This post is going to explain how you can use a diet tracking app, like Lifesum, to educate yourself about nutrition and also how you can then implement this information to lead a better and healthier life.
Lifesum has databases with thousands of different foods and their specific nutritional information. This is something we can (and should) take advantage of (of course, given that the nutritional info is correct for your chosen food).
Maybe you are a long time diet tracker or maybe new to the whole process of taking some extra seconds to punch in the food you have just eaten. Whichever category you fall into you might not have deliberately noticed what the food you track actually contains in terms of nutritional content.
My advice is therefore to try to be aware of the macronutrient, micronutrient, and fiber content of the foods you eat and log into Lifesum. Some of you might already have a good knowledge of many foods and some don’t.
By just taking some time to review your favourite food and the food you most commonly eat you can use this new information to your advantage.
The goal is to get a feeling for how many calories, fiber, micronutrients, and macronutrients any given food contains.
Now you might ask, “why should I do this when Lifesum adds everything for me and tells me how much I should eat?” – Well, let me explain by using four examples.
Example 1: If you want to lose weight you want to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you eat less energy than you expend. We have mainly three different macronutrients, protein, fat, and carbohydrate (however, alcohol also provides energy). When dieting it has been shown that higher amounts of protein is beneficial for fat loss, muscle maintenance (Longland et al., 2016; Westerterp-Plantenga et al., 2012) and also increase fullness (Li et al., 2016). So, by educating yourself and just being aware of the macronutrient content of your foods you can now switch from foods lower in protein to foods higher in protein, e.g. switching crème fraiche for quark, see example below in figure 1. Also notice the large difference in energy density (calories per gram).
Figure 1. Comparison of 100 g crème fraiche (350 Cal/100g, to the left) and 100 g of quark (70 Cal/100g, to the right)
Example 2: By knowing the calorie density (Cal per gram) you can choose less calorie dense foods in order to increase satiety (Rogers and Brunstrom, 2016), e.g. switch from rice to potatoes. You get the same macronutrient breakdown but with a vastly different calorie density (348 Cal/100g in uncooked rice vs 72 Cal/100 g in uncooked potatoes). This means that you can eat a larger volume of food while still eating the same amount of energy. Who doesn’t like to be more satiated when on a diet?
Figure 2a. Comparison of 100 g of uncooked rice (348 Cal/100g, to the left) and 100 g of uncooked potatoes (72 Cal/100g, to the right). Figure 2b. Comparison of 100 g of uncooked rice (350 Cal) vs 100 g potatoes (left). Comparison of eucaloric amount of uncooked rice (100 g, 350 Cal) and potatoes (460 g, 350 Cal) (right). Note, both are uncooked, however, rice will absorb water and increase in volume when cooked while potatoes don´t change noticably when cooked.
Example 3: By knowing the rough macronutrient and calorie content of different foods you then know which foods you can switch out for each other while still getting roughly the same amount of macronutrients and calories (e.g. pasta and noodles). This lets you have a more varied diet while still reaching your goals and it can be a good way to improve diet adherence.
Figure 3. Comparison of 100 g of uncooked pasta (360 Cal/100g, to the left) and 100 g uncooked noodles (380 Cal/100g, to the right).
After some time of tracking and weighing your food you will get very good at estimating the nutritional content of different foods and you will also know roughly how much any given food weighs. This is fantastic knowledge to have when trying to lose weight (or gain/maintain weight) and become healthier.
Example 4: Have you ever said no to going out for a dinner with family and friends because of your diet or worried about what you can eat when going out? Well, no more! Because when you have the experience of tracking food you can estimate the macronutrient and Cal content of the meal and take that into account when planning the rest of the diet that day (e.g. you might have eaten a lot of fat during lunch and can then choose to eat foods with less fat the rest of the day to compensate and still hit your macronutrient/Cal target). This let´s you stick to your diet while still enjoying social events and leads to more freedom, pleasure, and you will still be progressing towards your goal.
This is not to say that you have to track or be aware of everything you eat. It´s not meant to cause you more stress or cause you to become food focused. It´s just meant to be a tool in a toolbox that you can utilize if you’d like. It´s absolutely okay to just eat whatever you want and not think about what every little bite contains. I’m merely trying to give you advice on how you can improve your diet and nutrition knowledge by some easy actions that in turn, if used correctly, can improve quality of life.
By getting the experience and education on the rough calorie and macronutrient content of certain foods you can more easily mitigate and puzzle together a diet that fits your calorie and macronutrient goals and preferences to allow for weight loss or whatever goal you might have.
Trying to lose weight doesn’t have to be boring or difficult. There are many small and simple tricks to utilize on a fat loss diet to make it more fun and sustainable, learning to estimate the weight, fiber, macronutrient and energy content of your favourite foods are a couple.
To summarize, educating yourself with the help of a diet tracking app can help you towards fat loss, a more varied, fun and sustainable diet.
 Foods that we must consume in large amounts and that provides energy, e.g. protein, carbohydrate, and fat
 Nutrients required in small quantities, e.g. different vitamins like vitamin B12 and minerals like iron
Fredrik Wernstål is a final year medical student with a passion for nutrition, training, performance, and health. His goal is to help people reach a healthier and happier life by providing research-based advice.
Li, J., Armstrong, C.L.H., Campbell, W.W., 2016. Effects of Dietary Protein Source and Quantity during Weight Loss on Appetite, Energy Expenditure, and Cardio-Metabolic Responses. Nutrients 8, 63. doi:10.3390/nu8020063
Longland, T.M., Oikawa, S.Y., Mitchell, C.J., Devries, M.C., Phillips, S.M., 2016. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 103, 738–746. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.119339
Rogers, P.J., Brunstrom, J.M., 2016. Appetite and energy balancing. Physiol. Behav. 164, 465–471. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.03.038
Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Lemmens, S.G., Westerterp, K.R., 2012. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br. J. Nutr. 108 Suppl 2, S105-112. doi:10.1017/S0007114512002589
Awesome that you use complete references! Sooo rare these days!
Be a healthier you!Sign up for Lifesum