So you want to take control of your body and eating habits and start tracking your macros? The first thing you’re going to want to do is to invest in a food scale and pick out a macro-tracking app. This is going to make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to keeping track of your daily macros.
The main point of a tracking app is just that, to track your daily macronutrient and micronutrient intake in order to really know what you’re putting into your body. These tracking apps also have different features within the app, some of them are necessary, a few make tracking a little more convenient, and some you may or may not want to use. All the apps out there seem to offer the basic features you really need, such as adding to a daily log the foods you've eaten throughout the day and providing a breakdown of the macro and micronutrients. Many of the apps include large food nutrition databases, some have barcode scanning features, and others may include progress, goals and challenge trackers.
Although it can be, tracking your macros everyday doesn't have to be a fully immersive lifestyle, which means it's up to you to find the balance that fits your life and goals. I suggest you take some time to check out a few of the options available and see what’s going to work best for you. For me, I’ve found that the MyFitnessPal app offers the features I need with a very user-friendly layout. As an added bonus, the features I use on a daily basis aren’t hidden behind a pay wall, so it’s completely free for me to track my macros!
MyFitnessPal has the most extensive and useful food tracking database out of the apps I’ve used, which makes logging food extremely easy. One of the best features in the app is its ability to scan food barcodes using your phone’s camera and pull information from its database and add it to your log. Some of the other features that I find helpful are the ability to create my own meals and recipes, change my macro ratios and total daily caloric intake, select different units of measure and serving sizes, and of course a great visual breakdown of my macro and micronutrient intake. While the MyFitnessPal app is relatively intuitive to use, I’ve put together a few videos to show you how I typically use the app and to help you begin your journey.
In order to use the MyFitnessPal app you’ll need to sign up with either an email address or your Facebook account. Once you’ve entered your login information the app will walk you through a few general questions to help get your initial profile set up. Enter the information the best you can; you’ll be able to update this information in the next step. When setting up your account you’re given the option to “Use my phone to track my steps”. I highly recommend NOT tracking your steps with MyFitnessPal since this will automatically add macros/Calories to your daily budget based on the number of steps you’ve taken, causing you to consume more Calories than needed. If you’ve received custom macros from the CoriFit Jumpstart or CoriFit Coaching or have calculated your own macros using the CoriFit Macro Calculator then your activity level is already included in your daily macronutrients and Calories. See next steps for more information.
The next step to getting started with tracking your macros is to set up your profile with a little more detail. From the Home screen select More and then My Profile. Here you can add a profile picture and update any of the personal information you entered when initially creating your account. Here you’ll want to make sure you select the units you want to use to log your foods. By selecting Goals, you can update even more of the information you initially entered such as your current and goal weight as well as your activity level. The most important part of this step is to set your Calories & Macros. If you don’t already know your macros you can get custom macros calculated by joining the CoriFit Jumpstart or CoriFit Coaching or calculate your own daily macros by using the free CoriFit Macro Calculator. The free version of MyFitnessPal is only going to allow you to change your macronutrient levels in increments of 5%. If you want to change your ratios with more fidelity you can upgrade for $9.99/month or $49.99 for an entire year, but I’ve found with a little mental math I can get by just fine without paying anything. We’ll go over this the FREQUENT FOODS step. Finally, if you want to set more tracking levels, such as saturated fats, fiber, and micronutrients, click on Additional Nutrient Goals to set your desired levels.
Adding foods to your daily log is the most basic function you need to be able to perform when using MyFitnessPal. It’s as easy as selecting Diary, then under the meal you want to log food select + Add Food. At the top of this screen you can type in the food that you’re looking for and select Search. If you don’t see the food your looking, try being more or less descriptive based on what results show up. Several items may pop up based on your search, so how do you know which one to choose? Look for a Verified option which has a small green checkmark icon next to the food name. This signifies that the nutrients in the entry have been verified to be accurate. If a Verified option isn’t available, I suggest you find an option that appears to be accurate and double check that the nutritional information matches that of the food you’re trying to log.
When logging food I recommend setting the Serving Size to 1 gram and changing the Number of Servings to match to total amount of food you ate. Since your food scale is going to output your food weight in grams, this will prevent the need to do lots of math when logging food. Go ahead and try it a few different ways and you’ll see what I mean! The one exception to this recommendation is when it comes to logging meats, which I typically use units of ounces.
Let’s say you want to eat a few strawberries as a snack. First you’ll want to place your bowl onto your scale and zero out the weight of the bowl. This will make it so that your food scale shows you only the weight of the strawberries you plan to eat. Put the strawberries you plan to eat in the bowl and the food scale will show you how much it weighs. Log the food in MyFitnessPal by first selecting Diary then + Add Food under Snacks. Type “Raw strawberries USDA” in the Search field and find a verified option with the small green checkmark icon next to the food name. Next, change your Serving Size to 1 gram and then change the Number of Servings to match your food scale measurement.
I’ve found that this way of tracking is very easy to do with just about any food. For example, you may want to eat a few M&M’s one day. If you set the Serving Size to 1 Bag, and only eat 8 m&m’s, then you have to figure out what portion of the bag you ate in order to set your Number of Servings, whereas if you set the Serving Size to 1 M&M, you can simply change the Number of Servings to 8 and you’re done logging your snack.
