Friday, March 2, 2007

Diet Spreadsheets and Food Logging

Logging what I eat each day has helped me to keep track of where I am in the day and to make informed decisions about dietary choices. I can also see what effect a prospective choice will have on my daily goals, It lets me know whether that treat I am considering will throw me off track or not. I use a spreadsheet that I created using Microsoft Excel.

When I started, I just kept track of Calories, fat, sodium, fiber, and protein using the “Food Facts” listed on most food products. As I learned more, I added sugars, fiber, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and had the spreadsheet calculate calories from each. It also calculates the percentage of calories from each, and lets me know how far I have to go before I reach my goal maximums. My daily goals are: no more than 1400 Calories, no more than 1500 mg sodium, less than 300 mg cholesterol, less than 20% of calories from fat and less than 10% from saturated fat, and 30-38 grams fiber. The spreadsheet makes it fairly easy to keep track of all this.

USDA SR19

The United States Department of Agriculture maintains a website where you can access the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. It contains the composition of 7,293 raw, processed, and prepared foods by up to 140 nutrients. The latest release is 19 and it is updated in August of each year so, the SR 19 was released in August 2006. The database is available either online, or by download in Microsoft Access or ASCII format. The older version SR 17 is available for free download from NutriBase as the NutriBase Navigator. This offline software product allows you to search the database and select which nutrients are of interest and should be displayed.

Once you have searched either database or located food facts from food packages, it is easy to transfer the information to your spreadsheet. When you eat the food again, it’s easy to copy and paste from prior entries.

Recipes from Scratch

Obviously, recipes you cook at home from scratch aren’t found in the SR 19, or on any food facts. When I cook from scratch, I list the ingredients and their nutrients on the spreadsheet, total them and either weigh or measure the final products. I then decide what a serving size should be and the spreadsheet calculates the number of servings and divides the nutrients by this number. This allows me to perform a what-if analysis so I can see the effect of adding or changing one or more ingredients. I can immediately see the effect on each serving of adding a half teaspoon of salt to a recipe, for example. If I decide to eat a smaller portion, the spreadsheet calculates the revised nutrient make up for the new serving size and I can transfer these values to the daily log.

I’ve been told it takes a somewhat obsessive person to log and track their diet to this extent, but, it works for me. I like making informed dietary decisions and see the effect of my decisions.

Here is my recap from yesterday.

Daily Dietary Recap-3/1/2007
Calories Protein Carbohydrates SodiumFat % Calories from Fat
1052.86 80.77 g 149.52 g977.81 mg 12.74 g 10.89%

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