Ep. 305: How to Count the Calories in Your Homemade Meals

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You’ve really got this calorie counting thing down pat when it comes to simple foods or eating in restaurants that list their calories. But what about when you cook at home? How do you figure out the calories in your favorite dishes when you’re just throwing things together? In this episode of the Get Your GOAL podcast, I’ll show you how to count the calories in your homemade meals with a simple, step-by-step process.

Imagine never being afraid of going out to eat, or going to a friend’s house, or going on vacation, ever again. Picture yourself confidently portioning out every meal, every time, to fit your calorie target without second-guessing yourself.

This can be you because it’s just a skill to count calories, which means that you can learn how.

Right now, your brain is making excuses to stop you from counting all of your calories (which is completely normal, and exactly how your brain is supposed to work). But when you execute this simple process, and practice it regularly, you’ll realize that there are NO calories that you can’t figure out. 

What You’ll Learn:

  • HOW to calculate the calories for any recipe
  • WHY it’s so hard to make yourself do this, and
  • HOW to overcome your resistance


Hello, hello, GOALfriend. Welcome to episode number 305. You guys, today we are talking about something that I get asked about all the time. And just in case you're wondering, that is actually where I get all of my ideas for podcasts. When you guys ask me questions, either on Facebook in my Facebook group or on my Facebook page. Plus on Instagram, although I don't get as many questions on Instagram, I occasionally get questions on my YouTube channel, but also in my webinars, and in my monthly live training. I always make room for Q and A at the end, and I never have enough time for all of the questions because you guys have so many great questions. What I often do is I go through afterward and find the ones that I get asked really commonly, and then I make podcast episodes out of them. This is a question that I get asked all the time. And I honestly feel like I have answered this one. I'm gonna say publicly, like, on one of the Q and As maybe a really long time ago, and I feel like I didn't really do it just us. So I sat down today with some notes about how to count the calories in your homemade meals, by the way. That is the title of today's episode. I wanted to give you not just the actual, like, here is exactly how to do this, but the why you do it this way and why it's so important that you do it at all. Because like everything we talk about truly everything we talk about. There is a practical answer. I mean, there is always a step-by-step process of how to do this thing, but just following the step-by-step while feeling nothing, like, resistance and doubt, and “this is never gonna work for me” is why it’s not working for you. This is why, I mean, I'm getting a little bit off-topic because that's what I do, but this is why you will find somebody who has been able to lose weight with every single program ever, and you will also find somebody who has not been able to lose weight with that exact same program. It's not the process. It's your mindset. And I don't say that like any kind of blame or shame or anything, like, oh, it's you. I mean, It's you. This is great news. It means that when you pay attention to what's going on in your brain, it actually means that you can make everything work for you. Everything. Everything. I know. It's kind of amazing, right? By the way, if you are just listening to the podcast, I'm, like, all up in your business on the actual video of this one. And if you haven't heard yet, I am making video podcasts now. It is something that I was gonna say that I was trying for a while. I'm beyond trying. We are 6 episodes in, and I am loving it. I'm having a great time with it. As you can see, if you are watching, I just, like, rearranged my background yesterday over the weekend because I'm recording this on a Monday, and I'm super happy having my nice bookshelves displaying everything, because I was like, okay, well, if we're making the podcast a thing, then I want to make sure it looks good behind me. Anyway, Let's talk about how to count the calories in your homemade meals. Here is the 5-step process. You have counted the calories in your homemade meals and have probably done 3 of the five steps, but all five are really important. Step number 1 is to take each ingredient 1 by 1 and add up the entire meal. Here's what I mean. Like literally lay out every single thing. I'm gonna give you the example of cottage pie because that is, one of my favorite meals in the entire world, and b, kind of easy. I don't have exact numbers for you. Gosh, I have an old video on YouTube. From a really long time ago, and I will make sure that it's in the show notes where I gave some of my favorite meals and made them for you and talked about how you could make the serving sizes work for you and such like that. So in any event, it's really simple. It's ground beef or ground lamb, depending on where you live, but the way that I make it, it's ground beef with, of course, you have some olive oil or whatever kind of oil to, like, do the beef. Some onions, some spices, a bag of peas and carrots, and the way that I make it a bag, which isn't really a bag, but it's a get, the family-sized packet of mashed potatoes, instant mashed potatoes. I'm laughing to myself because I vividly remember when I made that video so embarrassed. I was like, this is like the simplest meal in the whole entire world. People loved it and also some