by Craig Pollard, AFitter.Me

Hello team! I hope the summer has been a healthy and happy one for all of you. It’s been a while since my last article, so let’s do our standard recap: we’re eating 5-6 times a day; drinking 1-2 litres of water throughout day, and making sure we get good protein, carbohydrates (both vegetables and grains) and good fats (EFAs) with each meal.

Now comes the fun part… finding the calories. This part will take a bit of work, but anything worthwhile is worth the effort! In today’s fast-paced world, many people’s meals rely heavily on processed foods that may have very few nutrients and so they end up eating too much of them and then soon feel hungry again. Alternatively, with our hectic schedules, some people feel as if they just don’t have enough time in the day and end up skipping meals. Many times, it’s the people who don’t eat enough food that end up having weight issues because when we eat too little, the body stops working as it’s supposed to and goes into retention mode. As we have discussed before, the body needs a minimum number of calories to function properly.

Where’s Waldo?

The first step is to sort out your caloric intake. While you can try to do the calculations manually, there are many tools available to help you find out how many calories and nutrients are in what you eat. Depending on how technically savvy you are, you can get apps for your smart phone or tablets, or you can use websites. These apps have been designed to be very simple to use and are immensely helpful with sorting out caloric amounts. I like the free app “MyFitnessPal” (available at the App Store or at www.myfitnesspal.com). It gives you a wealth of tools for tracking what and how much you eat, and how many calories you burn through activity.

First, you’ll need to set up an account by entering some basic information about yourself. Based on this information, MyFitnessPal calculates how many calories your body burns on a typical day. Next, you tell MyFitnessPal whether you’re trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight, and then it provides a recommended calorie goal for each day.

Every day, you open the app (or website) and simply log what you eat (and it really is easy). The search function is super fast as it accesses a massive list of foods. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can use the barcode reader (on your smart phone) to scan in the product (which I think is a very cool feature).

Start out by monitoring your food intake for about 3 to 5 days (include both weekdays and weekends as we usually eat differently on the weekend). You will probably notice that you tend to eat the same kinds of foods in a recurring pattern. Now comes the really fun part… the apps let you review the day and see the calories consumed at each meal. It also breaks down the calories into carbs, proteins and fats as well as the amount of sugar and fibre. Based on this information, you will be amazed at how you can start changing the foods you eat almost immediately.

So, this month, your task is to find the hidden calories in what you’re eating (you’ll be surprised where there are!) and to start making better food choices. Take your time and have some fun with this challenge. You will discover so much about what you eat and, trust me, once you’ve done this once, you won’t need to do it again. It’s a small investment of your time that will set you up for continued food success going forward. An added benefit of this exercise is that if you want to “cheat”, you’ll have the knowledge you need to understand what the impact will be and how to get back on track and eating well at your next meal.

Next month, we will uncover the mystery of food labels – what information they provide and how to read them.

Craig is a Certified Personal Trainer and is certified in Nutrition for Sport and Performance. Craig operates www.AFitter.Me, an independent gym in Kemptville and works with iNSiDE Out STUDiO barre for Nutrition.