Situation A: Food with a nutrition label
This is about as simple as it gets. First get yourself a solid nutrition tracking app.
MyFitnessPal is pretty popular, and great to get started with. Next either count the macros from your food individually, or just search it out from the food database and make sure it matches up with what’s actually on the label you’re looking at.
Now there’s a whole bunch of distracting stuff on most nutrition labels, most of which have little to no relevance to your goals. So, the stuff you should pay attention to are: Calories, Protein, Fats, Carbs.
AND THERE ARE SOME COMMON PITFALLS YOU MIGHT COME ACROSS SO HERE’S A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THEM:
– Make sure to distinguish between the ‘per serving’ nutrition info and the actual nutrition info for the whole package. it’s not too difficult to mistake the ‘per serving’ macros for the macros in the whole packet (of whatever it is you’re eating) initially, only to look back the next day to see that there were actually 2 servings per package.
– Saturated fats: These get a lot of flack from the mainstream media but for most purposes they are just the same as any other fat, and while they might not be awesome for you, they are just fine in normal amounts, and as long as you’re staying within your fat macro prescription for the day, you’re in the clear.
– An exception to this rule is if you are currently diagnosed, or are at high-risk of suffering from heart or vascular disease of any kind, in which case you should make an active effort to limit your intake of saturated fats.
– Sugars: Count these as you would any other carb, because that’s all they are. There’s nothing evil about them. Just practice a little moderation and make sure you get in your fruits and veggies and you’ll be alright.
– An exception to this rule would be if you are currently diagnosed with or are at high risk of being diagnosed with diabetes, in which case you should make an active effort to minimise your sugar consumption as much as possible.
– Sodium: This one gets a bad rap because of it’s ties to high blood pressure and fluctuations in weight. Well, with regards to the latter, as long as your intake is relatively consistent over time, it won’t have any significant effects in your body’s water balance.
– However, if you suffer from hypertension, then it is best to actively minimise your sodium consumption.
AND PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING ELSE ON THERE DOESN’T EVEN DESERVE A SECOND GLANCE SO LETS MOVE ON….
Situation B: “Eyeballing”
This is a skill that comes only with experience, but once you’ve got it down, you will have officially reached Macro Counting Jedi Master status. You’ll not even need a food database for reference values, and you’ll often be able to predict the nutrition values of foods to a higher degree of accuracy than the nutrition labels themselves.
After a little while of trying to consistently track your nutritional intake you will soon come to the realisation that not everything you eat in your day-to-day has a nutrition label to refer to, and a good number of restaurants still don’t publicly list the nutritional info of their offerings.
And here’s where you will inevitably begin ‘eyeballing’ what you eat. And at first you might not be super accurate. You might f#ck up a little. But always remember… being a little bit off your consistent tracking is infinitely better than not tracking at all, and the longer you keep at it the better you’ll get.
THE AVERAGE ENCOUNTER MIGHT GO A LITTLE SOMETHING LIKE…
“ Alright, questionable looking grilled chicken sandwich (from your local bar that doesn’t have listed nutrition info…bastards);
Probably around 40 grams of carbs in that bun,
the chicken fillet looks a little on a small side… think I’ll go with round 25 on the protein, and a couple of grams of fat for the oil they probably cooked it in…
and another 10 grams of fat for all that mayo they’ve put on there.
Yea that sounds about right”
Now you proceed to congratulate yourself for your mad crisis aversion skills and proceed with your day.
Granted, a grilled chicken sandwich is definitely on the easier side of things to ‘guesstimate’ the macros for. but a nice little trick when eating out is even though the restaurant (or buffet at a friends wedding, snacks at your nephews birthday party, etc. etc.) you’re at doesn’t list it’s nutrition info, you can just search MyFitnessPals database for a similar product from a large chain and use that to get a rough idea to base your guess on.