people didn't love it so much. Some people can't believe you don't just mash potatoes. They're really easy. Here you are showing processed foods. You're so unhealthy, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, all the jibber Jabber. In any event. It's particularly easy because of how packaged that one is, and it's why I offer it to you as this example for how to kind of dip your toes in the water. If you are making, let's say, like, some kind of a casserole or something, as many items as you can that come in boxes or bags or with some kind of nutrition label on them. It will be easier to have those nutrition labels. Now, of course, you can always Google everything else, like, truly Google exists for a reason, and it's this. Google exists to help you count your calories. When you Google you can put in any kind of food, any kind of anything. You can simply take the number one option because it tends to be the most popular for a reason. You can also go through sometimes, sometimes if I'm really not sure, I'll go through like the first page or even two pages of Google and I'll go to a couple of different calorie calculators and see, like, what they're talking about, and if they're really talking about the exact food that I mean and kind of get an idea for, like, a range of calories so that you can make an educated guess. Here's the truth of it. Calories are always a guess. I know you didn't think that. I know that because we have been so trained to look at nutrition labels, you're like, no, sometimes we know exactly how many calories are in something, and no, we don't. Every single food in the world has its own version of how many calories it has the potential of having And also your body digests it in your own body's personal special snowflake way which means that even if we could calculate the exact number of calories in the food, it doesn't mean that's how many of them you are absorbing and using and storing and having the way that it is intended. This is because there's a larger conversation to be had here about how problematic the word calories actually is because we think about it in one way, but calories are actually quite a few things. There's the potential of energy. There is the way the energy is stored in your body, and then there is the exporting of the energy, meaning the use of the energy. And we use the word calories for it, like all of in any event, in any event. Knowing that you are always giving your best estimate while you are counting calories can be really helpful here because it can help quiet some of the chatter about that's not precise enough. We're actually gonna get to that a little bit later. Anyways, you're gonna add up all of the calories for the entire meal. Depending on how many people you're cooking for, this might be anywhere from 2 to, you know, 10 servings, depending on what you personally make. So then step 2 is to divide that total for the whole recipe by the number of servings you usually serve. This is really important because one of the questions they get asked a lot is but how many servings is it supposed to be? There's no answer there. It's not supposed to be any number of servings. You make an amount. And then you divide that amount by as many servings as you want to. And you can hide in any way that you want to. Maybe you divide by here's one scoop, or maybe you divide by here's, you know if I'm imagining like a 9 by 13 tray. Like I would cut that into what would be that be… half this way and probably for this way, like 8 servings of a thing, or it could be like a lot more servings of that thing, depending on if you're making zucchini bread, or if you're making tater tot casserole. So both get served in a 9 by 13 pan if you're in my house. In any of it, You will serve it up the way you normally serve it and divide it by that many servings. Whatever number you get there is the number for a portion. Meaning, the portion that you would normally serve, I don't know why I used air quotes on that one. If you were listening to the podcast, you didn't hear air quotes because I didn't like air quotes because normally that is really what I meant there. I actually meant normally. There is no standard by which you have to divide. For example, when I was talking about my pound of ground beef, my bag of peas and carrots, and my family-size packet of mashed potatoes, to make cottage pie, I could divide that by 2, if I wanted to, it would be a lot of calories. I could divide that by nothing. It could all be one serving and would also be a lot of calories. I could also, as is the case in my family, divide that by 6 because generally speaking, this is the way that I personally cook. There are 4 of us in the house, so I usually make 6 servings of a thing so that 4 of us can eat, and then 2 of us can have leftovers either for lunch or for when we have leftovers night in a couple of nights. So for me personally, most of my recipes are gonna be divided by 6, but not all of them. For you personally, depending on how many people you are used to cooking for, You divide it whatever way you normally would so that you can get a portion amount. Then here's step 3. You adjust your personal serving to meet your calorie target for the day. So once you know what an amount is, you can decide, oh, is this what I have room for in my day or not? Do I need to add to it, or do I need to subtract from it? It doesn't have to be the same portion size as everybody else. It doesn't even have to be a portion size that you would normally be in. You get to figure out how many amounts or portions or an amount of a portion fit into your calories today. This is why this is such a beautiful system. There is no standard. You can always