Tracking Food and Protein Consumption

April 18, 2012
Happy Wednesday, everyone! Nutmeg got a haircut last Friday, so we took a few beauty shots. She was also complaining about not being on the blog much lately, so before I get to talking about food tracking, here are a few snapshots.
Lately, I’ve been getting quite a few Tweets and e-mails about protein and nutrition, much of which is directly related to being a vegetarian. Many people wonder if you can get enough protein day-to-day without consuming meat, and the answer is, yes! I’ve done a few protein posts in the past (found here and here), but I thought that today I would show you a handy little tool that I’ve been using over the past couple of months that has transformed the way I track food intake. 

I discovered My Fitness Pal a few months ago after searching for an online tool that would allow me to enter my daily eats. Every now and again I found myself writing down what I ate during the day or running a mental tally of the number of fruits and vegetables I consumed, the calories taken in, protein eaten. Instead of jotting this information down on slips of paper (which ended up in the trash) and calculating the information by hand, I wanted the ability to search a database for ingredients and record my eats all in one place.
Here’s a look at what a typical entry looks like for me…
The site makes it incredibly easy to track everything you eat, with a huge database full of ingredients. You also have the option of adding in your own items if you can’t find them in the database or enter something by calories alone if that’s all the information you know about it. 
Once your information is all entered for the day, you are left with a little summary like this…
You probably noticed that I came out in the negative (meaning I had too much) for all the categories (daily calorie intake, protein, carbs, and fat), which is because I underestimated my daily exercise when setting up the program. I should probably adjust that sometime soon to be more reflective of what I actually need/expend. 
And the protein? As you can see, today I got a whopping 82 grams of protein! I love being able to see all the interesting places the protein comes from. Obviously there was a good deal of protein in the veggie burger I ate at lunch, which is expected. But it goes to show that other, smaller sources of protein really add up. A little Greek yogurt, some black beans, a whole wheat tortilla, and peanut butter, of course! 
I want to make it clear that I do not use this site as a weight loss tool (though if you have weight you want to lose, you certainly could), but rather a way to check in a couple times a week to make sure I’m consuming enough fat and protein and eating a variety of foods.

So that’s that! Protein, food tracking and all. How do you guys stay on track? Do you have a food journal or an online system that you use?

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  • Reply Romanceinaglance April 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Love that adorable puppy! So sweet! I have heard of that app for the phone. My coworker has been using it to lose weight and I think it’s a great idea to see what all is going into your body! I may have to try it.

  • Reply beckiswholelife April 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for posting this, Madison! I have recently started tracking calories and I put together a spreadsheet which works but its still tough figuring out calories for every little thing I eat. I am going to this site to check it out right now.

  • Reply Marilyn April 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Oh my. Nutmeg’s eyes are telling me she doesn’t like her haircut so much. Is that true?

  • Reply natalie April 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    so glad to see you use My Fitness Pal, too! we’ve been using it, as well as my dad, and it’s fun to keep each other accountable. it’s also fun to see you sometimes go over, as well 🙂 we also have a Fit Bit to track daily, regular steps, etc., as well as more accurately track exercise. it’s a lot of work to keep up with… and we definitely let it slide on weekends, but I’m enjoying it so far!

  • Reply Christineroberts329 April 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    this is a cool tool! our concern is tracking our iron intake (for me and my daughter). While we eat a ton of beans, meat is also a good source of iron. Do you keep track of that? If so how?

    • Reply UrbanWife April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Under your ‘Food and Exercise Diary Settings’, you can have up to 5 categories and there is a comprehensive list of nutrients. Iron is on there. Seems pretty customizable. Good luck!

  • Reply Jennifer April 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Nutmeg looks like such a sweet pea!

    I use My Fitness Pal, too, and love that I can track the nutrients that are important to me. I’m a vegetarian too, so I was also interested in “proving” that I could get enough protein without meat. It also helps me make sure I’m eating a balanced diet.

