How Do You Log Food Accurately?

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Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: July 22, 2022

Do you want to get maximum results from your diet? If so, food logging is undoubtedly the best way to go!

There’s a huge variety of diets that can be highly effective in helping you hit your specific fitness goals. However, no rules-based diet (whether it’s Paleo, Atkins, or even Whole30) may come close to matching the precision and exactness of flexible dieting with a food journal.

That said, there’s one big concern when it comes to the food logging approach – Accuracy. Folks who have an accurate food log almost always achieve consistent and targeted results. On the other hand, those who face challenges with their food logs often get off track.

So, for some of these peeps who have a hard time with food logging, the problem often lies with personality compatibility.

Simply put, the thought of logging their food tends to drive some people crazy because they view it as too fussy and would rather not do any calorie counting.

For these types, we often switch strategies and change to either a rules-based diet or meal plans.

But the vast majority of people who have difficulties with logging their food don’t actually struggle for this reason. Usually, they have major concerns with having an accurate sense of their macronutrient and calorie intake because they’re simply not that good at logging.

Fortunately, this article can be super helpful since it covers everything to do with keeping and ensuring an accurate food log.

How to Keep an Accurate Food Log

Are you struggling to log your food accurately? Here are useful tips to guide you:

  • Watch Your Portion Size

Avoid relying on the default portion size set on the nutrition label. And if you’re new to food logging, you shouldn’t also rely on your ability to “eyeball” the amount you eat.

RELATED: How to Start a Journal for Weight Loss

For instance, the difference between one tablespoon and one teaspoon of cooking oil is approximately 80 calories.

To have more accurate portion sizes, it would be prudent to use measuring spoons and cups and invest in a food scale.

  • Always Keep Your Phone Diary on Hand

Remember, the best time to log your food is instantly after you eat. Since your memory is fresh, you’ll more accurately select the right portion size.

Do you prefer to log your food at the day’s end?

Then, jot down a physical note of how much and what you ate. Next, you should take a pic of your meal and then log it later.

  • Keep Setting Phone Reminders

Although the ideal time to log your food is soon after a meal, there’s no denying that life can get a little busy. Some times of the day might be more conducive to your logging requirements.

If so, create reminders to update your food log at these times.

For instance, you can set a reminder to update your food diary during the hour-long train that’s part of your routine commute.

  • Remember the Trimmings

The term “trimmings” describes meals that you don’t make yourself. Pre-made foods —sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads — are often highly variable in portion size and ingredients.

To have more accurate picks, don’t forget the extra trimmings going into your food – avocado, mayo, cheese, bacon, etc., because they can add up fast.

The Significance of Food Tracking

using a food tracking app to log daily food

According to research, one of the primary reasons tracking is helpful is folks aren’t great at estimating or remembering how much and what they’ve eaten.

Without recording your food consumption, you can easily overeat, and usually takes longer to achieve your goals.

What’s more, studies have proven that keeping a food journal is a highly effective weight-loss strategy.

Whether you count calories and/or macros, tracking your food assists you to learn more about how you eat.

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It ultimately makes you more consistent when it comes to recognizing portion sizes. It’s also worth mentioning that macro and calorie counts aren’t always entirely accurate on food labels.

The USDA offers its guidance to the food industry by setting a plus or minus buffer of 20%. In other words, it’s allowed for calorie counts to be either over- or underestimated by 20%.

More importantly, tracking consistently has been proven to help you hit your fitness goals. It generally assists you to be more mindful of how much and what you’re eating and how it impacts your body.

The more frequently you log your food, the better able you’ll be to develop healthy habits to boost your health long term.

How to Make Your Food Tracking Seamless and Easy

a woman writes down what she's eating for lunch in her food diary

So, now that you already know the basics and importance of food tracking, there are a few ways you can make it feel like second nature. You don’t need much effort for this. Here’s how:

  • Save Frequently Eaten Meals

Avoid tracking fatigue or frustration by saving your go-to meals through the Meals feature. Instead of logging each meal item individually, you could log them all at once.

  • Log Right Away

As previously stated, this is crucial. Ensure that you log your food right after your meal (or even before if you’d like to get a grasp of how it will affect your macro goal or daily calorie).

The longer you wait to record, the easier it will be to forget whatever you consumed.

  • Discover New Recipes

If you’re using an app like MyFitnessPal to log your food, you could utilize their vast recipe database to explore meal and snack ideas that match your preferences.

The good news with MyFitnessPal, you could also import your favorite recipes from other sources. You can find this information on the food database page under the Recipes tab.

  • Use a Food Scale

There’s no denying that measuring your food with a food scale assists you to get a sense of portion sizes. It also means when you want to eyeball something, you’ll have an improved sense of the actual amount you’re consuming.

  • Track Hydration

Since thirst can be confused with hunger, it’s crucial to stay hydrated and curb cravings that might otherwise pop up.

Ensure that you log the water you consume and other beverages such as tea, coffee, or juice. You may realize you drink more sugary beverages than you intended, so this can be a useful way to reduce and save calories.

  • Don’t Worry About Takeout & Eating Out

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? Be confident about journaling restaurant food accurately.

  • Look For Trends

Once you’ve been tracking for a minimum of two weeks, it would help to go back and review your data. Perhaps you might find some trends?

You may find out that you feel fuller/ satisfied whenever you eat protein-rich foods earlier in the day.

Maybe you tend to feel fatigued when you haven’t consumed enough water? You could also realize that your weight increases the day after drinking too much alcohol but then reduces again.

Fortunately, your food log can help you have a better track of how you’re feeling day-to-day for sustainable monitoring of your progress.

If you’d prefer having a tool that can help with these tracking tips we’ve outlined above, MyFitnessPal’s food tracking tool is a great option. 


One thing is clear: keeping a food log works. By following the above practices, you’ll improve the accuracy of your journals and increase the chances that you will be successful in your weight loss journey.

Whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose fat, improve performance, or ultimately improve your health, you should always keep an accurate food log of everything you eat and drink.

It generally offers valuable insight into your eating habits, so you could see trends and make the required adjustments.