Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Food Diary

When I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in 2004, it seemed so radical to me (no grains!) that I wanted to be sure that I was still getting all the proper nutrients. The USDA has a website called My Pyramid Tracker, that helps you to calculate your nutrient intake and all sorts of other things like that. And it's free! You start by creating an account and giving some basic information about yourself like age, height, and weight, and then enter all the food you have eaten in one day. You can also input all the activities you have done on that day so that they can compute how many calories you need to maintain your weight or to lose weight. You can also find out what any one food item contains or a single meal instead of the whole day.

Start by listing all the foods you have eaten at one meal or during the entire day. If you eat a lot of ethnic foods, you may have trouble finding them on the list. I couldn't find bok choy the other day, so I substituted Chinese cabbage. For something like creamed cauliflower soup which I made last night with coconut milk and not cow's milk, I had to list all the ingredients separately. Then you select the quantities. This is where you might need to be a little creative. For example, I had 2 tablespoons of blueberry juice concentrate on a sliced pear for breakfast but blueberry juice is not an option. So I calculated, from the information on the juice bottle, that there are 61 blueberries in each tablespoon and entered 2.5 servings times 50 blueberries as my quantity. You can use fractions in the number of servings box. I then had to realize that the fiber number would be slightly too high.

Once you have your quantities, you are ready to look at the numbers. Click on Save and Analyze and several choices will come up. I ignore the Meeting 2005 Dietary Guidelines option since it is based on the USDA food pyramid and many diet gurus these days think the pyramid is flawed to say the least. The numbers that matter to me are under Nutrient Intakes. These are the numbers that will tell you what you are getting in your diet. The only number that I think is way out of whack is the sodium intake. They assume that if you eat anything prepared or cooked that salt has been added. If you do your own cooking and know that is not the case, then take this number with a "grain of salt."

Again the Recommendation or Acceptable Range is based on the food pyramid, so use caution when comparing your numbers to these. What you may want to look at are your totals of calories, protein, fats, carbs, and fiber. It would be nice if they gave percentages of your total calorie intake for all of the macronutrients, but you can get the percentage of fat on the DG page. There are lots of other things you can do like comparing your Omega 6 and Omega 3 intake. On the Paleo diet, the ratio of these two fatty acids should be in the 1 to 1 or 3 to 1 range, not the 10 to 1 range the USDA recommends. I like to have my ratio of calcium to magnesium roughly 1 to 1 also.

It is a little tedious at first because of all the details that are required, but you can save your favorite foods in a Frequently Used Foods list so that the next day it is much easier to list your intake. But it is worth it to go into as much detail as possible. Just adding 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to your food intake can really raise your vitamin C levels. The activity list gets into great detail also, like how many minutes did you spend making the bed? But you can go for the Condensed Option which assumes you do normal daily activities but nothing extra. However, if you do exercise your calorie requirements will go up and you need to know that if you are trying to gain or lose weight.

Keeping such a food diary for about a week should tell you lots about what you are eating and ease our mind if you are trying to go low carb. And you may be surprised by what you learn.

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