The three macronutrients (macros) the body uses for energy are: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Knowing the proper ratios of macronutrients for your diet is crucial to a successful healthy meal plan. Here are some ways to keep your macros in check!

 

  1. Track it
  • Skip the pen and paper route. Download apps on your smartphone like MyFitness pal, MyMacros+, or MyPlate to make logging your food convenient no matter where you go. MyFitness pal even has cool features like a barcode scanner that does the work for you by automatically inputting scanned food items into your log.

 

  1. Know your Numbers
  • How do you calculate your personal macronutrient ratios? An average percentage for good health is 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, 30% protein. Athletes need more carbs for energy, so the percentage ranges 50-60% carbohydrate, 20-30% fat, and 15-25% protein. To best determine your macro needs, it is recommended that you consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).
  • Each macronutrient counts as a specific number of calories per gram:
    • Carbohydrates: 4 calories/gram
    • Protein: 4 calories/gram
    • Fat: 9 calories/gram.

 

  • Knowing your total daily calories (e.g. 2,000 calories) and the percentage of total calories recommended for each macronutrient (e.g. 40% carbohydrates) helps determine how many grams of each macronutrient to consume on a given day
    • For example: 2,000 calories x 40% = 800 calories / 4 calories per gram = 200 grams of carbs per day.

Understanding these numbers is key to fueling your body with what it needs.

 

  1. Get Wise with Portion Size
  • An easy way to count your macros when you do not have access to measuring cups or spoons is to use your own two hands. Using your hands is a convenient alternative for measuring macros on-the-go to help you better estimate what you’re eating. You should never feel guilty for not knowing the precise breakdown, and this method works well in a pinch, taking the pressure off from having to be so exact. Let your hand guide you:
    • Thumb: approximately 1 TBSP of fat such as peanut butter or cream cheese.
    • Thumbnail: approximately 1 tsp of fat such as butter (4 grams) or olive oil (4.5 grams)
    • Pointer finger: equivalent to 1.5 oz of string cheese or 1 serving of dairy.
    • Palm: 3 oz or 1 serving of protein. 3 oz of fish is ~22 grams of protein, 3 oz of chicken is ~26 grams, and 3 oz of beef is 20-26 grams of protein.
    • Your full flat hand: 1 slice of bread or 15 grams of carbohydrates.
    • Cupped hand: ½ cup of beans or legumes (20 grams of carbohydrates).
    • Fist: approximately 1 serving of fruit or a medium apple (15 grams of carbohydrates) and 1 serving of vegetables or 1 cup of cooked broccoli or carrots (24 grams of carbohydrates).

 

  1. Familiarize Foods
  • Get to know the foods you eat on a daily basis and what macronutrients they are made up of. Make a chart and put your favorite foods into categories. Break these down and figure out from what macronutrient the majority of the calories stem from in that food item. This can help you initially visualize and streamline the process of counting macros, understand the composition of your food, and eventually enable you to think about it less in the long run. Nutrition should be simple, so use this method to keep it that way. Here are a few examples to get you started:
    • Carbohydrate dense foods: fruits, whole grains, vegetables.
    • Protein dense foods: poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, soy and dairy products.
    • Fat dense foods: avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, peanut butter, processed foods heavy in saturated or trans fats, creams, desserts.

 

  1. Value Variety
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut. It is easy to revert back to the same meals when you have those macros down pat. However, this can lead to burn out and staying on track with macro-counting. It also keeps you from getting a variety of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
  • Mix up your meals, get creative in the kitchen, and include a buddy along your journey to help make it more sustainable and hold yourself accountable. Eventually it will become routine.
  • Eat in color! When you incorporate more colors into your meals you’re likely to be eating a balanced variety of macronutrients.
  • Let the numbers guide you initially. But the ultimate goal is to listen to your body and figure out how to make the foods that sound good fit into your diet by practicing moderation.