers points for the day or two thirds of their daily caloric intake on something they thought was healthy. Unless you find yourself out in the wild – and by wild I mean a downtown area with many fast food restaurants – in a moment of intense, crippling hunger hyphen you should be able to check out a menu and track some food before you eat. This will save you from realizing after the fact that you just ate an entire day’s worth of calories or points, and a chocolate chip cookie. If you meal prep, this should be really easy for you to keep track of. You know going into each meal with the calories are – you can even write them on a piece of tape on the lid of the container. You can also do the same thing with snacks. Proportion snacks and little snack bags – you can get those at the grocery store. That way you know that you’re never going to accidentally eat a bag of chips because you’re eating straight out of the bag instead of portioning them out.

Butter and Syrup

Now technically, I know, both could be in condiments. But I’m going to address them here.  We track our meal, but not the butter we added to our bread or the olive oil we put in the pan to cook the chicken. I love my mother, but she wasn’t tracking butter on Bagels or butter and syrup on pancakes. I have no idea why she didn’t think these were “trackable” items. These items, often times, have more calories and more fat than the other aspects of the meal. Track your bread-and-butter people.

Waiting to the end of the day to track your food

I can’t remember what I wore yesterday and I had those close on all day.  Do you remember at 9 pm what you ate at 9am?  Do you remember just how much salad dressing you put on your salad and how much of the salad you actually ate? Or how many wings you ate? It is often easier to track as you go. I understand this might not be realistic for everyone, but if you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to track as you eat or before you eat, take a picture of your food before you eat and a picture afterwards. That should hopefully give you a sense of how much was on your plate and how much of what was on your plate you ate. Then when you go to track that evening you can reference the pictures to help you figure out the portions.  

Mistaking a portion for serving

A serving is the amount of food that the nutritional guide line is based on. If you look on the side panel of a food package, it will tell you what the serving size is. A portion, on the other hand, is how much you eat. A serving of milk may be a cup. But the portion you put on your cereal may only be half a cup. Similarly a serving of chicken may be 4 oz., but when you go to Cheesecake Factory they serve you 20. When you track your food make sure you track the calories for portions that you eat.

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