Always always make any food at any time fit into your personal calorie target. I think about this all the time. You know those pizza slices from Costco? I don't usually eat pizza from Costco. It's not my favorite. I have a couple of favorites, and Costco is just not one of them, but a pair I was really shocked to hear about. Apparently, one slice of Costco pizza is like 880 calories. You can verify that I haven't had pizza at Costco in a really long time, that feels different than what I was expecting. In any event. Apparently, one slice is 880 calories. And so I had this conversation with somebody quite some time ago. She's like, oh, so I just don't eat that pizza. I'm like, you can eat that pizza, cut it in half. 440 calories is about as many calories as I would have for most of my meals. And the conversation ensued about how, but then that's not enough, and then I'll feel restricted because it's only half a slice. There's a conversation to be had here about how the number of calories that you eat is actually satisfying to your body because it's the amount of energy that you need. It's your brain that needs to get on board in an event. That's actually what we're gonna talk about here in the next step. Step number 4 is to notice all the resistance you have to this process. Notice the berating that you have of yourself, the uncertainty that you have. The oh my goodness this is so ridiculous thoughts that you have. This is impossible. I don't know how to do this, that can't be accurate. If I can't get it perfect, it's not worth it, this is stupid, I'll never be able to do this for all of the recipes that I make, but I make it different every time. So do I have to do this every time? This is way too much of a hassle. This is taking too long, etcetera. All of the chitter chatter. All of it. Notice that. Notice that it's there. And here's the thing that's going to set you free. Notice that the chitter chatter is in your brain and that is why this process feels difficult. It's not the process itself. The process, it's three steps. It was really simple. You get all your ingredients, you add them up, and you divide. It's actually really a lot of freedom you get to divide by anything you want. You make the portion size work for you no matter what food you're eating. Like, the process itself is actually kind of amazing. It's actually kind of miraculous. It's actually really empowering, and yet? None of us think it is. I'll put myself in that category too. I remember when I was making that video, actually, it was before I was making that video because by the time I had made that video I had lost weight this last time when I was in my fifties, and when I lost weight the last time in my fifties, I went about it in a really particular way. I just decided that I was gonna eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every single day, which I kind of did anyway so that part of the decision wasn't very difficult, but I wanted to make sure that I was reading even the right number of calories every night. So I went through my recipe book, which is not really a recipe book, it's just in my head, but the kinds of recipes that we use all the time. I went through each of those, and I did this exact process where I was like, okay, I'm gonna figure out how many calories and I didn't memorize any of them. Otherwise, I would tell you how many calories are and say it's fine, but I went through, and I figured out all of the calories for basically every single thing that I make and I figured out exactly what my portion would be of any of those recipes so that no matter what, I always knew that I was eating my target number of calories every single day, no matter what I was eating. As it happens, as it happens, I don't go out to eat a lot. It's not really my thing. I love my own cooking. It's very easy for me to cook at home. It feels simpler, actually, for me to cook at home than it does to go out. So for me, this felt really simple anyway, but when I was doing that process, when I was doing all the math, like I literally sat down one day and did like all the math for all the recipes, it took hours. And there was a lot of chitter-chatter. This step for all the resistance, all of the berating and uncertainty, is really how I would make it. And what if I just, like, pour the oil in instead of measuring it and blah blah blah blah blah. It happens to all of us. Then here's the most important part. Step 5. Observe the feelings that those thoughts create. This is so important, and it is the skill that this entire podcast is about. Here's what you're going to have to do when all the chitter-chatter starts in your head. In order to simply observe you're going to have to take yourself up and out of it. This is actually a skill you are born with. It's called metacognition. It's something that we talk about pretty frequently here on the podcast. It is the skill of observing your thoughts as thoughts. It is a skill, meaning that you are born with it. Your brain is supposed to operate this way, it's just that nobody ever teaches us this. We hear the thoughts in our head and we really think they're facts, we really think they're true, we really think everything we hear is simply the way it is. And yet we also have the ability to observe what we are thinking. We have the ability to observe what's in our brain. It's amazing. And it is the way that you get anything you want. If you did not have this ability, you would be quite literally at the mercy of anything your brain thinks. Anything your body feels. You would simply go through those motions all day every day, which is what a lot of us do until we get taught how to use this skill. This skill of simply observing without