Think you're over doing the carbs? Eating too much fat? Use the Nutracheck app to track what you eat for a day, then check how your diet compares to healthy targets.
Open the app and tap the white chart icon in the top right corner of the diary. Tap the pie chart to see your breakdown of the three main food groups – carbs, fat and protein. A healthy balance is for around 50% of your daily calories to come from carbs, 15% from protein and 35% from fat.
Tap the bar chart to get a more detailed breakdown. I've given you a few tips for each nutrient below.
The App will set you a target based on your goal. It may be to maintain your weight at the minute if you're finding it hard to focus on weight loss.
That's absolutely fine! The key thing is to ensure you're keeping within the allowance.
Your target for fat is an upper limit, so you should aim to not exceed it each day.
Fat is the most energy dense nutrient with 9 kcals per gram, so watching your total intake is important for keeping calories in check. However in terms of health, unsaturated fats are really beneficial – the type of fat found in oily fish, avocados, nuts and olive oil. If you find you go over your total fat intake for the day, but it’s mostly coming from these healthy sources – you don't need to be too concerned.
However you should pay close attention to going over on saturated fat. Remember this is an upper limit, not a target to reach, so if you stay below it that’s good! Too much sat fat is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods to go easy on are pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits, puddings, chocolate, fatty meat (e.g. lamb chops), processed meats (bacon, sausages), butter, lard, ghee, palm oil and coconut oils.
Your allowance is a guide amount for the general population. Eating around this level ensures you get a good balance of the nutrients you need. If you are a little above or below the guide amount, that's not a big issue. However if you are vastly exceeding your carbs allowance, the main concern is how this tips the balance of other nutrients in your diet – you'd be getting less protein and fat. In summary – stay close to the level recommended, but it's not a huge health concern if you go over.
Like fat and sat fat, this is a maximum amount rather than a target to hit, so it's fine if you don't eat all of this. If you eat lots of fruits, vegetables and milk based foods, you may find you reach your sugar guide amount quite easily. But foods containing naturally occurring sugars aren't the ones to worry about – it's foods such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits and desserts with lots of added sugars that we need to try and reduce. So limit your intake of these foods to stay close to your sugar allowance if these are the reason for going over.
Unlike the other nutrients, your target for fibre is a minimum to aim for. 30g a day is the recommendation for a healthy balanced diet, but having more is great. Ideally you want to see your bar green at or over the 100% mark. That said, some fibre is better than none, so check your chart each day to see how you're doing. Aim to increase gradually to allow your body time to adjust. For more tips on how to get more fibre in your diet click here.
Note: some people can't have much fibre for medical reasons – in which case you do have the option to change your target using the 'Set My Own Goal' option.
Like carbs, your protein allowance is a guide amount for the general population. Eating around this level ensures you get a good balance of nutrients, but if you are a little above or below, it’s not of huge concern. Protein is important for many functions in the body, so it's important to get enough each day. It’s not hard to do – most people find they exceed their protein target amount quite easily as we tend to eat more protein than we really need. It’s a great nutrient as it helps us to feel fuller for longer, and retain muscle.
High protein diets are really popular at the moment. Eating a larger proportion of protein is okay up to a point, but an excessive protein intake over a long period of time can be harmful (we're talking eating more than double your allowance for months on end).
You should be most concerned with staying on track with salt. This is an upper limit rather than a target – so aim not to exceed it each day. As we know, too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
If you'd like to eat more or less of a nutrient, we've created 4 goals. Choose from Lower Carb, Less Sugar, Higher Protein and Lower Fat.
We don't believe in cutting out entire food groups, so the goals we've set adjust the overall nutrient split while still keeping your targets within healthy limits.
To find these options, open the App and tap the white icon top right corner on the Diary page. Then scroll down and make your choice....
Well Balanced – this goal is the one we recommend for everyone. The nutrient breakdown is based on the guidelines for a healthy balanced diet: 50% carbs, 15% protein, 35% fat (and within this 11% sat fats, 18% total sugars, 30g fibre and 6g salt).
Lower Carb – this goal offers a moderate reduction in carbs with a matched increase in protein. This is for anyone who feels that eating fewer carbs helps them stick to their calorie allowance better.
Less Sugar – this goal takes a strict approach with sugar, reducing your total sugars allowance to just 12%. This is for anyone who essentially wants to eliminate added sugars from their diet and only have sugars from natural sources.
Higher Protein – this goal offers a higher protein intake with a matched reduction in carbs. This is useful for people wanting to up their protein in order to help them stick to their calorie allowance. Protein has been shown to be more satiating than carbohydrates for example, so it can be helpful to eat more when trying to lose weight.
Lower Fat – this goal offers a moderate reduction in total fat. This approach can help some people stick to their total calorie allowance easier, as fat is the most energy dense nutrient – so reducing it has a bigger effect on reducing your total calorie intake.
5:2 Diet – Also called the 'Fast Diet'. This intermittent fasting diet lets you eat normally for 5 days and restrict calories on 2 days each week.You can choose to follow the original plan which allows 500 or 600 calories on fasting days for women and men respectively. Or you can follow the more recent guidance from the diet's creator, to have 800 calories on fasting days.
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.