FatSecret Tutorial

Below you’ll find a video walk-through of the FatSecret app for logging and tracking food intake. During the video, I cover setting your calorie and macronutrient targets in the app, how to log food and options for measuring portions, how to improve accuracy of your log, and how to recognize possible places for errors. Logging is not sustainable for everyone. If I’ve sent you to this video, it means you’re ready to take on logging for increased accuracy and understanding of food intake. We’ll start with a goal of logging for a short period of time while working toward your goal and you can decide if it’s something you want to continue doing once you’re focused on maintenance or your goals have shifted.

The video is about 30 minutes long and covers quite a bit. If you’d rather read through notes or need to revisit this page for reference, the typed out points of the video are below.

  • The functions you’re going to use most are the diary which will allow you to record your food for 3 meals and a snack section – it will also let you glance at your day’s macronutrients that you’ve recorded. You can prelog days ahead as well. This section allows you to find recently eaten and most eaten foods and you can save meals and add meals into the cook book feature.
  • I don’t recommend logging your exercise manually in the app since there are so many inaccuracies (especially with something like CrossFit) – but if you like recording it in your app, don’t take into account any burned calories when you’re tracking your food calorie intake – we want these to be separate.
  • First, let’s setup your diary screen so that you can see macronutrients, fiber, and calories for the overall day and for each meal section. The app defaults to a summarized view and includes RDI – which we will not need up top. You’ll want to click on the top section at “Calories” and a screen will pop up – switch this to “Detailed View”. Next, click on change columns. Calories will remain checked, but you can choose 4 other options – you’ll want “Protein, Carbs, Fat, and Fiber” checked. There may be a time where we switch the “Fiber” column to “Sugar” so there’s that option too.
  • If you are using the app to observe, we won’t need to set your targets right away. If you are using the app to track and keep within a specific calorie/macro range – you’ll want to set your calorie and macro targets. Click on “Reports”. This section has a drop down screen to change from “today, yesterday, this week, last week” so you can look at your breakdown of calories and nutrients. I personally don’t use this section often because you can see the breakdown for your day on the “Diary” page as you are logging. There should be a little target picture in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Click this and it will take you to a place to set your calories and macros. You can have the app calculate your RDI from your weight and activity level or you can input your own based on your observation logging or a coach’s recommendation. Lower down you’ll see macronutrient goals and you can set this with percentages or with grams. It will default to percentages. There are no “perfect macros” – you will find online calculators that will give you different ranges, different recommendations, different percentages. Try not to stress about being “perfect” – I, as your coach, will give you a breakdown that we will try and gauge based on feedback and how your body responds – these numbers won’t stay the same forever – we have to make tweaks and changes to continue seeing what will work best for you lifestyle, for your body, for your schedule, for your sanity, etc. Adherence is key and finding what’s going to work best for you in that particular time of your life with that particular activity is what’s important. I’ll give you gram recommendations so you’ll need to change this section to “use grams” and then input the values for each. There’s also an area for you to set “daily goals” if you have different breakdowns for rest/workout days or have a refeed day scheduled. There are some other nutrient goals that you may or may not start with – but this is where you can add those in also.
  • Now that you’ve got your targets set and you can see how you’re doing with your targets – we’ll start logging some food. Here’s one important thing to remember: if you are primarily logging your food *after* you’ve eaten it – you are logging for observation. If you are primarily logging your food *before* you’ve eaten it – you are logging for change. Logging prior to eating lets you see how on point you are with meeting your nutrient and calorie needs. You can make adjustments to your actual meal if you know in advance what is missing, what you need more of, or what you need less of, or what swaps you can make.
  • You may have received a breakdown of macros for each meal. If you have, then planning your meals should fall into those calorie and macro breakdowns. If you have not, that means you’re focused on making the daily total add up and how you time it is not important right now. You can choose to have a smaller breakfast, you can choose to have a larger dinner. You can choose to have 3 large meals and no snacks or you can choose to have 6 small meals. If you don’t have specific macros and meals recommended then the daily total will be your goal and how everything plays out at the end is what’s important.
  • I recommend logging your day in advance as often as you can – this will help you make adjustments and really brings in the “flexible” part. No one wants to end their day with straight protein or straight fat left.
