When you put something in your mouth, do you think about the calories? About how much, if any, fiber it has? About the amount of sodium or carbs it has?
I don't. Well, I don't always think about it, I should say. That's in part because I've already got some things programmed in my mind. An apple is between 80-100 calories, for instance, while a banana is about 100. A handful of chips is... bad... but it has maybe 70 calories, maybe more (most serving sizes for chips are between 10-14 chips).
One simple way to figure out what's working for you in your meal plan is to figure out what you're ingesting. It's easy sometimes to just grab something and eat it without thinking about the nutritional part of it, but a quick glance at the nutritional facts box on the packaging will help you decide if you want to eat it or pass on it.
However, not all foods have that. I've been on a sweet potato kick lately, and have a bowl of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge. I can't exactly look at the packaging to see how many calories one serving is, and exactly how much one serving is in the first place.
But there's a great web site that has all that info handy. Calorieking.com is easily the best site to find nutritional info.
Now, I sort of did it the backwards way. I ate first and asked questions later. But I had a rough idea of what I was eating. So for lunch... and dinner... I took out a measuring cup, got myself one cup of the sweet potatoes and went to town (after I heated them up and added a few things - a splash of milk, some cinnamon).
Later I checked calorieking.com and was pleasantly surprised. One cup of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes has 250 calories, 58 g carbs and 8.2 g fiber. Since I had two cups of that throughout the day, I got in more than 16 g fiber just in those two meals alone. Add in the 4.4 I got from my apple and I have more than 20 g fiber. I'm pretty sure I got what I needed in terms of fiber.
Calorieking.com is the best resource I've found for any sort of nutritional info.
How many calories does a baked potato have?
I ate a Fiber One bar but threw out the packaging - what did I eat?
I had a cup of grapes with my lunch, how many grams of fiber did it have?
and the site provides answers...
Fiber One bar - 140 calories, 9g fiber
Only 1.4, but it was only 100 calories to begin with
Also helpful is their restaurant info. I've done it many times where I'm at a restaurant and am on my phone, scanning the site for any sort of meal info. Let's say you are Olive Garden and want to order the Lasagna Clasico but aren't sure if that's more calories than you have left. A search on my phone reveals that it has 850 calories, not terrible, but 2,830 mg sodium, which is bad. So I start scanning for alternatives and stumble across the Cheese Ravioli, which has 660 calories and 1,440 mg sodium, so I opt for that. I'm also trying to ignore the fact that each breadstick is 150 calories.
Anyway, that's just a scenario that could happen.
I didn't get sponsored by the site or anything. My trainer told me about that site a long time ago and I've used it quite often since then. It's the best starting point for me with regards to calories and nutritional information, and I do use it often on my phone, when I'm out at places.
So you can't memorize the nutritional facts for every little piece of food and not all foods have that info handy. The best thing you can do, though, is to give yourself a fighting chance by finding that info out on your own.