Ok, so first let’s understand what the big deal is about weighing your food raw. Because nobody needs this macro-counting thing to be any HARDER than it already is.
Here’s the gist: it’s just all about LOGGING THE ACCURATE AMOUNT OF FOOD. That is kind of the key to macros after all– finally truly knowing and taking control of exactly what and how much we are putting in our bodies. Weighing meat and veggies before they’re cooked is just the easiest way to be accurate.
When I first started tracking and would hear people recommend weighing things raw… it just made zero sense to me. (Kind of like when recipes say add salt and pepper “to taste” to your meatballs or something… as if I can taste the raw meat to know if I’ve got the right amount in there. Although I can’t promise I won’t do the same thing. Ha.)
Anyway, same idea. At first I thought it was totally unrealistic. People don’t serve raw meat, what if I’m at a friend’s house? And I’m not always making a recipe fresh, what if I’m using leftover grilled chicken or taco meat? And I’m certainly not always cooking just my own portion where I can weigh it before and plan it all out. And what if I change my mind and want more or less!? So much commitment. It all sounded totally unrealistic and unsustainable.
Fast forward a year and I’ll be honest, it’s still not totally second nature, and my logging isn’t always perfect. But for the most part I’ve got it down if I want to be precise and I’ve got shortcuts if I want to estimate. So here’s what I’ve learned:
When you buy a product, the nutrition facts listed pertain to that product in THAT state. So for instance, I buy the frozen chicken tenderloins from Costco which is 1 fat and 23 protein for a 4 oz (112 gram) portion. FROZEN that is. When I cook it, water will be lost and the meat will shrink and weigh somewhere around 30% less from my experience. But I’m still getting all the macros/nutrients/calories of the original weight, since all we lost was water. So I just need to make sure I log the higher amount. If I logged 90 grams of “Kirkland chicken tenderloins” because that’s what I put on my plate, I’d be under-logging and it could be slowing my progress and spending macros on something that’s not even worth the cheat!
SO – if I were cooking a quick meal for myself, I can weigh out and cook that 112 gram portion of raw chicken and call it good. Don’t need to weigh it after…. just log the full 112 grams of the chicken you scanned in. (I always use the barcode feature when I can!) It will shrink and weigh less now, but it doesn’t matter since you know you’re eating the whole portion.
But it’s not always that simple because we’re not always just cooking for one. This is where the recipe feature in My Fitness Pal is super helpful, even if you aren’t adding other ingredients that you have to track. Here is how you add a recipe in MFP to get an accurate logging AND be able to change your portion on a whim!:
- Go to “more” in the bottom right of your screen
- Then “meals, recipes, and food”
- “Create a recipe” down at the bottom
- “Enter ingredients manually”
- Now title your food or recipe, for instance, “My grilled chicken tenderloins”
- Where it says servings… you’re gonna come back to that, so for now, put a 1 as a place holder– (or, if you KNOW you’re gonna divide this meal into perfect 8ths etc, you can put that it makes 8 servings. This is not my preferred method, especially with casseroles or brownies etc.. since you might not cut each piece equally and that can make a way bigger difference than you think.)
- Now where you add your ingredients, you can list them there OR push the arrow that takes you to the next screen and you can add ingredients with the barcode. This is what I do for best accuracy.
- Scan in your chicken as your one ingredient. If you’re going to grill 800 grams of raw chicken… that is your ingredient. “800 g Kirkland chicken tenderloins”
- (Or add your whole list for other recipes! Check everything thoroughly, there are some major inaccurate foods in there.. I once had cilantro ring in at like 400 calories)
- Marinate chicken in some easy, macro-less spices and vinegar etc.. or log anything significant as part of your recipe. If you do that you can weigh the marinade before and after and see what percentage was actually absorbed by the chicken. Or take your best guess and log a little olive oil etc. If it’s vinegar, lemon juice, spices… I don’t bother logging any of it. If it’s brown sugar or oil I would. You get it. But make it realistic for yourself so you don’t hate everyone at dinner time.
- Now grill your chicken
- When it’s all done, weigh the whole huge plate of cooked chicken making sure to zero out the scale with a dish on it before you put the chicken in the dish so you’re ONLY weighing the chicken.