  • When you click on your first meal, it will pop up most recently searched items. If you look to the right – it will show recently eaten, most eaten, saved meals, and cook book. All of these sections can be useful. Once you’ve found one of the items you’re planning to eat – you’ll click it to adjust the serving size. The iphone does a drop down menu – the android app takes you to a separate screen. Here, you can see the serving size and you can also see a snapshot of the calories and nutrients. This information is helpful for you to decide what serving size is going to be best. We’ll talk about measuring in just a second. You can go through and check all of the components in your meal if they’re there or you can add individually by clicking “save” after you’ve checked the item and changed the size. You can see the breakdown for the macros and calories for the individual meal and for the overall day at the top. You can also use the app to scan barcodes. Click on the camera icon in the corner. Go to the right option and use this to scan the barcode of the product. I always recommend double-checking the information in the app to the information on the label. Some of this data is user entered so there can be errors this way. Some barcodes used to be on different products and the barcodes haven’t been updated so you could have a completely different product pop up too. We’ll talk about other potential errors and how to minimize them in a second.
  • You will notice that different food choices will have different options for serving size – some will have multiple options – some maybe only have 2 like “cups” and “grams”. In this app – there will always be an option for grams. The best way to record this is by using a food scale. Using a food scale to measure your servings is the most detail-oriented and accurate way to record. However, I don’t recommend this for everyone right off the bat because 1) if this will present an issue with adherence, there are easier ways to track and log intake and 2) if this is not of interest to the client and we can continue to make progress without adding this element, there’s no reason to make a plan more complicated than it needs to be. If you are not weighing your portions, you’ll need to do your best measuring/estimating when you only have 1 other option available. So, for example if the measurements are “½ cup” or “grams” – but you’ve used 1 cup – you’ll enter this as 2 servings (2 ½ cups = 1 cup – that’s an easy one) – if you’ve only used 2 TBSP – you’ll need to do a little converting so you’d enter it as .25 servings of ½ cup because ½ cup = 8 TBSP and you used .25 (or ¼) of ½ cup. Maybe I just made weighing sound more appealing and easier…
  • For logging – the serving sizes will almost always be measurements for the food when it is in it’s raw form. The exception for this would if the particular item says “cooked” or “prepared” or “grilled” etc. The weight of food changes depending on cooking method and length cooked, but the nutrients should not change. This is why weighing your food raw/dry will give you the most accurate measurement. Meat will weigh more in the beginning and cook down (4oz may become 3oz) – you would log it at it’s raw weigh of 4oz. A water absorbing food like rice would weigh less in the beginning (45g may become 125g cooked) – you’d log it as 45g (the raw weight).
  • You will also encounter times where you can’t find the exact food you’re eating, like when you’re eating at a restaurant and times when you can’t use a scale and have exact measurements. This is not a perfect system. That’s okay. This should not drive you crazy. That’s okay. Of course, when learning something new, you’ll encounter frustrations, you’ll have questions. That’s okay, but there’s always a way to make improvements or do your best. Most chain restaurants are in the app – whether the calories and amounts are accurate to the particular meal you get is another story – but this is our best way of getting an idea. If you’re at a restaurant that’s not in the app – that’s okay too – you can search and input something that’s similar (from another brand) or estimate the pieces of the meal (like rice, sauce, meat, etc) and their portions. I do think it’s easier to estimate restaurant portions using measurements like cups, tablespoons, and you’ll most likely find it easier to record meals that you cannot weigh this way.
  • For liquid – some scales will calculate fl oz – you can also use mL as the measurement for this
  • Using the “Saved Meal” feature. If there’s a meal that you repeat – there’s an option to save the components into a meal. Once you’ve logged all of the components – you’ll see + Save Meal below the items in your food diary. This will give you a screen to enter the name of the meal, a description, and then you can check the meals that you may have this. If you eat it for lunch and dinner – I’d recommend saving it under both for easy access later. When you go back to record it later – you can swipe over to “Saved Meals” and it will be listed there and record all of the components and their serving sizes – you can make manual adjustments to the serving if you’ve decided to have more or less of something and you can also add anything additional to the meal – like if you added another food that time. This makes prelogging and planning 1000000x easier once you begin to create frequent meals.
