How To Find Macro Amounts in Foods

So, now that you’ve calculated your TDEE and Macro amounts it’s time to start tracking the macros in what you eat.

One of the most challenging aspects of Flexible Dieting or If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) is not only tallying your daily macro amounts but also figuring out how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat are in the foods you eat.

Luckily the technology most of us have at our fingertips has made this process a whole lot less painful and this guide will help even those that might not be tech savvy make sense of how to count macros.

This guide will cover 3 popular ways to keep track of macros:

  1. Using food nutritional labels to calculate macros.
  2. Using a digital food scale to calculate macros.
  3. Using MyFitnessPal to tally daily macros.

I personally use a combination of all three, but some may just use one method or 2 methods based on their access to or comfortability with technology.

Counting Macros Using Nutritional Labels

macro-nutrition-label

figure 1

Almost all foods that are sold in grocery stores have food labels except for fresh produce. But, stores such as Trader Joes and similar even have much of their produce bagged and nutritionally labeled as well.

There are 5 Items to locate on the food’s nutritional label.

1. Serving size. If you are eating more than one serving multiply all your macros by the number you are eating.

2. Total Fat

3. Total Carbs : You can subtract the fiber grams from this amount to get your Net Carbs. Net carbs are the one’s your body can actually use for energy, but some just track total carbs to keep things simpler.

4. Fiber

5. Protein

Example:

In figure one I find that per 1/4 cup serving; I’m getting 2.5 grams of fat, 23 net carbs, and 5 grams of protein. Also note the fiber as you should aim to eat about 25-40 grams per day.

You can then record this information in a food journal or enter it into a food tracking application.

Remember to do this with every food you eat during a particular day. Prepared meals will already have the macro amounts of ALL ingredients listed on the label.

Some foods may list the serving size in ounces or grams, and again, some foods such as meats and vegetables may not have macro information on their label. If this is the case you’ll need to use a digital food scale.

Using a Digital Food Scale to Count Macros

A digital food scale lets you weigh food so that you have a point of reference in determining the macronutrient amounts in food.

However, the scale will not tell you macro amounts unless you buy a more expensive one with a built in food database, which are handy for those that don’t have a smartphone or for those that don’t feel comfortable using apps or other tools.

basic or advanced scales

Here’s how to use the basic version as it requires the most steps.

1. Turn the scale on and set it to ounces or grams. (USA versions default to ounces.)

2. Make sure the scale reads 00.00 and place the food on the scale.

You may also use a plate or bowl but you must place the bowl on the scale first and then hit the zero button. You then can fill the bowl or plate with the food item.

3. When the number stabilizes record the amount.

4. Use a food database like Calorieking.com to then figure out the macros.

Example:

chicken breast example

Here we have a piece of chicken that weighs 5.8 ounces raw. I search the above-mentioned database for raw, skinless, boneless chicken breast and get this.

raw chicken macros

I find out that 5.8 ounces contains 0 g of carbs, 2 g of fat, 38 g of protein, and 0 g of fiber.

I then record this in my food diary or log.

Counting Macros Using The MyFitnessPal App

If you have a smartphone, using MyFitnessPal (MFP) is perhaps the easiest way to keep track of your macros while flexible dieting.

Here’s a tutorial on how to set it all up, so I won’t go into those steps here. But once set up, here’s how to find the macros in the food you are eating.

MFP has three methods for finding a food’s macros:

1. Scan an item’s barcode with your phone’s camera. (easiest)

    • Open your food diary and select appropriate meal.
    • Click the barcode icon in the bottom left corner of  your screen.

barcode scanner

  • Once MFP finds the item, enter the appropriate serving amount.
    barcode-macros

2. Search MFP’s extensive food database.

  • Open your food diary and select appropriate meal.
  • Type your food in the search box. (This also works for most chain restaurants.)
  • Select  the listing that best matches.
  • Adjust serving size as needed. (You may need to use a food scale for meat and fresh produce items.)food search mfp

3. Manually enter the food’s macros from a nutritional label.  (You’ll rarely have to do this.)

  • Open your food diary and select the appropriate meal.
  • Click create a new food and enter the information as directed.
    mfp manually

As you add food to your diary it gets easier because MFP remembers your frequently used foods for easier addition later.


Finding and keeping track of your macros may seem daunting at first, but as with anything, the more you do it the easier and quicker it becomes. Plus, we are blessed with some really great technology that makes the job so much easier.

Do you have any tips to share for making counting your macros easier?

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    Scientific Reference:

    Yannakoulia, M., Yiannakouris, N., Blüher, S., Matalas, A. L., Klimis-Zacas, D., & Mantzoros, C. S. (2003). Body fat mass and macronutrient intake in relation to circulating soluble leptin receptor, free leptin index, adiponectin, and resistin concentrations in healthy humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(4), 1730-1736. Study Link

1 Comment

  1. JamesF

    Excellent post.

    Reply