- That new weight, let’s say it’s now 640 grams of chicken. THAT is what you put in the number of “servings”.
- Save your recipe
- Now go back to your diary and you can log for instance: 120 “servings” of “my grilled chicken tenderloins” from your recipes…. since you’ve assigned every gram to be a serving. This allows you to change your plans and have more or less and just weigh exactly what you have.
- If used for all your recipes, it also allows you to shave off a little bite of brownie and weigh and log that!*
- I don’t do this every time I grill chicken… now I trust that the shrinkage is about the same and I just log my grilled chicken from the first recipe every time. It won’t matter if you cook more or less chicken (or even double a batch of cookies etc.. ) because the proportions should be the same. You WON’T be able to do that if you just split your first recipe in 8ths for instance and then ended up starting with more raw chicken the next time etc. Another reason I don’t prefer that method. I’m always grateful when I take the time to add the recipe this way.
* One more helpful tip– weigh all of your most commonly used pots and dishes RIGHT NOW and keep a note in your kitchen or in your phone. Now when you pull a pan of brownies out of the oven and go to weigh it, you’ll know the weight of the pan to subtract so you can get the weight of JUST the brownies. I even do this with Cinnamon rolls. You know there’s always one that’s twice as big as the others…. if I can pretend not to know, I’ll for sure eat that one! Just me?
If that’s all too much to worry about because you’re still just trying to wrap your head around having to use a scale and open your phone every time you want to eat, then DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. Come back and read this again later when you’re ready. THAT’S WHAT I DID. I knew that I was supposed to factor in the shrinkage, and did sometimes…. but totally ignored it for the first 8 months of tracking when it came to chicken (which we ate multiple times a week). I was just kind of like… it’s chicken. Eh. And I was totally happy with my success. If I was underestimating a bunch of 80/20 hamburger meat or ribs that might have caused more problems– but who’s got the fat for that anyway! So don’t stress too much if this is overwhelming.
OR — if you just want to trust me, USE MY SHORTCUT for chicken at least: my recipe started with 967 grams of chicken tenderloins and after cooked, weighed 766. I’ve found that percentage of shrinkage to be consistent for our grilled chicken. So 967/766=1.26. Just log 1.26 times whatever you put on your plate. (i.e If you weigh out 100 grams of chicken, log 126 grams or 1.26 times 100.) Got it? Got it.
WHAT ABOUT COOKED VEGGIES
These can almost be more dangerous because they can shrink by more than half. This Delicata Squash was less extreme but shrunk by almost half.
So if you put 100 grams of roasted butternut squash on your plate, (I’ve found that one to shrink by a lot!) you could EASILY be eating 250 grams of butternut squash which is the difference of like 18 carbs. That’s a serving of Dreyers. And maybe it’s worth it to you! But better to know and be able to choose where those carbs go right? Here are some options:
- You can just log “roasted butternut squash g” and hope to find an accurate roasted one in grams to log. It’s just not as trustworthy since you’re probably going off of someone else’s calculations. Who would do that? ha.
- Enter in a recipe just like the chicken.
- If you don’t want to enter in a recipe, because it’s a pain, you can always weigh the whole pan of raw veggies, then weigh after it’s cooked and figure what it shrunk by. FOR EXAMPLE: I cooked 477 grams of this Delicata Squash, and when it came out it only weighed 270 grams. 477/270=1.76, so if I weigh 65 grams of roasted squash on my plate, I’ll log 65×1.76=115 grams of RAW Squash.
- Of course you can keep it simple and weigh the raw squash, then roughly take 1/4 of the pan and log 1/4 of the original weight. I’m all for eyeballing in times like that. I just don’t always want 1/4th. And I want to be able to track the leftovers in tomorrow’s salad.
When I can’t do the measurements or I’m in a hurry, as a general rule of thumb I’ll log about twice as much as I take of veggies when they’ve been cooked. So if I add 75 grams of grilled zucchini to my plate, I’ll log 150 grams of raw zucchini. I know I’m being so redundant but if you’ve made it this far, I want you to leave a pro!
Or now are you ready to quit counting macros? Or I just convinced you to never start? Hope not. It’s worth it! Seriously– you get to take the reigns, lean out, feel totally in control of hitting new goals, while still eating all the different foods… and becoming a math genius like you never thought possible. WIN.