acting is the thing that takes you to your goal. The thing is, the end of the podcast is over, but not really. That's what I'm gonna tell you. That it won't feel natural. Even though this is something you were born with, even if this is the way that your brain is supposed to work, it will feel really unnatural. It will also feel really uncomfortable. You are going to have to be gentle, but firm with yourself as your brain and your body try desperately to get you not to do this. Because your brain is okay. Your brain's gonna offer you lots, lots of chitter-chatter, lots of back talk, lots of berating, lots of judgments, lots of self-doubts because your brain wants to stay the same. Your brain just wants to continue doing the things that you have always done because it's efficient. You will not, you will use less energy when you just keep thinking about the things that you have always thought about. So anytime you do something new, in order to do something new, you have to think of something new. Anytime you are doing something new, your brain's got back to talking about that. No, we shouldn't do this, this is too much, this is a lot, this is too difficult, this is dumb, this will take too long, this is too hard, blah blah blah blah blah. None of that is true. All of that is simply an effort on your brain's part to keep thinking what it used to think and to not use any extra energy. That's the only thing that's going on here. In order to observe, here's what happens. You have those thoughts, those thoughts create feelings in your body. Those feelings are going to be really uncomfortable, self-doubt, really uncomfortable. Judgment is really uncomfortable. Wondering if you're doing the wrong thing is really uncomfortable. So you're going to the jitter chatter in your head, you're going to have the jitters in your body, and you, the observer of this all, are going to have to be and solve this problem as though it is a problem by making it even easier than it is because it's already pretty easy. You're going to have to simply allow this to be what it is. I know. I know. It feels like terrible advice, especially, especially for you, my overachiever friend. I know you would like to do something about that. I know you would like to make your own thing positively, or do something. I mean, I'm pounding my hand in my, or my fist in my hand here. Like, I know. This idea of observing without action feels like the exact opposite of everything you would ever want to do. And it kind of feels like the exact opposite of every way that you have ever gotten everything, And I feel you on that one. I do. I really do. Everything in my life and everything in your life, you've just worked harder. You've just pushed harder. You've just tried a little bit more or a little bit different. You've just used willpower. You've just gritted your teeth, put your head down, and ground it out. However, this new skill that I offer you here will actually set you free. The essential skills that you were learning, there are actually 2 of them. Number 1, or something that I kind of skimmed over at the very beginning, but it's one of the things that you're gonna hear a lot of resistance to. Individualizing things that your brain would rather categorize, which is saying, like your brain really wants to just look at the recipe and be like, well, I don't know how many calories are in that whole But there are always ingredients. I mean, like, there's literally always ingredients, and you can just count them and enumerate them. This is, I mean, this is actually how your brain is supposed to work. Your brain actually really wants to categorize everything. Your brain would always rather look at the big picture. It would always rather smooth over and look at a category of things, asking yourself to look at one individual item at a time will serve you in a myriad of ways, but this is one of them. Looking at each individual ingredient. Figuring out, this is a pound of ground beef, going to Google, saying how many calories are in a pound of ground beef looking at the number, deciding if that actually, works for you, not really works for you. That's not the word I was trying to come up with. That's what I was trying to say, because, I mean, depending on which kind of ground beef you buy, is this actually the number? You might have to go to a couple of different websites, but you're gonna stay on that one item, ground beef. Then you're gonna individually look up the exact kind of olive oil. If you use olive oil, I keep saying that because I do. The exact olive oil that you use. Exactly how many tablespoons are you really putting in your pan? You're gonna measure it out. You're gonna think about that one ingredient. You're gonna have the number of calories that one ingredient has. Then you're gonna think about the spices that you use. You're gonna look at them one at a time. You're gonna think about the onion, how big of an onion, how small of an onion have I a measure. Is it really half a cup of onion or three-quarters of a cup of onion? You're gonna look up that on Google. You're gonna figure out exactly how many calories are in that then. Can actually just look at the package if you use frozen peas and carrots like I do. You can look at exactly how many calories are in the entire bag. Sometimes they don't all bag though, if I use 2 thirds of the bag, how many calories is that? Individualizing each ingredient. Again, did you hear your brain just now when I was describing that? Your brain, if it's anything like my brain was just like, wow, that's a lot. Just off to the side here. My brain offers me that thought. All the Time. I'm learning to hear it for what it is. It's just a thought. It's