Do you need to weigh your food?

Is weighing our food an important way to measure our daily intake or is it simply taking control of our diet too far? Bupa dietitian Gemma Cosgriff explores the pros and cons.

Meet Wendy Weighsfood. Wendy eats six small meals a day. Each meal or snack contains between three and 10 ingredients. Wendy likes to keep track of her food intake, so she weighs between 18 and 60 portions of food every day. It takes her at least 30 minutes each day. Wendy is very particular about what she eats and likes to keep a tight rein on her energy intake. For Wendy this is what keeps her diet in check.

I’ve used our fictional character Wendy to highlight the time and effort it would take you to weigh all of your food. It’s worth considering this before deciding if it’s something worth doing yourself.

If you want to change your diet, the quantity you eat, or simply understand how much you’re eating, then weighing your food might be a useful exercise for between 3-7 days. The word ‘marathon’ comes to mind when considering if it might be possible to keep this up over the long term. If you have a very solid routine with little change in the meals you consume day-to-day and week-to-week, then you might find this is a great way to assess and guide your dietary intake.

It’s important though to ensure it doesn’t become obsessive. If you have 35 grams of almonds instead of 30, it’s not the end of the world. 

berries and yohurt

An alternative method, is to simply keep a food diary. This can include what you ate, a representation of the size and when you ate it (remember one bowl can mean a very different thing from one household to the next).

Eg. 6:30pm - One large bowl of pasta with Bolognese sauce, topped with cheese.

When reviewing your intake over the course of a week, you could then identify opportunities to make changes (if necessary to meet your goals).

Eg. One large bowl of pasta could become one small bowl of pasta + one small bowl of salad.

If you need to go to the next level, you might consider looking at all the ingredients which make up the meal and see if there are any quick wins with food substitution. You might change the ratio of pasta to sauce, look at what is in the sauce and if you can increase the nutritional quality or remove any ‘empty calories’.

The verdict: Weighing food (if you’re consistent and accurate) can be a highly accurate way to measure your intake. It might be useful for you to help understand what your kilojoule or calorie intake looks like over a week. However, for the general human being, it’s a tiring exercise that’s probably not sustainable when we already lead such busy lives.

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