Logging food doesn’t have to be a long process. You can quickly add foods by selecting + from any of the main screens, followed by selecting Food and the meal you want to log food under. From here you can search for a food, scan a bar code, or log Recent, Frequent, My Foods, Meals, or Recipes.
If your phone uses a 3D touch screen you can also quickly log food by pressing on the main MyFitnessPal app button with more pressure than normal. This will bring up a menu with the option to Log Food, from which you can select the meal you want to log food under using the instructions outlined in the following steps.
The ability to scan food barcodes using your phone’s camera is one of the most useful features MyFitnessPal offers. Conveniently, a wide variety of brand name foods are already in the MyFitnessPal database, such as Skippy peanut butter, Quest Bars, Quaker oats, etc.
To use the scanning tool, navigate to the Diary screen, then choose the meal you want to log food under, and press the scan icon in the top right of the screen. Once selected, your phone will use your camera to search for a barcode. Fit the barcode from the food you want to log in the box shown on your camera and viola, your food information pops up. All that’s left for you to do is select your Serving Size and the Number of Servings you ate and you’re done logging that item. Pay close attention to the serving size, many products including: cookies, soft drinks, juices, chips, crackers, candy bars, etc. contain 2 servings or more per package, which could easily be mistaken for a single serving size.
If your phone uses a 3D touch screen you can also quickly scan food barcodes by pressing on the main MyFitnessPal app button with more pressure that normal. This will bring up a menu with the option to Scan Barcode, from which you can follow the previous steps to scanning food.
Let’s say that I’ve ordered some CoriFit Bison Sweet Potato Tacos from Fit Choice Foods, and I want to log the meal in MyFitnessPal. I don’t know exactly what ingredients were used, but conveniently they’ve labeled the total Calories and macros for me. In order to log the meal and save it for the next time I order it, I simply need to go to the Diary page and then select My Foods in the top center of the screen. Create a New Food and fill out the Brand Name, Description, Serving Size and Servings per container. All that’s left to do is input the nutritional information associated with the meal and hit the check mark in the top right of the screen.
If you eat the same meal often, which has more than a few ingredients, creating recipes within MyFitnessPal is a great way to easily add groups of food or ingredients so that you can log them all at once in the future. Navigate to the Diary screen and select the meal you’d like to log food under. Next, in the top right of the screen click on Recipes, then Create a New Recipe and finally Enter Ingredients Manually. You’ll then be prompted to name your recipe and set a serving size. Now you need to add your ingredients by either searching for a food or scanning it, as well as the Serving Size and Number of Servings for each ingredient. Once you’ve added all your ingredients, Save the recipe and now you’re ready to log the food immediately or at any time in the future. If you decide to tweak your recipe in the future you can always go back and edit the recipe too.
If you’re like me and have a few staple foods you eat regularly, then logging foods using the frequent foods tool can be very helpful. From the Diary page, navigate to the meal you’d like to log food under and select Frequent. This will bring up a list of your most frequently logged foods, from which you can select one or multiple foods to log. Just make sure that you adjust the Number of Servings to match the meal you’ve eaten. After you’ve logged food (using any of the methods in this post), you can see how many macros you have left for the day by scrolling to the bottom of the Diary screen and selecting Nutrition. This page will give you a breakdown of all your logged nutrients along side your daily nutrient goals and show you how many macros you have left for the day. Remember, if you’re using the free version of MyFitnessPal, you can only adjust your macros ratios to plus or minus 5%. So if you want to track more accurately than that you’ll either need to upgrade or keep a mental note of your goal macros and compare your daily totals to those numbers.
I’m a huge believer in progress pictures! While I don’t use the MyFitnessPal app to compare my personal progress pictures it’s a very simple tool to use, and in the spirit of trying to get people to take more progress pictures I though I would highlight the app’s feature. From any of the main screens, select the + button in the bottom center of the screen, followed by selecting Weight. There’s no need to accurately track your weight here if you’re not interested, but simply choose the Date and Progress Photo you want to add to your profile. Once you’ve added two photos you can begin viewing side-by-side photo comparisons by first selecting Progress, then one of your photo entries, and finally the single or dual photo selector. To change the photos in the comparison viewer, tap the photo you wish to change. This will then allow you to scroll through your uploaded photos at the bottom of the screen and select the one you want to use as a comparison. If you don’t see your photos in the progress page, make sure that your measurement in the top left of the screen is set to Weight. You’ll then be given the option to save you progress photo to your phone or share it on your social media. That’s all it takes to create a simple side-by-side progress picture comparison.
As with many of the features in MyFitnessPal, there’s multiple ways to perform the same task, but the methods shown above are what I’ve found to be easiest. There’s so much more to the app, so take some time to figure out how YOU are going to track. I hope this helps you begin your Flexible Dieting journey!
With Love and Finding Balance,
- Cori Baker
CoriFit, LLC is in no way affiliated with Under Armour, Inc. or MyFitnessPal.