    One of my online friends on the site actually changed his categories from Breakfast, Lunch, etc. to Protein, Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, etc. as he was interested in seeing the balance of those things on his page vs. by time of day he ate them. I thought that was interesting, and might do it that way myself. It allows you to change the headings of your categories to anything you want. It really is a great site (and they have a great mobile app too).

  • Reply Kristin April 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    I tried My Fitness Pal, but realized that the more time I spent tracking food, the more I became obsessed with monitoring what I ate. Plus, most of the exercises I do (an hour of Spin, an hour of Turbokick) were hard to track. I was just guesstimating at best. I didn’t want to focus all my energy into this little computer program that might not even be accurate. I’ve tracked WW points in the past and, honestly, I thought that was SO much easier (this was the old program, circa 2001). I think that MFP just wasn’t for me.

  • Reply Emilie April 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I use my fitness pal for EXACTLY this purpose-to look at my protein/carb/fat ratios and see if they are on track. It’s such a great tool and they have a really good app for the iphone too!

  • Reply UrbanWife April 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for introducing me to this tool – it seems pretty comprehensive. I’m curious, do the categories allow you to view more of a breakdown? For example, the “Fats” category…does that include the good fats vs. the bad ones? What about cholesterol, an often overlooked but important area? Thanks, Madison! 🙂

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      I’ve heard from a few commenters that there are ways to change what the site reports based on your specific needs, but I’m not sure it breaks it down as far as the type of fats. I could be wrong though!

      • Reply UrbanWife April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        Under the ‘Food and Exercise Diary Settings’ you can have up to 5 categories under Nutrients Tracked. For example, if I’m trying to keep tabs on my Cholesterol, it can be added as a category and so forth. 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Reply Michelle April 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I was an avid MFP user for while! I recently switched over to LoseIt, mostly because it’s a little more aestheticly pleasing. The reporting is much nicer, too. Unfortunately, their food database isn’t nearly as large. I find myself heading back to MFP to get things and recreate them in LoseIt. Like you, I don’t use it to lose weight. I just love seeing what I’m shoveling in my mouth and how much protein it has in it!

    Nutmeg makes me “awww” so much!

  • Reply Sara @my less serious life April 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    nutmeg is amazingly cute, by the way.

    love that you shared your method for tracking your daily intake. i dont check mine everyday, but find it helpful to check in every now and then. when i do i use sparkpeople.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 19, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      There is no way I could get myself to enter what I eat every single day, but it is nice to be able to check in now and again to make sure I’m on track.

  • Reply Sensual Appeal April 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I use the same except in form of an app. I usually use it for calories though.

    Your dog is adorable btw

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      I had no idea they had an app! I can’t wait to check it out. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  • Reply Brindi April 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve been using MyFitnessPal for years. Love it!!!!

  • Reply Katie H. April 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I meant to respond to this post last week! I wanted to share that I use a similar free online tracking system called SparkPeople. I love it, because I can use it online or as an app. I track calories, fat, carbs, and protein, although they give you the option of adding a number of other nutrients.

    I’ve been tracking my food for about five years now, mainly because I feel like it keeps me on track and accountable. Not only does it help me ensure I’m not eating too much, as a half-marathoner, I sometimes find when I track that I’m not eating enough and I need to find some healthy ways to add calories to my day.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:28 am

      I’ve used SparkPeople a handful of times to calculate the nutritional information in recipes i make, but I had no idea they did online food tracking. I need to check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Reply Kristina May 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    aw omygosh Nutmeg is too cute!! I have a cavalier puppy at home too 🙂 Are they not the sweetest dogs?? I use MyFintnessPal all the time too! Its how I calculate the nutrition on a lot of my recipes, so happy I found your blog, can’t wait to read more!!

  • Reply Getting Enough Protein « Between Your Ears June 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

    […] First of all, I would check out these blogposts by Madison of Espresso & Cream (here, here, and here) and Emily of Daily Garnish (here and here). They are both seasoned vegetarians who discuss the […]

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