  • You can also store and save your own recipes in the “Cook Book” feature – this is helpful if you have a recipe that includes multiple ingredients (like chili or lasagna) and plan to use it for several meals. If you’d like to create a recipe in the cook book – go to your diary and click the “Add food” and go all the way to the right for “Cook Book” – you will see a list of any of your saved recipes and at the bottom it will say “+ New Recipe” – it will walk you through the steps to save your recipe with a name and the ingredient serving sizes. You’ll also be able to decide how many servings the recipe will make – so if you’re making chili – you’ll know that it will make 8 servings for example. If you are not planning to portion this out into 8 even servings after cooking – you can also weigh the finished product and input the serving size as total grams. So, for example – let’s say a completed pot of chili weighs 1600 grams on a food scale – enter the serving size as 1600 and then when you go to log your portion – you’d enter it as the amount the portion weighs, so maybe 200g for a 200g portion.
  • When the numbers don’t add up – – this is not a perfect system so of course there will be some error. One of the most common ones you’ll run into is when your log shows you’re at calories, but your protein, carbs, and fat are not there yet OR vice versa when your log shows you’ve met your macros, but you’re over on calories. Here are a couple of reasons why:
    • Manufacturers are able to round. So, even though 1g of fat has 9 cals, 1g of carbs and protein have 4 cals – manufacturers are able to round up or down to make their calorie amount even – – – you won’t find a label that says 127 calories. If you’re eating multiple types of packaged items – these little discrepancies will add up….that’s NOT an issue with the food you are consuming – that’s a logging issue – so focus on the protein, carbs, and fat and don’t worry about the calories.
    • Alcohol – I’m about to tell you the opposite of what I just said so hang tight. 1g of alcohol has 7 calories, but we’re not tracking our alcohol grams. What does this mean? It means that if you log alcohol – you’re going to reach your overall calories for the day and you won’t reach your macronutrients. There are some nutrition coaches that will recommend taking the calories of the drink and dividing it by 4 or by 9 to swap it for carbs or fat. My recommendation is that if you are planning to have alcohol – you log your alcoholic beverages and set a limit for # of days/week and # of drinks for that period. If you’re trading and swapping – you’re missing out on nutrients that are beneficial to your body for gaining strength, being healthy, and recovery. If you’re drinking – aim to get your protein grams for the day and then aim for your overall calorie amount (instead of focusing on carbs/fat #s – – and practice moderation by aiming to drink less in a sitting or less often)
    • Net carbs and sugar alcohols – one of other things I’ve run into on a few products is that some manufacturers choose not to include alcohol sugars in their calorie count. That means that the carbs on the product will be higher than what it would add up to on calories – meaning your calories will look a little low for the day here too.
    • Be aware that “0” only means “0” when it’s the serving size on the label. Manufacturers are able to put that something has “0” when it only has a trace amount of something in their recommended serving size, for ex: a tsp. If you are using more than that serving size, those trace amounts are going to add up. So, for example, spraying “Pam” or a cooking spray for “20 seconds” is no longer 0 calories. Their serving size is listed as .25 of a second spray. If you’re using a small amount of spray – don’t stress – you’ll be okay. If you’re spraying to the point that you have a puddle in the pan – entering 50 servings of Pam will not change it – it’ll stay 0 because 0 x 50 is still 0. You’ll need to estimate the amount of oil and log it as oil – not as cooking spray to get the most accurate reading.
  • I don’t think that logging is for everyone as a sustainable practice. I do think that logging is helpful for awareness/observation and also for making change – even if it’s for short-term. I do think that it gets easier with practice and utilizing the save and planning features. The important thing to remember is that this is a process and learning experience. There’s no wrong way to do it – there are just ways to improve.
  • Requesting me to be your professional so that i can view your log and provide feedback. Go the main menu screen – click “My Professionals” – you’ll be able to “Invite Professional” and enter my information [email protected] – this will allow me to see your log, provide feedback to improve accuracy of logging, and to make recommendation for food swaps, portion changes, and macro amounts based on your individual goals.