just a thought that creates overwhelm and overwhelm is a feeling that stops me from doing anything exactly the way my brain is supposed to operate. I can hear that thought. I can observe that thought. I can feel the overwhelm in my body, even right now, as I'm telling you this, I could feel it in my body. Completely okay to just feel overwhelmed and not respond to it. So that was essential skill number 1. Individualizing things that your brain would rather categorize, and then also the observation without action. Observing without acting, I already talked about that a fair bit. I'm not gonna belabor that point. Those are the 2 essential skills that you will develop as you practice counting the calories in your homemade foods. Here's the thing that I really wanna offer you. Is that this is a practice, that this is something that you are not going to be good at the very first time unless it's something that you've already seen? After listening to this podcast, you're going to sit down to try and do this, and your brain is gonna offer you all the chitter chatter, your body is gonna offer you all the overwhelm, you're not going to want to do it. And then when you are doing it, it's gonna feel all kinds of lousy and terrible. That's okay. This is a skill. These are skills, plural, that you are practicing. But let me paint you a picture of how and where this will show up in your life and how, where, and why it will feel amazing after you practice this. Here's what you're doing. You are actually building confidence in yourself in a lot of different ways, but you are building confidence in yourself because Doing something that your brain doesn't ordinarily want to do feels amazing when you do it. Like when your brain will offer you categories of things, and you take the time to individualize the items after you work through all of the chitter chatter and the overwhelm, you'd be like, oh my gosh, I did that. Like there will actually be a feeling of I'm gonna say pride because I like that word. If you don't like that word, you can say accomplishment or success to some other word that actually feels good to you, but there will be a sense of, oh my gosh, I just did something that was a little bit difficult that I had not done before. And that was pretty amazing of me. You will also really get in touch with your brain and your body through this practice. Really taking the time to, like, listen to all the chitter-chatter and feel overwhelmed will also be quite an accomplishment after you have practiced it. The more you practice it, the more confidence you will have that you can actually do this anywhere. The reason I suggest you start with your homemade meals is because you really are in control of those ingredients. Like, you actually know which brand of ground beef you bought. You actually know which brand of garlic you use or I say brand because I buy minced garlic. That's just the words coming out of my mouth, and I'm like, a better cook than me would buy raw garlic and actually chop it herself. I don't do that in case you notice from our conversation today. I love my own food, but I'm also not a gourmet. I am not one of those people who starts with fresh ingredients from the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. I buy easy, convenient things. I throw them in a pan and eat them. We're good. Anyways, you are in control of your ingredients, which means that you know exactly what's in it. Starting there can really build your confidence in these skills. And then, and then this is the fun part. You'll be able to go to other places and do this exact thing. Here's my suggestion. Did you know that you can ask your hostess or host when you go somewhere else for the recipe of what they made? Like, oh my gosh, this was so delicious. Will you share your recipe with me? And it's not necessarily because you ever want to cook it at home, it's because you'd like to know how many calories are in it. Did you know that once you have a sense of how things are put together because you already, I'm assuming, know how to cook, which is why you clicked on this in the first place? But when you know what kind of ingredients go where and how a thing is cooked, You could have restaurants and make guesses. Oh, okay. Well, here's this, and here's this, and here's this ingredient. They probably cooked it in oil because they always do, or butter. They always do. They probably did this. They probably did that. You'll be able to tell how many calories. If they don't have it on the menu or if they don't have it online, you'll be able to figure it out. You will always, every place you go. Everything you eat will always know how many calories you're taking in. You will always be able to figure out a portion size that we're in your target. Always. It's amazing, right? Just because you're willing to do these five steps just because you are willing to individualize when your brain would rather categorize just because you are willing to observe without action. These skills will literally take you everywhere. Boom, my friend. I really hope this was helpful for you today. Thank you so much for being I'll see you again soon

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired September 17, 2023
You’ve really got this calorie counting thing down pat when it comes to simple foods or eating in restaurants that list their calories. But what about when you cook at home? How do you figure out the calories in your favorite dishes when you’re just throwing things together? In this episode of the Get Your GOAL podcast, I’ll show you how to count the calories in your homemade meals with a simple, step-by-step process.
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.