What Should I Do When I Can't Accurately Log a Meal?

Short answer: Most of the time, simply estimating is fine!

There will likely be situations where it’s either difficult or impossible to log a meal with particularly high accuracy – meals at a restaurant without posted nutrition information, family get-togethers, potlucks, etc. So, what should you do in these situations?

The only bad option is to skip logging the meal, and wind up with a partially logged day of eating. Partial logging (especially if done consistently) can negatively impact the accuracy of your calculated expenditure, and lead to inappropriate coaching adjustments if you’re on a coached or collaborative program.

Otherwise, you have three options, arranged here from good to great. The third option – estimating your intake for the meal – is our recommendation.

The Three Options for Handling Meals that are Difficult to Log

Good: Delete everything you’ve logged thus far for the day, leaving the day unlogged. When you do this, MacroFactor will exclude the unlogged day for the purpose of calculating your expenditure and making coaching adjustments. Just be aware that for consistent expenditure updates, you need to log at least six days per week.

Better: Quick-edit the day to provide an estimate of your total energy intake for the entire day. Your estimate should account for everything you consumed (including the meal that’s difficult to log).

Best: Simply estimate your intake for the meal you find challenging to track. If you think you consumed about 1500 calories, just quick-add 1500 calories (and estimates of the macronutrient content of the meal, if you want to).

Alternately, rather than using your experience and intuition to estimate your calorie intake, you could instead use AI Describe to roughly log the meal that would otherwise be challenging to track. Just describe the meal as accurately as you’re able to, glance over the foods AI Describe selected based on your description, make any necessary edits (to the foods themselves, or the quantities associated with the foods), and log the meal as you normally would.

Why It's Alright (and Preferable) to Estimate

If you’ve been logging your food for a while, we’re very confident you’ll be able to estimate accurately enough for the purposes of your expenditure calculation and coaching updates. Just to illustrate, if you over- or under-estimate your energy intake for the meal by 500 calories, that will only affect your estimated expenditure and coaching recommendations by about 25-30 calories, give or take – a pretty trivial difference. If you are generally meticulous about accurately logging your food, you may have a bit of trepidation about estimating your intake for a meal, but you typically don’t need to be concerned. It would take a pretty extreme estimation error for a single meal to significantly impact your recommendations and coaching updates.

Estimating your intake for meals that are difficult to log serves two purposes. First, it ensures your expenditure and coaching adjustments are as accurate as possible. Second, knowing you still intend to roughly log these meals (which are much more likely to involve large amounts of highly palatable food) helps keep you more present and aware of your intake during the meal, which helps cut down on binge-like behaviors and completely uninhibited eating.

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