Which Food Tracking Method Works Best?

Learn about the different food-tracking methods and their pros and cons so you can make an informed decision when choosing the one for you!

Which Food Tracking Method Works Best?
María Rubio María Rubio
6 min read

When it comes to reaching your goals, particularly those related to weight loss, what you eat and how much is just as important as what you do at the gym. You can have the best workout routine imaginable, but if you don’t support your fitness efforts with a nutritious meal plan, then achieving your goals will be a difficult task.

The tricky part of having a meal plan comes when you need to figure out how to track what you eat in a way that works for you and your goals. You can track your macros and calories, measure your portion sizes, or go on a completely different route and try intuitive eating… but which one is better for you?

In this article, we’ll break down the best ways to track food along with their pros and cons to help you decide which method you should stick to when trying to achieve your goals, so keep reading!

Counting calories and macros

This method involves tracking every single food that you eat, either on a physical food journal, your notes app, or a fitness app with a built-in food tracker and journal feature such as the Fit With Iulia app to make things easier!

That said, calories and macros aren’t always paired together when it comes to tracking. You can track your total calories without tracking your macros, but not the other way around, since calories are automatically included with macros. Some people only track their calories, but you can get more accurate results in your journey if you track both.

Pros of counting calories and macros

  • It’s the most accurate way of tracking

Unsurprisingly, such a detailed method of tracking is considered the most accurate one when it comes to knowing how much you’re actually eating. Of course, no method is 100% accurate, but weighing and measuring all the foods that you eat is the closest you can get to precise food tracking.

  • Keeps you accountable throughout your journey

Calorie and macro counting is a very hands-on method that involves inputting all the data into a food diary yourself at the end of each day or even after every single meal. This helps you stay accountable by serving as a constant reminder of your healthy eating journey, allowing you to see exactly what you’re putting in your body every day.

  • Allows you to easily make changes as you go

Because of how transparent and detailed calorie and macro counting is, it helps you be aware of any eating habits and patterns you might have. When you start tracking you may discover that you’re eating a lot more or less than you should, or maybe something in your diet is throwing things off balance, so you can make adjustments accordingly.

Cons of counting calories and macros

  • It can be overwhelming

This is a method that involves logging every single food that you eat and keeping a close eye on your meals, so it can feel very overwhelming and time-consuming at first, particularly to beginners. This might cause a lot of people to give up this method after just a few days or weeks before seeing any results.

  • It’s hard to switch to a different tracking method

Because of how intensive this method is, it can be difficult to transition to a different one or to give up food tracking completely. You might feel like other methods aren’t precise enough or that you need to keep counting calories and macros to succeed, which can cause you to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

  • May interfere with your internal cues

When you’re paying so much attention to the number of calories and macros you’re eating, you might forget to listen to your body’s internal cues. Feelings such as hunger, satiety, or lack of energy often get overlooked in favor of keeping the right calorie and macro count.

Measuring portion sizes

This method also involves measuring your food but in a less intensive way than with calories and macros. With portion sizes, you can either use a food scale, a sectioned plate, or even just your hand! This will give you a rough estimate of how much you’re eating to help you stay accountable.

Pros of measuring portion sizes

  • It’s a more relaxed tracking method

Compared to the previous method, portioning your food can be a simpler approach to food tracking, especially if it’s your first time doing it. It’s easier to learn and stick to, which keeps you away from obsessing over what goes exactly on your plate. Simply section your plate with the right food groups and you’re set!

  • It doesn’t heavily rely on numbers or technology

Because you’re not measuring by exact numbers and instead by portion sizes, you’re able to eat more freely without worrying too much about calories. Additionally, you don’t need to be logging everything on a food-tracking app or spend time calculating how much of each macro you have to eat by the end of the day.

Cons of measuring portion sizes

  • It’s less accurate than counting calories and macros

Naturally, because it’s not a method that tracks macros or even calories, it’s going to give you less accurate results in your food-tracking journey. For those with stricter fitness goals, tracking by serving sizes might not give you the precise results you’re looking for.

  • There is more room for error

Because you don’t know exactly how much of each macro or how many total calories are in each meal, it’s easier to slip up and accidentally use bigger or smaller portions than you think you’re using, as well as go back for seconds if you think a portion wasn’t big enough.

  • Requires smart food choices

With food portioning, you eyeball how much you eat, which means that you also eyeball how many macros and calories you’re including in each meal. You need to make an effort to make smarter food choices if you’re not going to be tracking calories and macros to ensure you’re not undereating or overeating.

Practicing intuitive eating

Intuitive eating, also known as mindful eating, is the most relaxed and natural of the food-tracking methods. It relies on closely following your body’s hunger and satiety cues, meaning that instead of measuring foods you’re actually measuring how you feel at any given moment and acting accordingly.

Pros of practicing intuitive eating

  • Makes the eating experience more enjoyable

Listening to your body and enjoying what you’re eating instead of worrying about numbers can make the eating experience a lot better, especially if you’ve struggled with an unhealthy eating relationship in the past.

  • Can be combined with other tracking methods

Because intuitive eating relies on your body’s internal cues and nothing else, you can pair it with other tracking methods without issue. Simply work around your hunger windows and eat a correctly portioned or measured meal at the right times so you can enjoy your meals while still keeping precise tracking.

Cons of practicing intuitive eating

  • It’s the less accurate tracking method

Intuitive eating doesn’t involve measuring in any shape or form, meaning that you’re more likely to undereat or overeat if you’re not careful. Since it’s not a reliable food-tracking method, it’s often recommended to pair it with another method and then transition to just intuitive eating when you’ve reached your fitness goals.

  • Can make you feel like you have no control over your diet

Since you’re fully relying on your body’s internal cues and not counting, measuring, or being proactive in any way about your tracking, it can feel like you have little to no control over your diet, which can make you doubt your food choices and patterns and even discourage you from your goals.

  • It might take a while to learn and get used to

Whether you’re someone who carefully tracks everything they eat or someone who eats whatever they find mindlessly, intuitive eating can take a lot of time to learn. Listening to your body and acting accordingly when you’re not used to can be harder than it sounds since you’re relearning natural cues that you’ve been suppressing.

Choose the right food-tracking method for you

Make sure to consider both the pros and cons of each method before choosing the one for you to make sure that it fits your lifestyle and that it moves you forward in your healthy eating journey. And if you start tracking and find that your chosen method isn’t the best for you, don’t give up, simply switch to another method and keep going!

If you think that counting calories and macros is the best way to reach your goals, make sure to give the Fit With Iulia app a try to make your tracking easier!

The Kitchen feature works as a food journal, allowing you to log every meal that you eat as well as search from our expansive food database and even filter your results by macro, level of healthiness, if they’re vegan or vegetarian, and if they’re lactose or gluten-free. Simply download the Fit With Iulia app and try our 7-day free trial today!