Weight loss and weighing food
Why count calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy that is commonly applied to food to give us an indication of how much energy the food will give to your body when you eat it. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to be maintaining a calorie deficit. This means that your body is burning more calories than you’re eating.
The concept of calories has been challenged in recent years, but for the most part it’s still accepted that this is the most effective way to lose weight. It’s possible to maintain a calorie deficit without counting calories, for example by following a program that cuts out certain foods, or applies points that automatically limits the amount of calories in your diet.
If you’re self-guiding your weight loss efforts then my personal opinion is that counting calories, in the early stages at least, is important, as I’ve argued here. Why? Because we can’t retrain or reconfigure how we eat until we have actual knowledge about our habits and eating patterns. And that requires data – numbers that represent the real current state of play rather than just what we think the facts are. That’s where weighing food really starts to matter.
Research shows that we almost always underestimate how much we’re eating, so weighing food is really important to get an accurate measure of how many calories are in the food. ‘Eyeballing’ food – guessing how much something weighs just by looking at it works fine eventually but only after you’ve had considerable practice in weighing the food and comparing what you think it weighs with what it actually weighs.
This is important because even being out by a couple of hundred calories per day could be enough to jeopardise your weight loss or at the very least slow it down. Accuracy matters.
The purpose of weighing your food is so you can accurately track it. Tracking means keeping a written record (preferably – again relying on just adding it in your head can be risky because it’s easy to forget a bite here and there of this and that you might have had during the day) of everything you eat so you can add the calories up.
There are dozens of tools out there now – smartphone apps, etc – that can help with this. I’m a big fan of MyFitnessPal because you can easily add food to your daily diary, scan barcodes on packaged food, etc. But to re-emphasise the point, you can’t add food to a list if you don’t know how much you ate of it.
Ok so once you’ve got an accurate measure of how many calories you’re eating per day, you have two choices: either eat less so that your base metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns naturally, just keeping you alive) plus any incidental exercise is MORE than what you’re eating (which will give you the calorie deficit you need to lose weight), OR you can eat more if you’re prepared to do a lot of exercise to ensure you’re burning more than you’re consuming.
This post doesn’t intend to help you make that decision, but instead clarify why it’s important to weigh your food to help you effectively lose weight AND improve your ‘food literacy’.
Best Food Scales for Weight Loss
So, on to the important decision of what scale you will use! They’re not all created equal as the following descriptions show:
EatSmart Digital Nutrition Scale – Professional Food and Nutrient Calculator
This scale is super cool because:
- It weighs your food to the nearest gram with digital accuracy and has an inbuilt database that will tell you the carb, fibre, protein, fat content (and more) which is great for when you’re wanting to level up your nutritional knowledge to think about things like balancing macros (don’t freak out – you don’t need to know what that means in order to lose weight but it’s great to think ahead whenever you’re investing in a new tool). I didn’t even know this feature existed when I bought my food scale!
- A memory feature so you can save up to 99 of your favourite foods for quick access.
- It also has a 2 year warranty and comes with 4 AAAA batteries to get you started.
And Amazon customers seem to love it.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull Out Display
This one is a little sleeker and sexier than the Eatsmart scale. It doesn’t have a database of nutritional information but still has some cool features like:
- being able to ‘zero out’ so that when you put an empty container on it for example you can take the scale back to zero before you add extra weight so you’re not accidentally counting things you shouldn’t, like packaging.
- the display pulls out so you can actually see it if you’ve got large bowls on the weight plate – again a simple but cool feature that I wish my scale had!
- it also measures the volume of liquid in cups and milliliters which is handy when you only know the volume of an ingredient in a recipe and not the weight.
Customer satisfaction also seems pretty high with this one, and like I said – it’s sleek. You can check out full reviews here.
Kitrics Digital Nutrition Scale
This one works very similarly to the Eatsmart scale, in that
- it will give you the full nutritional information of your food (provided it’s in the database), as well as adds your intake up for you to help you keep track.
- the degree of accuracy of the weight is +/- 1 gram.
- you can also add up to 99 of your own foods to the database (as you can on food tracker tools like MyFitnessPal).
This one runs on 2 AA batteries and scores 4.3 out of 5 stars from Amazon reviewers.
Etekcity 11lb/5kg Digital Kitchen Food Scale, Stainless Steel, Alarm Timer & Temperature Sensor
The Etekcity scale is a little different. It’s a No. 1 Best Seller although it doesn’t have a food database or tell you the nutritional content of food, but it’s got
- a detachable bowl (dishwasher safe) that customers seem to think is the best feature;
- gives you the temperature for those times when you’re waiting for something to cool before you can add egg, etc.
- You can also of course use your own container to weigh things in and calibrate the scale back to zero each time you add a new ingredient.
Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale
The Ozeri Pronto scale is another best seller. It doesn’t have any fancy features but appears to do the basics well, such as:
- a stainless steel/chrome finish and comes in a few different colours to match your kitchen.
- it will weigh food in multiple units which is great for converting from international recipes.
- it’s accurate up to 11 pounds (5 kilos)
- has a ‘tare’ button meaning you can subtract the weight of the bowl or container you’re weighing in.
The above 5 kitchen scales are just a small sample of what’s available online to help you keep an accurate track of your food intake, which as I’ve described is really important when you’re trying to lose weight. I hope you find an option that suits you.